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Become A Postdoctoral Associate

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Working As A Postdoctoral Associate

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

  • $49,258

    Average Salary

What Does A Postdoctoral 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.

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 Postdoctoral 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.

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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Postdoctoral Associate Jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Doctoral Fellow 3.0 years
Postdoc 2.7 years
Research Fellow 2.3 years
Top Employers Before
Fellow 8.2%
Internship 3.3%
Lecturer 2.2%
Scientist 2.0%
Researcher 2.0%
Instructor 1.7%
Top Employers After
Fellow 9.9%
Scientist 9.0%
Instructor 3.3%
Consultant 2.1%
Chemist 1.5%
Director 1.4%

Do you work as a Postdoctoral Associate?

Postdoctoral Associate Demographics

Gender

Male

46.8%

Unknown

27.6%

Female

25.7%
Ethnicity

Asian

46.5%

White

34.3%

Hispanic or Latino

9.0%

Black or African American

6.1%

Unknown

4.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Chinese

22.0%

French

13.8%

German

9.2%

Mandarin

8.3%

Spanish

8.3%

Russian

6.4%

Italian

4.6%

Japanese

3.7%

Hindi

2.8%

Czech

2.8%

Swedish

1.8%

Cornish

1.8%

Bulgarian

1.8%

Welsh

1.8%

Malay

1.8%

Armenian

1.8%

Cantonese

1.8%

Carrier

1.8%

Irish

1.8%

Breton

1.8%
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Postdoctoral Associate Education

Schools

University of Florida

12.3%

Cornell University

8.7%

Iowa State University

7.9%

Texas A&M University

6.3%

University of Pittsburgh -

5.9%

Yale University

5.9%

State University of New York Buffalo

4.7%

University of Louisville

4.3%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4.3%

Duke University

4.3%

Pennsylvania State University

4.0%

University of Toledo

4.0%

Baylor College of Medicine

4.0%

Tufts University

4.0%

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

3.6%

University of Connecticut

3.2%

University of Rochester

3.2%

Boston University

3.2%

Johns Hopkins University

3.2%

University of Houston

3.2%
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Majors

Chemistry

25.9%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

14.9%

Physics

6.7%

Microbiology

6.5%

Biology

4.7%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

4.6%

Mechanical Engineering

3.9%

Neuroscience

3.9%

Physiology And Anatomy

3.8%

Chemical Engineering

3.5%

Biomedical Engineering

3.3%

Pharmacology

2.8%

Pharmacy

2.6%

Genetics

2.6%

Electrical Engineering

2.4%

Materials Science And Engineering

1.9%

Biomedical Sciences

1.6%

Computer Science

1.6%

Medicine

1.5%

Botany

1.3%
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Degrees

Doctorate

86.1%

Masters

6.7%

Other

4.8%

Associate

0.8%

Bachelors

0.8%

Certificate

0.7%

Diploma

0.1%
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Temporary

Real Postdoctoral Associate Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Postdoctoral Associate Verily Life Science LLC Mountain View, CA Oct 09, 2016 $124,000
Postdoctoral Associate Verily Life Science LLC Mountain View, CA Sep 10, 2016 $124,000
Postdoctoral Associate Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY Jun 15, 2016 $90,000
Postdoctoral Associate The Rockefeller University New York, NY Oct 01, 2015 $90,000
Postdoctoral Associate Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Piscataway, NJ Oct 09, 2016 $85,000
Postdoctoral Associate In Polymer Simulation and Modeling Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Jan 21, 2016 $80,715
Postdoctoral Associate Duke University and Medical Center Durham, NC Aug 11, 2015 $80,000
Postdoctoral Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Mar 15, 2016 $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 New York University New York, NY Jul 16, 2015 $78,412
Postdoctoral Associate Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Jan 12, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate/Fellow Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX Jan 08, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Jan 05, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate Duke University and Medical Center Durham, NC Nov 15, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate/Fellow Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX Jun 09, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Apr 01, 2015 $47,224
Postdoctoral Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Jan 04, 2015 $47,224
Postdoctoral Associate Yale University New Haven, CT Jun 07, 2015 $47,216
Postdoctoral Associate Yale University New Haven, CT Jul 06, 2015 $47,216
Postdoctoral Associate Trustees of Boston University Boston, MA Apr 17, 2015 $47,200
Postdoctoral Associate Trustees of Boston University Boston, MA Jan 25, 2015 $47,163
Postdoctoral Associate Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA Sep 01, 2015 $47,150

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Top Skills for A Postdoctoral Associate

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  1. Cell Culture
  2. Protein
  3. Chemistry
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed a primary neuronal cell culture assay.
  • Designed, implemented and interpreted the experiments, aimed at establishing the structure-function relationship of cardiac proteins.
  • Apply surface chemistry knowledge to tailoring organic additives in both aqueous and organic solution to optimize powder dispersion.
  • Coordinated purchase and installation of laboratory equipment to initiate cell-based research.
  • Trained undergraduate students and technicians on skills in molecular biology, biochemistry and behavioral tests.

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Top 10 Best States for Postdoctoral Associates

  1. Tennessee
  2. Delaware
  3. Maine
  4. Maryland
  5. Kentucky
  6. North Carolina
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Minnesota
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Colorado
  • (64 jobs)
  • (17 jobs)
  • (14 jobs)
  • (169 jobs)
  • (23 jobs)
  • (455 jobs)
  • (294 jobs)
  • (58 jobs)
  • (17 jobs)
  • (134 jobs)

Top Postdoctoral Associate Employers

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