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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 Postdoc
Top Careers After Postdoc
Hispanic or Latino4.3%
Black or African American0.3%
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University of Arizona9.1%
University of Notre Dame6.1%
University of Georgia6.1%
University of Delaware6.1%
University of Washington6.1%
Pennsylvania State University6.1%
Georgia Institute of Technology -6.1%
Louisiana State University and A&M College3.0%
University of California - San Francisco3.0%
University of Connecticut3.0%
University of California - Los Angeles3.0%
Texas A&M University3.0%
University of North Texas3.0%
DPT Business School3.0%
More Tech Institute3.0%
University of Massachusetts - Lowell3.0%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Postdoc Technologist||Infineum USA Inc.||Linden, NJ||Sep 05, 2015||$71,000|
|Postdoc In Mesoscale Magnetic Materials||Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)||Oak Ridge, TN||Feb 15, 2016||$68,004|
|Experimental & Computational Geochemistry Postdoc||Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory||Berkeley, CA||Dec 15, 2014||$66,252|
|Postdoc-Celluar Signaling Dynamics||Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP||Waltham, MA||Jun 09, 2016||$65,000 -
|Postdoc RES Affiliate||The Board of Trustees of The Leland Stanford, Jr. University||Palo Alto, CA||Sep 17, 2016||$60,000|
|Postdoc Scientist||Biovision, Inc.||Milpitas, CA||Mar 09, 2016||$58,000|
|Postdoc||Regents of The University of California at Riversi||Riverside, CA||Jan 01, 2014||$54,000 -
|Postdoc RES Affiliate||The Board of Trustees of The Leland Stanford, Jr. University||Stanford, CA||Jan 06, 2016||$53,768|
|Postdoc RES Affiliate||The Board of Trustees of The Leland Stanford, Jr. University||Stanford, CA||Jan 08, 2016||$53,768|
|Postdoc RES Affiliate||The Board of Trustees of The Leland Stanford, Jr. University||Stanford, CA||May 01, 2016||$53,250|
|Postdoc RES Affiliate||The Board of Trustees of The Leland Stanford, Jr. University||Stanford, CA||Jan 05, 2016||$53,250|
|Postdoc||Regents of The University of California at Riversi||Riverside, CA||Sep 23, 2013||$48,000|
|Postdoce||Regents of The University of California at Riversi||Riverside, CA||Sep 01, 2013||$46,920 -
|Postdoc||Regents of The University of California at Riversi||Riverside, CA||Sep 01, 2013||$46,920 -
|Postdoc||Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond, VA||Jan 15, 2014||$46,500|
|Postdoc||University of California, Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||Nov 16, 2015||$46,344|
|Postdoc Scholar Employee||University of California, Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||Jan 01, 2016||$46,344|
|Postdoc||The University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa, AL||Nov 21, 2015||$46,259|
|Teaching Postdoc||North Dakota State University||Fargo, ND||Jan 01, 2015||$42,429|
|Postdoc Employee||Regents of The University of California at Riverside||Riverside, CA||Nov 01, 2014||$42,000 -
|Postdoc Employee||Regents of The University of California at Riverside||Riverside, CA||Jan 01, 2015||$42,000 -
|Postdoc Employee||Regents of The University of California at Riverside||Riverside, CA||Jan 05, 2015||$42,000 -
|Postdoc Employee||Regents of The University of California at Riverside||Riverside, CA||Jan 06, 2015||$42,000 -
|Postdoc Employee||Regents of The University of California at Riverside||Riverside, CA||Jan 07, 2014||$42,000 -
|Postdoc-Employee||Regents of The University of California at Riverside||Riverside, CA||Jan 11, 2014||$42,000 -
|Postdoc Employee||Regents of The University of California at Riverside||Riverside, CA||Jun 25, 2014||$42,000 -
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