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Become A Medical Scientist

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Working As A Medical Scientist

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

  • $86,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Medical 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 Medical 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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Do you work as a Medical Scientist?

Average Yearly Salary
$86,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$47,000
Min 10%
$86,000
Median 50%
$86,000
Median 50%
$86,000
Median 50%
$86,000
Median 50%
$86,000
Median 50%
$86,000
Median 50%
$86,000
Median 50%
$157,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Berkshire Health Systems, Inc.
Highest Paying City
Minneapolis, MN
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
3.0 years
How much does a Medical Scientist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Medical Scientist in the United States is $86,909 per year or $42 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $47,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $158,000.

Real Medical Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Medical Scientist Cleveland Clinic Foundation Cleveland, OH Jun 01, 2015 $260,875
Medical Scientist Cleveland Clinic Foundation Cleveland, OH Jun 20, 2013 $260,875
Medical Scientist Cleveland Clinic Foundation Cleveland, OH Jun 21, 2016 $260,875
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic Keene, NH Aug 20, 2013 $250,000
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Cleveland Clinic Foundation Cleveland, OH May 23, 2014 $250,000
Medical Scientist Cleveland Clinic Foundation Cleveland, OH Jan 08, 2016 $240,000
Medical Scientist-Pathologist Genentech Inc. South San Francisco, CA Oct 25, 2016 $222,378
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Sanford Bismarck Bismarck, ND Apr 23, 2014 $220,000
Integrative Scientist, US Medical-Oncology (Usmo) Bristol Myers Squibb Company Plainsboro, NJ Apr 14, 2015 $207,085
Integrative Scientist, U.S. Medical-Oncology Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Plainsboro, NJ Sep 17, 2015 $204,521
Senior Medical Scientist Amgen Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA Apr 09, 2015 $199,290
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Jason S. Slakter, Md, PC Great Neck, NY Nov 04, 2013 $180,000
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Medstar Health Research Institute Columbia, MD May 13, 2014 $180,000
Medical Scientist-Women's Health Services Henry Ford Health System Detroit, MI Sep 01, 2014 $88,000
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Spoon Foundation Portland, OR Jul 07, 2014 $87,256
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Amarex Clinical Research LLC Germantown, MD May 09, 2014 $85,842
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists National Institute of Transplantation Los Angeles, CA May 06, 2014 $85,592
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Thermalin Diabetes, LLC Cleveland, OH Aug 01, 2014 $85,000
Medical Scientist MMS Holdings, Inc. Canton, MI Aug 09, 2016 $85,000
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists BRLI No 2 Acquisition Corp (DBA Genedx, Inc.) Gaithersburg, MD Jan 09, 2013 $84,906
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Medical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee, WI Apr 24, 2013 $84,872
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Jan 24, 2014 $63,600
Medical Scientist Quality It Source, LLC Horsham, PA Jan 20, 2014 $62,000
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists Medical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee, WI Jul 18, 2013 $61,800
Medical Scientist Fulgent Therapeutics, LLC. Temple City, CA Sep 16, 2016 $61,441
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists F&M Radiology Center, Inc. DBA Encino Urgent Care CA Jun 05, 2014 $61,235
Medical Scientist DR. Moosa Heikali CA Jan 20, 2015 $61,235
Project Medical Scientist Integrium LLC Tustin, CA Sep 22, 2015 $61,191

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Top Skills for A Medical Scientist

  1. Clinical Trials
  2. Safety Issues
  3. Lab Equipment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Served as a resource staff for other therapeutic areas due to seniority and experience.
  • Worked in multi-disciplinary lab which covered Hematology & Transfusion, Micro biology and Bio-chemistry.
  • Experience working FDA and OIG taskforces.
  • Presented pharmacoeconomic data at Health Care Organizations.
  • Conduct individual discussions and meetings with study investigators on topics related to the work being conducted with GSK.

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Top 10 Best States for Medical Scientists

  1. Maryland
  2. New Jersey
  3. Connecticut
  4. Delaware
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Washington
  7. California
  8. Pennsylvania
  9. Minnesota
  10. Virginia
  • (347 jobs)
  • (396 jobs)
  • (113 jobs)
  • (31 jobs)
  • (1,107 jobs)
  • (620 jobs)
  • (2,887 jobs)
  • (496 jobs)
  • (173 jobs)
  • (326 jobs)

Medical Scientist Demographics

Gender

Female

48.7%

Male

36.7%

Unknown

14.7%
Ethnicity

White

49.8%

Asian

20.5%

Hispanic or Latino

13.5%

Black or African American

10.5%

Unknown

5.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

33.3%

French

14.3%

Ukrainian

4.8%

Czech

4.8%

Gujarati

4.8%

Slovak

4.8%

Hindi

4.8%

Mandarin

4.8%

Polish

4.8%

Korean

4.8%

Afrikaans

4.8%

Arabic

4.8%

Russian

4.8%
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Medical Scientist Education

Schools

Emory University

7.4%

University of Phoenix

7.4%

University of Washington

7.4%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

7.4%

University of Florida

5.6%

University of the Sciences

5.6%

Stanford University

5.6%

Temple University

5.6%

University of California - Los Angeles

5.6%

University of Illinois at Chicago

5.6%

University of Texas at Arlington

3.7%

Albany College of Pharmacy

3.7%

North Carolina State University

3.7%

Widener University

3.7%

University of the Pacific

3.7%

Virginia Commonwealth University

3.7%

Johns Hopkins University

3.7%

University of Miami

3.7%

George Washington University

3.7%

University of Iowa

3.7%
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Majors

Pharmacy

18.3%

Biology

9.6%

Medicine

8.7%

Physiology And Anatomy

6.1%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

6.1%

Management

5.2%

Public Health

4.3%

Business

4.3%

Medical Technician

4.3%

Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science

4.3%

Food And Nutrition

3.5%

Veterinary Science

3.5%

Health Care Administration

3.5%

Biomedical Engineering

3.5%

Linguistics

2.6%

Microbiology

2.6%

Biomedical Sciences

2.6%

Neuroscience

2.6%

Chemistry

2.6%

Psychology

1.7%
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Degrees

Doctorate

30.3%

Masters

25.5%

Other

20.6%

Bachelors

20.0%

Certificate

2.4%

License

0.6%

Diploma

0.6%
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