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Become A Postdoc Fellow

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Working As A Postdoc Fellow

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

  • $60,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Postdoc Fellow 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 Postdoc Fellow

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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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Doctoral Student 3.5 years
Postdoc Fellow 3.0 years
Doctoral Fellow 2.9 years
PHD Researcher 2.9 years
Postdoc 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.4 years
Researcher 1.5 years
Top Careers Before Postdoc Fellow
Internship 4.4%
Instructor 3.6%
Scientist 2.0%
Master 1.6%
Adviser 1.6%
Researcher 1.6%
Top Careers After Postdoc Fellow
Scientist 5.8%
Instructor 4.7%
Consultant 2.3%
Assistant 1.8%
Postdoc 1.8%

Do you work as a Postdoc Fellow?

Average Yearly Salary
$60,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$38,000
Min 10%
$60,000
Median 50%
$60,000
Median 50%
$60,000
Median 50%
$60,000
Median 50%
$60,000
Median 50%
$60,000
Median 50%
$60,000
Median 50%
$95,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Los Alamos National Security LLC
Highest Paying City
Palo Alto, CA
Highest Paying State
Washington
Avg Experience Level
2.6 years
How much does a Postdoc Fellow make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Postdoc Fellow in the United States is $60,730 per year or $29 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $38,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $95,000.

Real Postdoc Fellow Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Oppenheimer Postdoc Fellow Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Jul 02, 2015 $111,000
Director's Postdoc Fellow Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM May 02, 2015 $84,800 -
$87,000
Director's Postdoc Fellow Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Feb 22, 2016 $82,800 -
$87,000
Director's Postdoc Fellow Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM May 27, 2016 $81,200 -
$87,700
Director's Postdoc Fellow Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Jun 06, 2016 $80,600 -
$87,000
Director's Postdoc Fellow Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Mar 21, 2016 $79,200 -
$87,700
Chemist Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Apr 18, 2016 $75,648
Directors Postdoc Fellow Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Jun 01, 2015 $74,800 -
$87,000
Chemist Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 02, 2016 $73,800
Energy Environmental Policy Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Mar 17, 2015 $73,440
Chemist Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jun 15, 2015 $71,652
Chemist Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jun 23, 2015 $71,652
Geological Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 06, 2016 $67,920
Geological Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Nov 28, 2016 $67,920
Geological Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Mar 18, 2016 $66,588
Geological Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Apr 01, 2016 $66,588
Geological Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 01, 2016 $66,588
Geological Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Oct 23, 2015 $66,252
Geological Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 12, 2016 $65,592
Physicist Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jun 01, 2016 $65,304
Materials Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Apr 05, 2016 $57,540
Materials Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 07, 2016 $57,540
Materials Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Feb 09, 2016 $57,540
Materials Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA May 20, 2016 $57,540
Materials Postdoc Fellow Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA Jan 08, 2016 $57,540

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Top Skills for A Postdoc Fellow

  1. Protein
  2. Collaborative Projects
  3. Cancer Patients
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Analyze protein-protein interaction network and human brain gene expression pattern.
  • Develop and synthesis of novel catalytic structures for important organic reactionsLecture to General Chemistry 1110
  • Research on Microbiology and moelcular geentics.
  • Published one review paper, executed NO and ROS measurements on molecular and biochemistry levels.
  • Publish one statistical algorithm in top journal (Nature Method)

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Postdoc Fellows

  1. New Mexico
  2. New Jersey
  3. Maryland
  4. Delaware
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. North Carolina
  7. Connecticut
  8. Maine
  9. California
  10. Massachusetts
  • (74 jobs)
  • (151 jobs)
  • (99 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (92 jobs)
  • (140 jobs)
  • (23 jobs)
  • (11 jobs)
  • (465 jobs)
  • (533 jobs)

Postdoc Fellow Demographics

Gender

Unknown

59.8%

Male

25.5%

Female

14.7%
Ethnicity

Asian

69.2%

White

17.3%

Unknown

5.4%

Hispanic or Latino

4.5%

Black or African American

3.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Chinese

40.0%

Mandarin

20.0%

Xiang

20.0%

French

10.0%

Zhuang

10.0%
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Postdoc Fellow Education

Schools

The Academy

9.4%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

9.4%

University of Texas at Austin

7.5%

University of Houston

5.7%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

5.7%

Iowa State University

5.7%

Pennsylvania State University

5.7%

Texas Tech University

5.7%

Louisiana State University and A&M College

3.8%

University of Connecticut

3.8%

Kansas State University

3.8%

University of Missouri - Columbia

3.8%

Georgetown University

3.8%

Brandeis University

3.8%

University of Notre Dame

3.8%

University of Virginia

3.8%

Baylor College of Medicine

3.8%

West Virginia University

3.8%

University of Southern California

3.8%

Michigan State University

3.8%
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Majors

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

16.8%

Chemistry

15.5%

Biology

9.7%

Genetics

6.5%

Physiology And Anatomy

6.5%

Microbiology

5.8%

Physics

5.2%

Medicine

3.9%

Computer Science

3.9%

Pharmacology

3.2%

Biomedical Sciences

3.2%

Materials Sciences

2.6%

Chemical Engineering

2.6%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.6%

Mechanical Engineering

2.6%

Pharmacy

1.9%

Mathematics

1.9%

Neuroscience

1.9%

Electrical Engineering

1.9%

Materials Science And Engineering

1.9%
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Degrees

Doctorate

81.1%

Other

8.0%

Masters

7.0%

Bachelors

2.5%

Diploma

1.0%

Certificate

0.5%
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