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Become A Doctoral Fellow

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Working As A Doctoral Fellow

  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $52,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Doctoral Fellow Do

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.

Duties

Medical scientists typically do the following:

  • Design and conduct studies that investigate both human diseases and methods to prevent and treat them
  • Prepare and analyze medical samples and data to investigate causes and treatment of toxicity, pathogens, or chronic diseases
  • Standardize drug potency, doses, and methods to allow for the mass manufacturing and distribution of drugs and medicinal compounds
  • Create and test medical devices
  • Develop programs that improve health outcomes, in partnership with health departments, industry personnel, and physicians
  • Write research grant proposals and apply for funding from government agencies and private funding sources
  • Follow procedures to avoid contamination and maintain safety

Many medical scientists form hypotheses and develop experiments, with little supervision. They often lead teams of technicians, and sometimes students, who perform support tasks. For example, a medical scientist working in a university laboratory may have undergraduate assistants take measurements and make observations for the scientist’s research.

Medical scientists study the causes of diseases and other health problems. For example, a medical scientist who does cancer research might put together a combination of drugs that could slow the cancer’s progress. A clinical trial may be done to test the drugs. A medical scientist may work with licensed physicians to test the new combination on patients who are willing to participate in the study.

In a clinical trial, patients agree to help determine if a particular drug, a combination of drugs, or some other medical intervention works. Without knowing which group they are in, patients in a drug-related clinical trial receive either the trial drug or a placebo—a pill or injection that looks like the trial drug but does not actually contain the drug.

Medical scientists analyze the data from all the patients in the clinical trial, to see how the trial drug performed. They compare the results with those obtained from the control group that took the placebo, and they analyze the attributes of the participants. After they complete their analysis, medical scientists may write about and publish their findings.

Medical scientists do research both to develop new treatments and to try to prevent health problems. For example, they may study the link between smoking and lung cancer or between diet and diabetes.

Medical scientists who work in private industry usually have to research the topics that benefit their company the most, rather than investigate their own interests. Although they may not have the pressure of writing grant proposals to get money for their research, they may have to explain their research plans to nonscientist managers or executives.

Medical scientists usually specialize in an area of research. The following are examples of types of medical scientists:

Cancer researchers research the causes of cancers, as well as ways to prevent and cure cancers. They may specialize in one or more types of cancer.

Clinical and medical informaticians develop new ways to use large datasets. They look for explanations of health outcomes through the statistical analysis of data.

Clinical pharmacologists research, develop, and test current and new drugs. They investigate the full effects that drugs have on human health. Their interests may range from understanding specific molecules to the effects that drugs have on large populations.

Gerontologists study the changes that people go through as they get older. Medical scientists who specialize in this field seek to understand the biology of aging and investigate ways to improve the quality of our later years. 

Immunochemists investigate the reactions and effects that various chemicals and drugs have on the human immune system.

Neuroscientists study the brain and nervous system.

Research histologists have a specific skill set that is used to study human tissue. They investigate how tissue grows, heals, and dies, and may investigate grafting techniques that can help people who have experienced serious injury.  

Serologists research fluids found in the human body, such as blood and saliva. Applied serologists often work in forensic science. For more information on forensic science, see the profile on forensic science technicians.

Toxicologists research the harmful effects of drugs, household chemicals, and other potentially poisonous substances. They seek to ensure the safety of drugs, radiation, and other treatments by investigating safe dosage limits.

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How To Become A Doctoral Fellow

Medical scientists typically have a Ph.D., usually in biology or a related life science. Some medical scientists get a medical degree instead of a Ph.D., but prefer doing research to practicing as a physician.

Education

Students planning careers as medical scientists typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or a related field. Undergraduate students benefit from taking a broad range of classes, including life sciences, physical sciences, and math. Students also typically take courses that develop communication and writing skills, because they must learn to write grants effectively and publish research findings.

After students have completed their undergraduate studies, they typically enter Ph.D. programs. Dual-degree programs are available that pair a Ph.D. with a range of specialized medical degrees. A few degree programs that are commonly paired with Ph.D. studies are Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Whereas Ph.D. studies focus on research methods, such as project design and data interpretation, students in dual-degree programs learn both the clinical skills needed to be a physician and the research skills needed to be a scientist.

Graduate programs emphasize both laboratory work and original research. These programs offer prospective medical scientists the opportunity to develop their experiments and, sometimes, to supervise undergraduates. Ph.D. programs culminate in a thesis that the candidate presents before a committee of professors. Students may specialize in a particular field, such as gerontology, neurology, or cancer.

Those who go to medical school spend most of the first 2 years in labs and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and medical law. They also learn how to record medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses. They may be required to participate in residency programs, meeting the same requirements that physicians and surgeons have to fulfill.

Medical scientists often continue their education with postdoctoral work. Postdoctoral work provides additional and more independent lab experience, including experience in specific processes and techniques such as gene splicing, which is transferable to other research projects.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Medical scientists primarily conduct research and typically do not need licenses or certifications. However, those who administer drugs, gene therapy, or otherwise practice medicine on patients in clinical trials or a private practice need a license to practice as a physician.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Communication is critical, because medical scientists must be able to explain their conclusions. In addition, medical scientists write grant proposals, because grants often are required to fund their research.

Critical-thinking skills. Medical scientists must use their expertise to determine the best method for solving a specific research question.

Data-analysis skills. Medical scientists use statistical techniques, so that they can properly quantify and analyze health research questions.

Decisionmaking skills. Medical scientists must determine what research questions to ask, how best to investigate the questions, and what data will best answer the questions.

Observation skills. Medical scientists conduct experiments that require precise observation of samples and other health data. Any mistake could lead to inconclusive or misleading results.

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Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Doctoral Student 3.5 years
Doctoral Fellow 3.0 years
PHD Researcher 2.9 years
Postdoc Fellow 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.4 years
Research Scholar 1.7 years
Top Careers Before Doctoral Fellow
Internship 6.7%
Researcher 3.0%
Instructor 2.7%
Fellow 2.7%
Lecturer 2.6%
Scientist 2.1%
Top Careers After Doctoral Fellow
Scientist 8.2%
Instructor 5.4%
Consultant 3.4%
Fellow 2.4%
Lecturer 1.9%
Director 1.8%

Do you work as a Doctoral Fellow?

Doctoral Fellow Demographics

Gender

Male

38.8%

Female

34.4%

Unknown

26.8%
Ethnicity

White

41.6%

Asian

34.3%

Hispanic or Latino

10.5%

Black or African American

8.5%

Unknown

5.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

22.8%

French

16.1%

Chinese

15.9%

German

8.5%

Mandarin

5.2%

Korean

4.4%

Japanese

4.3%

Russian

3.5%

Italian

3.5%

Portuguese

3.5%

Hindi

2.6%

Arabic

1.9%

Turkish

1.5%

Cantonese

1.1%

Carrier

1.1%

Dutch

0.9%

Xiang

0.9%

Sanskrit

0.7%

Czech

0.7%

Zhuang

0.7%
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Doctoral Fellow Education

Schools

University of Texas at Austin

7.1%

Johns Hopkins University

6.4%

University of Florida

6.1%

University of Washington

5.5%

University of California - San Diego

5.2%

University of California - Los Angeles

5.1%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

5.0%

Pennsylvania State University

4.9%

Ohio State University

4.8%

University of California - Davis

4.8%

University of Pittsburgh -

4.8%

The Academy

4.8%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

4.7%

University of California - Berkeley

4.6%

University of Pennsylvania

4.6%

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

4.5%

National University

4.4%

Yale University

4.3%

Stanford University

4.2%

Cornell University

4.1%
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Majors

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

17.4%

Chemistry

16.6%

Microbiology

7.1%

Biology

6.8%

Clinical Psychology

6.1%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

4.8%

Physiology And Anatomy

4.5%

Physics

4.4%

Pharmacology

4.1%

Neuroscience

3.9%

Genetics

3.6%

Pharmacy

3.1%

Biomedical Engineering

3.0%

Biomedical Sciences

2.8%

Chemical Engineering

2.6%

Medicine

2.4%

Psychology

2.0%

Electrical Engineering

1.6%

Biotechnology

1.6%

Mechanical Engineering

1.4%
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Degrees

Doctorate

79.6%

Masters

8.5%

Other

8.3%

Bachelors

1.9%

Certificate

1.4%

Associate

0.2%

Diploma

0.1%

License

0.0%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$52,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$35,000
Min 10%
$52,000
Median 50%
$52,000
Median 50%
$52,000
Median 50%
$52,000
Median 50%
$52,000
Median 50%
$52,000
Median 50%
$52,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Exxon Mobil
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Hawaii
Avg Experience Level
2.9 years
How much does a Doctoral Fellow make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Doctoral Fellow in the United States is $52,294 per year or $25 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $35,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $77,000.

Real Doctoral Fellow Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Computational Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 10, 2016 $100,380
Geospatial PHD Fellow McKinsey & Company, Inc. United States Waltham, MA Aug 15, 2016 $96,315
Postdoctoral Fellow SRI International Menlo Park, CA Feb 22, 2016 $95,950 -
$101,000
Computer Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 02, 2016 $89,856
Postdoctoral Fellow University of Maryland, Baltimore Baltimore, MD Jun 06, 2015 $89,270
Computational Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 07, 2015 $89,196
Computational Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Mar 01, 2015 $89,196
Computational Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 06, 2016 $87,492
Computational Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 06, 2016 $86,340
Computer Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 06, 2016 $86,340
Computer Science Postdoctoral Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jun 01, 2016 $86,340
Postdoctoral Fellow Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research Cambridge, MA Oct 01, 2015 $86,200
Postdoctoral Fellow Lieber Institute, Inc. Baltimore, MD Apr 01, 2015 $85,000
Postdoctoral Fellow The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA Mar 14, 2016 $50,995
Postdoctoral Fellow University of Nevada, Reno Reno, NV Jan 09, 2016 $50,965
Postdoctoral Fellow Oregon Health & Science University Portland, OR Jan 14, 2016 $50,960
Postdoctoral Fellow University of Colorado Aurora, CO Jan 07, 2016 $50,902
Postdoctoral Fellow University of Maryland, Baltimore Rockville, MD Aug 01, 2015 $50,878
Postdoctoral Fellow Los Angeles County Natural History Museum Foundation Los Angeles, CA May 30, 2016 $50,856
Postdoctoral Fellow The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology Philadelphia, PA Jan 11, 2015 $50,800
Postdoctoral Fellow University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH Jan 21, 2015 $46,920
Postdoctoral Fellow Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. Frederick, MD Jan 12, 2015 $46,904
Postdoctoral Fellow University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio San Antonio, TX Jan 05, 2016 $46,884
Postdoctoral Fellow Harvard University Boston, MA Oct 15, 2016 $46,865
Postdoctoral Fellow The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Houston, TX Jan 04, 2016 $46,800
Postdoctoral Fellow Harvard University Cambridge, MA Jan 06, 2016 $46,800
Postdoctoral Fellow BOR USGA OBO Georgia Regents University Augusta, GA Jan 01, 2016 $46,800

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Top Skills for A Doctoral Fellow

  1. Protein
  2. Cell Culture
  3. Biology
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Investigated novel mechanisms to recover mutated protein function.
  • Acquired expertise in analyzing biochemical processes with kinetic resolution, localization of binding sites and primary cell culture.
  • Developed detailed and key scientific concepts for studying medically relevant diseases at the biochemical and molecular biology level.
  • Mentored minority high school students to successfully complete intensive summer research projects in NIH funded experiential learning programs.
  • Developed a strategy for using homologous recombination to knock out genes related cellulose synthesis.

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