Where do you want to work?
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.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Laboratory Scientist
Top Careers After Laboratory Scientist
Hispanic or Latino9.8%
Black or African American2.9%
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Ohio State University9.9%
University of Maryland - University College7.7%
University of New Mexico7.7%
Johns Hopkins University6.6%
University of Maryland - Baltimore6.6%
Missouri State University5.5%
University of California - Los Angeles4.4%
San Diego State University4.4%
Michigan State University4.4%
University of Utah4.4%
University of Wyoming4.4%
Tennessee Technological University4.4%
Texas A&M University3.3%
University of the Sciences3.3%
University of Scranton3.3%
University of Connecticut3.3%
University of Texas Health Science Center Houston3.3%
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|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 -
|Lab Scientist I||Aramco Services Company||Houston, TX||Sep 26, 2014||$103,147 -
|Lab Scientist II||Aramco Services Company||Cambridge, MA||Aug 22, 2016||$102,794 -
|Lab Scientist III||Aramco Services Company||Novi, MI||Apr 10, 2014||$93,309 -
|Lab Scientist II||Aramco Services Company||Novi, MI||Aug 23, 2016||$91,811 -
|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 -
|Lead Laboratory Scientist||USA Medical Toxicology, LLC||Plano, TX||Aug 26, 2014||$83,480|
|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 19, 2010||$70,000|
|Laboratory Scientist-Microbiology||Nestle Purina Petcare Global Resources, Inc.||Saint Louis, MO||Jan 10, 2016||$70,000 -
|Environmental Laboratory Scientist||Sequoia Foundation||Richmond, CA||Apr 26, 2010||$70,000|
|Scientist III, Compendial Development Laboratory||United States Pharmacopeial Convention||Rockville, MD||Feb 11, 2016||$69,160 -
|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|
|Clinicial Laboratory Scientist||Quest Diagnostics Incorporated||San Juan Capistrano, CA||Nov 08, 2016||$56,683 -
|Biological Laboratory Scientist||Algenol Biofuels, Inc.||Fort Myers, FL||Jan 03, 2011||$56,000|
|Clincal Laboratory Scientist 3||The Johns Hopkins Hospital||Baltimore, MD||Jun 15, 2012||$55,848|
|Scientist II, Reference Standards Laboratory||The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention||Rockville, MD||Jan 25, 2016||$55,800 -
|Laboratory Scientist I||Molecular Research LP||Shallowater, TX||Jun 01, 2012||$55,000|
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