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Become A Laboratory Scientist

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Working As A Laboratory Scientist

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

  • $61,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Laboratory Scientist 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 Scientist

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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Laboratory Scientist Career Paths

Laboratory Scientist
Research Scientist Scientist
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Consultant Supervisor
Quality Assurance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Project Manager Quality Manager
Quality Assurance Director
11 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Scientist
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Laboratory Scientist Laboratory Manager
Laboratory Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Laboratory Scientist Laboratory Manager Quality Control Manager
Quality Control Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Laboratory Scientist Laboratory Manager Quality Assurance Manager
Regulatory Affairs Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Laboratory Supervisor Quality Assurance Manager Construction Manager
Quality Control Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Laboratory Supervisor Quality Control Supervisor
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Laboratory Supervisor
Clinical Laboratory Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Engineering Director Vice President Of Research And Development
Chief Scientific Officer
6 Yearsyrs
Biologist Environmental Scientist Staff Scientist
Senior Chemist
7 Yearsyrs
Biologist Senior Laboratory Technician Senior Chemist
Scientist Senior, Research And Development
9 Yearsyrs
Biologist Molecular Biologist Biological Scientist
Senior Scientist, Biology
9 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Scientist Development Scientist
Senior Development Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Scientist Development Scientist Senior Research Associate
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Senior Scientist 4.9 years
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Staff Scientist 3.5 years
Scientist 3.4 years
Junior Scientist 2.3 years
Contract Scientist 1.4 years
Top Careers Before Laboratory Scientist
Internship 8.2%
Chemist 5.0%
Scientist 3.4%
Supervisor 2.9%
Volunteer 2.7%
Top Careers After Laboratory Scientist
Scientist 7.9%
Chemist 7.9%
Internship 3.6%

Do you work as a Laboratory Scientist?

Laboratory Scientist Demographics

Gender

Female

44.7%

Male

42.5%

Unknown

12.7%
Ethnicity

White

53.7%

Asian

16.2%

Hispanic or Latino

13.2%

Black or African American

12.8%

Unknown

4.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

44.7%

French

15.8%

Portuguese

5.3%

Chinese

5.3%

Arabic

5.3%

Swahili

2.6%

Hungarian

2.6%

German

2.6%

Yoruba

2.6%

Hebrew

2.6%

Russian

2.6%

Baga

2.6%

Mandarin

2.6%

Lingala

2.6%
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Laboratory Scientist Education

Schools

Ohio State University

14.2%

Johns Hopkins University

7.1%

University of New Mexico

7.1%

University of Maryland - University College

6.3%

University of Maryland - Baltimore

6.3%

San Diego State University

5.5%

Drexel University

5.5%

Syracuse University

4.7%

University of Washington

4.7%

Tulane University

3.9%

Missouri State University

3.9%

Georgia State University

3.9%

Walden University

3.9%

University of Connecticut

3.9%

University of the Sciences

3.1%

National University

3.1%

University of California - Berkeley

3.1%

Michigan State University

3.1%

Tennessee Technological University

3.1%

University of Puerto Rico - Humacao

3.1%
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Majors

Biology

23.6%

Chemistry

16.7%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

10.5%

Microbiology

8.3%

Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science

5.7%

Medical Technician

4.9%

Public Health

4.6%

Biotechnology

2.9%

Business

2.7%

Environmental Science

2.6%

Criminal Justice

2.6%

Chemical Engineering

2.4%

Biomedical Sciences

2.2%

Biomedical Engineering

2.1%

Pharmacy

1.9%

Medicine

1.4%

Health Care Administration

1.3%

Pharmacology

1.3%

Nursing

1.1%

Management

1.1%
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Degrees

Bachelors

46.3%

Masters

29.8%

Doctorate

11.2%

Other

6.7%

Associate

3.0%

Certificate

2.2%

Diploma

0.7%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$61,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$39,000
Min 10%
$61,000
Median 50%
$61,000
Median 50%
$61,000
Median 50%
$61,000
Median 50%
$61,000
Median 50%
$61,000
Median 50%
$61,000
Median 50%
$94,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Microsoft
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Hawaii
Avg Experience Level
3.1 years
How much does a Laboratory Scientist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Laboratory Scientist in the United States is $61,574 per year or $30 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $39,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $94,000.

Real Laboratory Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Scientist Director Pediatric Gene Therapy Laboratory Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston, MA Oct 01, 2015 $200,665
Motion Analysis Laboratory Scientist New York Society for Relief of Ruptured & Crippled New York, NY May 31, 2014 $131,127
Motion Analysis Laboratory Scientist New York Society for Relief of Ruptured & Crippled New York, NY Jun 01, 2011 $120,000
Lab Scientist Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Sep 24, 2016 $110,000
Lab Scientist II Aramco Services Company Novi, MI Sep 05, 2014 $106,912 -
$108,000
Lab Scientist I Aramco Services Company Houston, TX Sep 26, 2014 $103,147 -
$111,000
Lab Scientist II Aramco Services Company Cambridge, MA Aug 22, 2016 $102,794 -
$135,360
Lab Scientist III Aramco Services Company Novi, MI Apr 10, 2014 $93,309 -
$97,000
Lab Scientist II Aramco Services Company Novi, MI Aug 23, 2016 $91,811 -
$135,360
Laboratory Scientist Driver Group LLC San Francisco, CA Aug 31, 2016 $90,000
Lab Scientist II Aramco Services Company Houston, TX Aug 22, 2016 $86,840 -
$135,360
Lead Laboratory Scientist USA Medical Toxicology, LLC Plano, TX Aug 13, 2014 $83,480
Laboratory Scientist-Microbiology Nestle Purina Petcare Global Resources, Inc. Saint Louis, MO May 07, 2016 $78,000 -
$83,000
Lab Scientist III Aramco Services Company Novi, MI Aug 28, 2015 $77,563 -
$84,540
Lab Scientist AY Tech LLC Newark, DE Nov 14, 2016 $75,500
Laboratory Scientist Blackfly Investments LLC Vancouver, WA Sep 20, 2013 $72,000
Laboratory Scientist Blackfly Investments LLC Vancouver, WA Sep 04, 2014 $72,000
In Vitro Lab Scientist Makro Technologies Inc. Princeton, NJ Feb 09, 2016 $70,958
Scientist II, Vascular Biology Laboratory Tufts University Boston, MA Sep 15, 2012 $70,700
Laboratory Scientist-Microbiology Nestle Purina Petcare Global Resources, Inc. Saint Louis, MO Jan 10, 2016 $70,000 -
$83,000
Research Laboratory Scientist Kaleida Health Buffalo, NY Jan 31, 2010 $60,000
Laboratory Automation Scientist Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. Elmwood Park, NJ Aug 01, 2015 $59,000
Toxicology Laboratory Scientist Physicians Consulting Inc. Knoxville, TN Dec 18, 2015 $59,000
Lead Laboratory Scientist USA Medical Toxicology LLC Houston, TX Aug 19, 2016 $58,469
Biological Laboratory Scientist Algenol Biofuels, Inc. Fort Myers, FL Jan 03, 2011 $56,000
Scientist II, Reference Standards Laboratory The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention Rockville, MD Jan 25, 2016 $55,800 -
$83,800
Laboratory Scientist I Molecular Research LP Shallowater, TX Jun 01, 2012 $55,000
Production Laboratory Scientist Counsyl, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Sep 05, 2015 $55,000 -
$75,000

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Top Skills for A Laboratory Scientist

  1. Analytical Methods
  2. Laboratory Procedures
  3. Lab Equipment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Streamlined the development and induction of analytical methods for pesticide residue detection utilizing GC-MS.
  • Train chemists on laboratory procedures and tests as required by laboratory management.
  • Perform preventive maintenance and interim calibration on lab equipment as requires.
  • Experience with analytical instrumentation, including automated systems.
  • Designed and conducted experiments at a chemistry lab in order to monitor the continuous growing of a genetically modified bacterium.

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Top 10 Best States for Laboratory Scientists

  1. New Jersey
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Connecticut
  4. Maryland
  5. Delaware
  6. Massachusetts
  7. North Carolina
  8. Maine
  9. Arizona
  10. Virginia
  • (536 jobs)
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  • (1,267 jobs)
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  • (439 jobs)

Top Laboratory Scientist Employers

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Jobs From Top Laboratory Scientist Employers

Laboratory Scientist Videos

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