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Become A Laboratory Researcher

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Working As A Laboratory Researcher

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

  • $47,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Laboratory Researcher 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 Laboratory Researcher

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
PHD Researcher 2.9 years
Junior Scientist 2.3 years
Medical Researcher 1.9 years
Research Assistant 1.6 years
Researcher 1.5 years
Top Careers Before Laboratory Researcher
Internship 13.6%
Volunteer 9.3%
Researcher 6.7%
Tutor 3.7%
Mentor 2.3%
President 2.3%
Cashier 2.3%
Assistant 2.2%
Top Careers After Laboratory Researcher
Internship 11.1%
Volunteer 7.1%
Researcher 6.3%
Tutor 5.2%
Scientist 2.7%
Associate 2.7%
Consultant 2.6%
Math Tutor 2.4%

Do you work as a Laboratory Researcher?

Laboratory Researcher Demographics

Gender

Male

46.1%

Female

36.8%

Unknown

17.1%
Ethnicity

White

50.1%

Asian

20.2%

Hispanic or Latino

14.7%

Black or African American

9.4%

Unknown

5.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

36.8%

Chinese

11.9%

French

10.4%

Mandarin

10.0%

Cantonese

4.1%

Portuguese

3.3%

Hindi

3.0%

Italian

3.0%

Japanese

3.0%

Russian

2.6%

German

2.6%

Korean

1.5%

Arabic

1.5%

Vietnamese

1.1%

Persian

1.1%

Hebrew

1.1%

Marathi

0.7%

Gujarati

0.7%

Malayalam

0.7%

Amharic

0.7%
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Laboratory Researcher Education

Schools

University of California - Irvine

7.1%

University of California - Berkeley

6.8%

University of California - Los Angeles

6.8%

University of Maryland - College Park

5.6%

Cornell University

5.6%

University of Massachusetts Amherst

5.6%

Pennsylvania State University

5.3%

Columbia University

5.3%

University of California - Davis

5.0%

University of California - Santa Cruz

5.0%

University of California - San Diego

5.0%

University of Texas at Austin

4.4%

University of Florida

4.4%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

4.4%

University of Pittsburgh -

4.1%

University of California - Riverside

3.8%

Ohio State University

3.8%

Texas A&M University

3.8%

Purdue University

3.8%

University of Illinois at Chicago

3.8%
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Majors

Biology

19.5%

Chemistry

12.1%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

9.2%

Biomedical Engineering

7.6%

Chemical Engineering

7.2%

Mechanical Engineering

6.2%

Psychology

5.8%

Physics

3.9%

Microbiology

3.7%

Electrical Engineering

3.3%

Computer Science

2.9%

Computer Engineering

2.5%

Public Health

2.3%

Neuroscience

2.2%

Environmental Science

2.1%

Geology

2.1%

Biotechnology

2.1%

Pharmacy

1.9%

Business

1.8%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

1.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

56.8%

Masters

24.1%

Other

8.4%

Doctorate

7.9%

Associate

1.6%

Certificate

0.8%

Diploma

0.3%

License

0.1%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$47,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$28,000
Min 10%
$47,000
Median 50%
$47,000
Median 50%
$47,000
Median 50%
$47,000
Median 50%
$47,000
Median 50%
$47,000
Median 50%
$47,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Lenovo
Highest Paying City
South San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
1.6 years
How much does a Laboratory Researcher make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Laboratory Researcher in the United States is $47,241 per year or $23 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $28,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $77,000.

Real Laboratory Researcher Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Lab Researcher Accenture LLP Chicago, IL Jan 19, 2011 $100,000
Embryology Lab Researcher South Florida Institute of Reproductive Medicine, P.A. Miami, FL Aug 31, 2016 $60,000
Laboratory Researcher, Biochemistry Nulab, Inc. Clearwater, FL Jan 15, 2010 $50,000
Associate Lab Researcher Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas Dallas, TX Sep 11, 2012 $47,000 -
$57,000
Staff Researcher (DNA) Genetic Testing Lab Reproductive Genetics Institute, Inc. Chicago, IL Sep 14, 2010 $46,405 -
$66,000
Laboratory Researcher V National Jewish Health Denver, CO Jan 05, 2011 $45,802
DNA Laboratory Researcher Histogenetics Ossining, NY Oct 01, 2009 $45,000
Laboratory Researcher V National Jewish Health Denver, CO Jan 05, 2010 $42,760
Lab Researcher, Earth Science University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD Jan 31, 2014 $42,723
Clinical Laboratory Animal Researcher Dillon Animal Hospital, Inc. Dillon, SC Nov 30, 2009 $41,740
Clinical Laboratory Animal Behavior Researcher Dillon Animal Hospital, Inc. Dillon, SC Aug 30, 2009 $41,740
Clinical Laboratory Animal Behavior Researcher Dillon Animal Hospital, Inc. Dillon, SC Sep 15, 2009 $41,740
Lab Researcher, Earth Science University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD Jan 31, 2011 $40,643
Clinical Laboratory Animal Behavior Researcher Dillon Animal Hospital, Inc. Dillon, SC Aug 15, 2009 $38,025
Laboratory Researcher The Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Aug 04, 2016 $35,000
Laboratory Researcher The Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Feb 01, 2010 $35,000
Laboratory Researcher The Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Nov 20, 2009 $35,000
Research Lab Technian Intermediate University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Dec 01, 2014 $34,000
Laboratory Researcher III National Jewish Health Denver, CO May 16, 2013 $33,915
Research Laboratory Technican Intermediate University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Jul 22, 2013 $33,000

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Top Skills for A Laboratory Researcher

  1. Lab Equipment
  2. Cell Culture
  3. DNA
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Worked with several types of hazardous chemicals and became experienced in handling lab equipment such as glassware and field equipment.
  • Assisted senior researchers in making collagen solution used with collagen-based scaffolds for cell culture.
  • Used specimen to extract DNA following set protocol utilizing a vortex machine, small centrifuge, and a hot water bath.
  • Devise protocols for laboratory research projects including: PBMC isolation, MTT Assay, and PCR.
  • Analyzed binding activity between proteins involved in inflammatory diseases, specifically rheumatoid arthritis.

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Top 10 Best States for Laboratory Researchers

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Minnesota
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Connecticut
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. New Jersey
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Illinois
  9. Ohio
  10. California
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  • (155 jobs)
  • (35 jobs)
  • (55 jobs)
  • (274 jobs)
  • (171 jobs)
  • (124 jobs)
  • (172 jobs)
  • (229 jobs)
  • (652 jobs)

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