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Become A Postdoc Research Associate

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Working As A Postdoc Research Associate

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

  • $47,738

    Average Salary

What Does A Postdoc Research Associate Do

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.


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 Research Associate

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.


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 Research Associate jobs


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Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Postdoc 2.8 years
Postdoc Fellow 2.6 years
Research Associate 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.3 years
Research Assistant 1.7 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 5.5%
Fellow 3.4%
Lecturer 3.0%
Instructor 2.1%
Researcher 2.1%
Scientist 1.7%
Top Employers After
Instructor 5.6%
Scientist 4.6%
Engineer 3.7%
Lecturer 2.8%

Postdoc Research Associate Demographics












Hispanic or Latino




Black or African American

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Postdoc Research Associate Education


Iowa State University


Texas A&M University


North Carolina State University


The Academy


Washington State University


University of California - Davis


Cornell University


State University of New York Stony Brook


Rice University


University of Florida


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


University of Washington


University of Chicago


Duke University


University of Missouri - Columbia


University of Iowa


University of Vermont


University of Maryland - College Park


Brigham Young University


Louisiana State University and A&M College

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Mechanical Engineering


Materials Science And Engineering


Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology


Chemical Engineering


Electrical Engineering




Computer Science




Materials Sciences






Biomedical Engineering


Computer Engineering


Environmental Science


Plastics Engineering


Civil Engineering





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Real Postdoc Research Associate Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Postdoc Research Associate Nuclear Data Specialist Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Nov 18, 2014 $83,016
Postdoc Research Asso. In Climate Dynamics and Variability Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Oct 07, 2016 $78,280
Postdoc Research Asso. In Climate Dynamics and Variability Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Jul 10, 2016 $78,280
Postdoc Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Aug 04, 2014 $77,800 -
Postdoc Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM May 23, 2016 $77,300 -
Postdoc Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Oct 11, 2016 $77,300 -
Postdoc Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Aug 29, 2016 $77,300 -
Postdoc Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Nov 10, 2016 $77,300 -
Postdoc Research Asso. In Climate Dynamics and Variability Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Nov 14, 2014 $76,000
Postdoc Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM May 27, 2014 $75,900 -
Postdoc Research Assoc-Vhtr Advanced Micro Analy Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC Idaho Falls, ID Jan 05, 2015 $75,000
Postdoc Research Associate AAT Bioquest, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA Aug 01, 2015 $75,000
Postdoc Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Apr 16, 2012 $74,610 -
Postdoc Research Associate Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Aug 06, 2015 $63,433
Postdoc Research Associate Organic Optoelectronics Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Jan 01, 2015 $63,000
Postdoc Research Assoc Theory of Novel Heterostructured Mate Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Jan 22, 2015 $63,000
Postdoc Research Assoc Theory of Novel Heterostruc Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Jan 22, 2015 $63,000
Postdoc Research Associate Scanning Probe Microsco Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Nov 17, 2014 $63,000
Postdoc Research Associate University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte, NC Aug 01, 2010 $62,400
Postdoc. Researcher-Time Resolved Microwave Spectr The Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC Golden, CO Dec 01, 2013 $59,238 -
Postdoc Research Assoc./Scholar Washington University In St. Louis Saint Louis, MO Jul 20, 2012 $45,136
Postdoc Research Associate Arizona State University Tempe, AZ Dec 15, 2015 $45,000
Postdoc Research Assoc-Plant Science South Dakota State University Brookings, SD Nov 02, 2016 $45,000
Research Associate Postdoc North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC Jul 01, 2011 $45,000
Postdoc Research Associate-Earth SCI, Physics University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD Jan 11, 2012 $45,000
Postdoc-Research Associate Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI Dec 24, 2011 $45,000
Postdoc-Research Associate Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI Dec 24, 2010 $45,000
Postdoc Associate University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA Aug 31, 2015 $44,000

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Top Skills for A Postdoc Research Associate


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Top Postdoc Research Associate Skills

  1. Cell Culture
  2. Total Synthesis
  3. Research Projects
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Coordinate equipment purchasing, facility training, and research projects with industrial vendors and research collaborators.
  • Surface stress measurements associated with the molecular interaction of RNA proteins.
  • Analyzed and performed data analysis on 3-D electron beam image data to characterize physical properties.
  • Purify and characterize both proteins with HPLC, western blot, ESI-TOF, IP, etc.
  • Designed and performed experiments to optimize conditions for clinical sample collection and downstream DNA, RNA, cytokine and lipid analysis.

Top Postdoc Research Associate Employers