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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

  • $96,410

    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 jobs

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Laboratory Scientist Typical Career Paths

Average Length of Employment
Senior Scientist 4.9 years
Forensic Scientist 4.2 years
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Scientist 3.4 years
Staff Scientist 3.4 years
Laboratory Analyst 2.8 years
Laboratory Chemist 2.5 years
Junior Scientist 2.4 years
Contract Scientist 1.3 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 9.9%
Chemist 5.4%
Scientist 3.6%
Supervisor 2.7%
Top Employers After
Chemist 8.7%
Scientist 8.3%
Internship 3.1%

Laboratory Scientist Demographics

Gender

Female

50.5%

Male

44.1%

Unknown

5.4%
Ethnicity

White

69.0%

Asian

15.8%

Hispanic or Latino

9.8%

Black or African American

2.9%

Unknown

2.5%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

39.4%

French

15.2%

Arabic

9.1%

Portuguese

6.1%

Swahili

3.0%

Chinese

3.0%

German

3.0%

Yoruba

3.0%

Hebrew

3.0%

Wolof

3.0%

Baga

3.0%

Russian

3.0%

Mandarin

3.0%

Lingala

3.0%
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Laboratory Scientist Education

Schools

Ohio State University

9.9%

University of Maryland - University College

7.7%

University of New Mexico

7.7%

Johns Hopkins University

6.6%

University of Maryland - Baltimore

6.6%

Missouri State University

5.5%

Syracuse University

5.5%

University of California - Los Angeles

4.4%

Towson University

4.4%

San Diego State University

4.4%

Michigan State University

4.4%

University of Utah

4.4%

University of Wyoming

4.4%

Tennessee Technological University

4.4%

Texas A&M University

3.3%

University of the Sciences

3.3%

University of Scranton

3.3%

University of Connecticut

3.3%

University of Texas Health Science Center Houston

3.3%

National University

3.3%
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Majors

Biology

23.3%

Chemistry

17.8%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

9.5%

Microbiology

7.7%

Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science

5.7%

Public Health

5.3%

Medical Technician

4.6%

Biotechnology

3.5%

Environmental Science

2.9%

Chemical Engineering

2.9%

Biomedical Sciences

2.4%

Criminal Justice

2.2%

Business

2.0%

Pharmacy

1.8%

Biomedical Engineering

1.5%

Psychology

1.5%

Veterinary Science

1.3%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

1.3%

Medicine

1.3%

Health Care Administration

1.3%
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Degrees

Bachelors

46.9%

Masters

30.2%

Doctorate

10.1%

Other

6.8%

Associate

2.9%

Certificate

2.2%

Diploma

0.9%
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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
Environmental Laboratory Scientist Sequoia Foundation Richmond, CA Apr 26, 2010 $70,000
Research Laboratory Scientist Kaleida Health Buffalo, NY Jan 31, 2010 $60,000
Toxicology Laboratory Scientist Physicians Consulting Inc. Knoxville, TN Dec 18, 2015 $59,000
Laboratory Automation Scientist Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. Elmwood Park, NJ Aug 01, 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

MethodDevelopmentQualityControlProceduresLabEquipmentChemistryAnalyticalTechniquesMolecularBiologyCellEPASafetyDNARt-PcrHplcHematologyElisaHIVSerologyInfectiousDiseasesGc/MsTestResultsUrinalysis

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Top Laboratory Scientist Skills

  1. Method Development
  2. Quality Control Procedures
  3. Lab Equipment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Participated in method development, method validation, and sample analysis.
  • Perform quality control procedures to ensure accuracy of clinical data and validate test results through correlation with test parameters.
  • Perform preventive maintenance and interim calibration on lab equipment as requires.
  • Performed tests in all sections of the clinical laboratory including chemistry, hematology and microbiology.
  • Developed and validated analytical techniques in accordance with ICH guidelines.

Top Laboratory Scientist Employers

Laboratory Scientist Videos

Career Advice on becoming a Laboratory Technician by Katherine G (Full Version)

Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Career Video from drkit.org

Just the Job - Medical Laboratory Scientist

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