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Become A Postdoc

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Working As A Postdoc

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

  • $52,810

    Average Salary

What Does A Postdoc 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

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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Postdoc Demographics

Gender

Unknown

45.8%

Male

36.7%

Female

17.5%
Ethnicity

Asian

63.0%

White

21.6%

Hispanic or Latino

6.4%

Unknown

4.7%

Black or African American

4.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Chinese

55.0%

Japanese

15.0%

French

10.0%

German

5.0%

Russian

5.0%

Korean

5.0%

Xiang

5.0%
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Postdoc Education

Schools

Cornell University

8.6%

The Academy

8.6%

University of Arizona

8.6%

University of Notre Dame

5.7%

University of Texas at El Paso

5.7%

University of Georgia

5.7%

University of Delaware

5.7%

Auburn University

5.7%

University of Washington

5.7%

Pennsylvania State University

5.7%

University of Maryland - College Park

5.7%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

5.7%

Louisiana State University and A&M College

2.9%

University of California - San Francisco

2.9%

University of Connecticut

2.9%

University of California - Los Angeles

2.9%

Texas A&M University

2.9%

University of North Texas

2.9%

DPT Business School

2.9%

Oakland University

2.9%
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Majors

Chemistry

17.6%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

13.2%

Physics

9.9%

Biology

7.7%

Mathematics

5.5%

Computer Science

4.4%

Pharmacology

4.4%

Materials Science And Engineering

4.4%

Electrical Engineering

4.4%

Genetics

3.3%

Microbiology

3.3%

Plant Sciences

3.3%

Biomedical Engineering

3.3%

Physiology And Anatomy

2.2%

Public Health

2.2%

Pharmacy

2.2%

Medicine

2.2%

Engineering

2.2%

Neuroscience

2.2%

Chemical Engineering

2.2%
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Degrees

Doctorate

80.3%

Masters

11.1%

Other

6.0%

Certificate

1.7%

Bachelors

0.9%
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Real Postdoc Salaries

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 -
$75,000
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 -
$75,000
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 Jan 05, 2016 $53,250
Postdoc RES Affiliate The Board of Trustees of The Leland Stanford, Jr. University Stanford, CA May 01, 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 -
$49,884
Postdoc Regents of The University of California at Riversi Riverside, CA Sep 01, 2013 $46,920 -
$49,884
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 -
$51,096
Postdoc Employee Regents of The University of California at Riverside Riverside, CA Jan 01, 2015 $42,000 -
$51,096
Postdoc Employee Regents of The University of California at Riverside Riverside, CA Jan 05, 2015 $42,000 -
$51,096
Postdoc Employee Regents of The University of California at Riverside Riverside, CA Jan 06, 2015 $42,000 -
$51,096
Postdoc Employee Regents of The University of California at Riverside Riverside, CA Jan 07, 2014 $42,000 -
$51,096
Postdoc-Employee Regents of The University of California at Riverside Riverside, CA Jan 11, 2014 $42,000 -
$51,096
Postdoc Employee Regents of The University of California at Riverside Riverside, CA Jun 25, 2014 $42,000 -
$51,096

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Top Skills for A Postdoc

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  1. Cell Culture
  2. Protein
  3. Gene Expression
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Solved the structure of cytolysin synthase, CylM, which is a protein over 116KDa.
  • Developed gene expression assay for cannabinoid and AMPA receptors during ALS disease development.
  • Advised by Dr. Kenner Rice, who patented the process for the total synthesis of morphine.
  • Designed sampling algorithms for measuring web characteristics Advised 2 PhD students.
  • Conducted research focused on drug-DNA complexes and unusual DNA structure motif.

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Top 10 Best States for Postdocs

  1. New Jersey
  2. Delaware
  3. North Carolina
  4. Connecticut
  5. Maine
  6. Arizona
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. California
  9. Virginia
  10. Massachusetts
  • (164 jobs)
  • (4 jobs)
  • (278 jobs)
  • (14 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (125 jobs)
  • (17 jobs)
  • (191 jobs)
  • (88 jobs)
  • (193 jobs)

Top Postdoc Employers

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