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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 Postdoctoral Associate
Top Careers After Postdoctoral Associate
Hispanic or Latino6.5%
Black or African American0.9%
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University of Florida11.9%
Iowa State University6.7%
University of Pittsburgh -6.3%
Texas A&M University6.3%
State University of New York Buffalo4.8%
University of Louisville4.4%
Pennsylvania State University4.4%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology4.4%
University of Toledo4.0%
Baylor College of Medicine4.0%
University of Connecticut3.6%
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor3.6%
Johns Hopkins University3.2%
University of Houston3.2%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Verily Life Science LLC||Mountain View, CA||Sep 10, 2016||$124,000|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Verily Life Science LLC||Mountain View, CA||Oct 09, 2016||$124,000|
|Postdoctoral Associate||The Rockefeller University||New York, NY||Oct 01, 2015||$90,000|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Weill Cornell Medical College||New York, NY||Jun 15, 2016||$90,000|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||Piscataway, NJ||Oct 09, 2016||$85,000|
|Research & Development Postdoctoral Associate||Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development, Inc.||Glendale, CA||Aug 09, 2015||$81,500|
|Postdoctoral Associate In Polymer Simulation and Modeling||Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)||Oak Ridge, TN||Jan 21, 2016||$80,715|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge, MA||Mar 15, 2016||$80,000|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Duke University and Medical Center||Durham, NC||Aug 11, 2015||$80,000|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Duke University and Medical Center||Durham, NC||Jan 02, 2016||$80,000|
|Distinguished Postdoctoral Associate Computational Earth SCI||Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)||Oak Ridge, TN||Apr 04, 2016||$79,500|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Weill Cornell Medical College||New York, NY||Feb 07, 2015||$51,358|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Cornell University||Ithaca, NY||Apr 19, 2015||$51,250|
|Postdoctoral Associate||University of Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||Sep 15, 2015||$51,152|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Cornell University||Ithaca, NY||Jan 05, 2016||$51,150|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Duke University||Durham, NC||Mar 16, 2016||$51,126|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute||Orlando, FL||Oct 10, 2016||$51,126|
|Postdoctoral Associate/Fellow||Baylor College of Medicine||Houston, TX||Jun 09, 2016||$51,120|
|Chemistry Postdoctoral Associate (With Summer Teaching)||The Colorado College||Colorado Springs, CO||Aug 04, 2015||$47,250|
|Postdoctoral Associate||University of Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||Apr 01, 2015||$47,244|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Donald Danforth Plant Science Center||Saint Louis, MO||Aug 23, 2015||$47,244|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge, MA||Jan 25, 2015||$47,244|
|Postdoctoral Associate||University of Minnesota||Saint Paul, MN||Jan 07, 2016||$47,244|
|Postdoctoral Associate||Duke University and Medical Center||Durham, NC||Sep 01, 2015||$47,244|
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