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Become A Medical Researcher

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Working As A Medical Researcher

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

  • $78,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Medical 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 Medical 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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Medical Researcher Demographics

Gender

Female

49.7%

Male

36.2%

Unknown

14.1%
Ethnicity

White

53.6%

Asian

16.5%

Hispanic or Latino

14.6%

Black or African American

10.1%

Unknown

5.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

40.0%

Chinese

16.7%

Vietnamese

6.7%

Russian

3.3%

Portuguese

3.3%

Lithuanian

3.3%

French

3.3%

Mandarin

3.3%

Urdu

3.3%

Arabic

3.3%

Xiang

3.3%

Tamil

3.3%

Korean

3.3%

Italian

3.3%
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Medical Researcher Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

11.5%

University of Florida

6.6%

Virginia Commonwealth University

6.6%

Boston University

6.6%

Stanford University

6.6%

George Washington University

6.6%

Cornell University

6.6%

University of Illinois at Chicago

4.9%

Brigham Young University

4.9%

University of North Texas

4.9%

University of Pittsburgh -

4.9%

University of Texas at Arlington

3.3%

Anthem Institute - Jersey City

3.3%

Eastern Michigan University

3.3%

Texas Southern University

3.3%

University of Alabama

3.3%

Georgetown University

3.3%

University of Iowa

3.3%

University of South Florida

3.3%

Temple University

3.3%
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Majors

Medicine

14.3%

Biology

13.9%

Business

11.7%

Nursing

7.8%

Health Care Administration

6.5%

Public Health

5.7%

Biomedical Engineering

4.3%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

3.9%

Management

3.5%

Chemistry

3.5%

Psychology

3.5%

Pharmacy

3.0%

Mechanical Engineering

2.6%

Medical Assisting Services

2.6%

Physics

2.6%

Microbiology

2.2%

Computer Information Systems

2.2%

Clinical Psychology

2.2%

Accounting

2.2%

Biomedical Sciences

1.7%
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Degrees

Bachelors

34.5%

Masters

19.9%

Other

18.4%

Doctorate

15.5%

Certificate

5.4%

Associate

4.4%

Diploma

1.6%

License

0.3%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$78,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$40,000
Min 10%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Median 50%
$151,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Baptist Hospital of Miami
Highest Paying City
Minneapolis, MN
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
1.9 years
How much does a Medical Researcher make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Medical Researcher in the United States is $78,854 per year or $38 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $40,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $151,000.

Real Medical Researcher Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Medical Researcher RMA of Texas, Pa San Antonio, TX Sep 24, 2014 $130,000
Associate Medical Researcher (Neuromonitoring Spec UCSF Medical Center San Francisco, CA Aug 01, 2012 $110,173
Medical Researcher UCSF Medical Center San Francisco, CA Jan 22, 2011 $106,687
Medical Researcher Surgical Information Sciences, Inc. Minneapolis, MN May 06, 2013 $104,350
Medical Researcher Surgical Information Sciences, Inc. Minneapolis, MN Jun 17, 2013 $104,350
Medical Researcher Clinica Alianza Latina Inc. Norcross, GA Oct 01, 2009 $85,984
Medical Researcher Divina S PUNO Inc. Elizabeth, NJ Oct 01, 2012 $80,329
Medical Researcher David W Kim Md Defined Benefit Plan San Francisco, CA Oct 01, 2015 $80,000
Medical Research Scholar Baptist Hospital of Miami, Inc. Miami, FL Sep 01, 2015 $78,603
Medical Research Scholar Baptist Hospital of Miami, Inc. Miami, FL Mar 14, 2011 $75,000
Medical Research Scholar Baptist Hospital of Miami, Inc. Miami, FL Sep 01, 2012 $75,000
Medical Research Scholar Baptist Hospital of Miami, Inc. Miami, FL May 01, 2010 $75,000
Medical Researcher Clinica Alianza Latina Inc. Norcross, GA Jul 01, 2010 $56,349
Medical Researcher H. Shah Md, Inc. Diamond Bar, CA Dec 17, 2009 $55,973
Medical Researcher Crest Clinical Trials, Inc. Santa Ana, CA Dec 14, 2009 $55,973
Medical Researcher Lenox Hill Hospital New York, NY Jan 14, 2010 $55,623
Medical Researcher General Anesthesia Specialists Partnership Medical Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2012 $55,000
Medical Researcher Reproductive Genetics Institute Chicago, IL Oct 01, 2012 $54,288
Medical Researcher Robert N Schnitzler Md Pa San Antonio, TX Sep 26, 2009 $53,926
Medical Research Assocaite Daviees Community Hospital Washington, IN Jan 01, 2010 $49,816
Medical Researcher Oncology Analytics, Inc. Plantation, FL Sep 09, 2014 $49,200
Medical Researcher Clinica Alianza Latina Inc. Norcross, GA Jun 14, 2010 $48,898
Medical Researcher Clinica Alianza Latina Inc. Norcross, GA Oct 01, 2009 $48,898
Medical Researcher SCO-Family of Services Glen Cove, NY Oct 01, 2010 $48,648 -
$23
Medical Researcher State University of New York at Buffalo NM Jul 01, 2010 $48,358
Medical Researcher East Mississippi State Hospital Meridian, MS Sep 01, 2010 $48,000
Medical Researcher East Mississippi State Hospital Meridian, MS Apr 17, 2010 $48,000

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Top Skills for A Medical Researcher

  1. Laboratory Practices
  2. Medical Records
  3. Research Projects
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintained laboratory equipment records and inventory in keeping with Good Laboratory Practices.
  • Protect the security of medical records to ensure that confidentiality is maintained.
  • Work with Dr. Frederick Klaits to design and run research projects Engage in participant observation Conduct ethnographic interviews
  • Call a variety of health insurance companies in order to validate the member benefits.
  • MetaMed is an innovative start-up that provides personalized medical research to its customers.

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Top 10 Best States for Medical Researchers

  1. Delaware
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. California
  4. Maryland
  5. Connecticut
  6. New Jersey
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Minnesota
  10. North Carolina
  • (19 jobs)
  • (223 jobs)
  • (507 jobs)
  • (99 jobs)
  • (25 jobs)
  • (88 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (304 jobs)
  • (121 jobs)
  • (77 jobs)

Top Medical Researcher Employers

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