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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 Lead Scientist
Top Careers After Lead Scientist
Hispanic or Latino7.0%
Black or African American0.5%
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North Carolina State University7.1%
Ohio State University7.1%
West Virginia University7.1%
Arizona State University5.7%
University of Washington5.7%
Washington University in Saint Louis4.3%
University of California - Berkeley4.3%
Georgia Institute of Technology -4.3%
Pennsylvania State University4.3%
Indiana Institute of Technology4.3%
California Institute of Technology4.3%
University of California - Santa Barbara4.3%
George Washington University4.3%
Florida International University4.3%
University of Notre Dame4.3%
University of Pennsylvania4.3%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill4.3%
University of California - Davis4.3%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Lead Earth Scientist||Chevron Corporation||Houston, TX||Aug 25, 2013||$231,843|
|Lead Epidemiologist Scientist||Genentech, Inc.||South San Francisco, CA||Oct 01, 2011||$185,000|
|Lead Earth Scientist, Southern Malongo Area Develo||Chevron Corporation||Houston, TX||Dec 14, 2011||$155,000|
|Lead Scientist||Rakuten USA, Inc.||New York, NY||Oct 27, 2016||$134,909|
|Lead Scientist||Affectiva, Inc.||Pacifica, CA||Sep 11, 2015||$133,515 -
|Lead Scientist||Aquatic Energy, LLC||Lake Charles, LA||Oct 01, 2010||$130,000|
|Lead Scientist||General Electric Company-Global Research Center||San Ramon, CA||Oct 01, 2012||$125,000|
|Lead Scientist||General Electric Company-GE Global Research Center||Niskayuna, NY||Aug 20, 2016||$116,500|
|Lead Scientist||Affectiva||Waltham, MA||Jun 17, 2016||$116,272|
|Lead Scientist||Sabic Innovative Plastics Us LLC||NY||Sep 16, 2016||$115,051|
|Lead Scientist||Quality Planning Corp.||San Francisco, CA||Jun 03, 2013||$115,000 -
|Lead Scientist, Assay Development and Biomarker Validation||Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.||Westlake Village, CA||Dec 15, 2015||$115,000|
|Analytic Science-Lead Scientist||Fair Isaac Corporation||San Diego, CA||Mar 11, 2015||$114,982 -
|Computer Vision Research Lead Scientist||Sealed Air Corporation (Us), A Division of Sealed||Tracy, CA||Oct 01, 2009||$108,500|
|Analytic Science-Lead Scientist||Fair Isaac Corporation||San Diego, CA||Sep 21, 2016||$107,786 -
|Lead Scientist||Purdue Pharma L.P.||Cranbury, NJ||Aug 29, 2016||$105,000|
|Analytic Science-Lead Scientist||Fair Isaac Corporation||Chandler, AZ||Feb 24, 2014||$105,000 -
|Scientist III, Preclinical Lead||Cytori Therapeutics, Inc.||San Diego, CA||Nov 29, 2016||$105,000 -
|Lead Scientist, Metallurgy||Novelis Inc.||GA||Aug 31, 2014||$101,200|
|Lead Metallurgy Scientist||Novelis Corporation||Kennesaw, GA||Sep 10, 2015||$97,726|
|Lead Scientist||Natureworks LLC||Minnetonka, MN||Aug 14, 2016||$95,534 -
|Lead Scientist||Kalsec, Inc.||Kalamazoo, MI||Sep 18, 2013||$85,000|
|Analytic Science-Lead Scientist||Fair Isaac Corporation||Austin, TX||Nov 16, 2015||$84,989 -
|Analytic Science-Lead Scientist||Fair Isaac Corporation||San Diego, CA||Aug 23, 2011||$83,720 -
|Lead Scientist-Colors||Kalsec, Inc.||Kalamazoo, MI||Sep 12, 2012||$82,000|
|Lead Scientist||Kalsec, Inc.||Kalamazoo, MI||Sep 18, 2013||$82,000|
|Lead Scientist||University of Wyoming Research Corporation||Laramie, WY||Sep 01, 2012||$82,000|
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