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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

  • $44,498

    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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Postdoctoral Associate Career Paths

Postdoctoral Associate
Postdoctoral Research Associate Research Associate Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Research Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Program Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Analytics
13 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Professor Research Associate
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Postdoctoral Research Associate Research Fellow Scientist
Lead Scientist
8 Yearsyrs
Associate Research Scientist Scientist Senior Scientist
Principal Research Scientist
10 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Scientist Senior Scientist
Principal Scientist
12 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Assistant Professor Program Director
Project Director
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Project Manager Construction Manager
Quality Control Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Scientist
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Project Manager Product Manager
Research And Development Technician
6 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Associate Professor Senior Scientist
Research Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Professor Research Associate
Research Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Instructor Lecturer Research Associate
Research Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Instructor Analyst Chemist
Senior Chemist
7 Yearsyrs
Associate Research Scientist Senior Scientist
Senior Principal Scientist
12 Yearsyrs
Scientist Research Scientist
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Senior Research Associate Analytical Chemist
Senior Research Chemist
6 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Research Scientist
Senior Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
Staff Scientist Senior Chemist Senior Scientist
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Senior Project Manager Vice President Of Engineering
Vice President Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
PHD Researcher 3.3 years
Postdoc 2.8 years
Research Fellow 2.3 years
Top Employers Before
Fellow 7.8%
Internship 3.3%
Lecturer 2.1%
Researcher 2.1%
Scientist 2.1%
Instructor 1.9%
Top Employers After
Fellow 9.5%
Scientist 9.1%
Instructor 3.3%
Consultant 2.0%
Director 1.5%

Postdoctoral Associate Demographics

Gender

Male

46.6%

Unknown

27.6%

Female

25.8%
Ethnicity

Asian

46.4%

White

43.2%

Hispanic or Latino

6.5%

Unknown

3.0%

Black or African American

0.9%
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Languages Spoken

Chinese

23.7%

French

13.4%

Spanish

9.3%

Mandarin

8.2%

German

8.2%

Russian

7.2%

Italian

5.2%

Japanese

4.1%

Hindi

3.1%

Swedish

2.1%

Bulgarian

2.1%

Malay

2.1%

Armenian

2.1%

Cantonese

2.1%

Carrier

2.1%

Marathi

1.0%

Dutch

1.0%

Korean

1.0%

Hungarian

1.0%

Zhuang

1.0%
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Postdoctoral Associate Education

Schools

University of Florida

11.9%

Cornell University

9.1%

Iowa State University

6.7%

University of Pittsburgh -

6.3%

Texas A&M University

6.3%

Yale University

6.0%

State University of New York Buffalo

4.8%

University of Louisville

4.4%

Pennsylvania State University

4.4%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4.4%

University of Toledo

4.0%

Baylor College of Medicine

4.0%

Duke University

4.0%

Tufts University

4.0%

University of Connecticut

3.6%

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

3.6%

Boston University

3.2%

Johns Hopkins University

3.2%

University of Houston

3.2%

Purdue University

3.2%
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Majors

Chemistry

26.1%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

15.3%

Physics

6.7%

Microbiology

6.5%

Biology

4.7%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

4.5%

Mechanical Engineering

3.9%

Neuroscience

3.9%

Physiology And Anatomy

3.8%

Biomedical Engineering

3.3%

Chemical Engineering

3.2%

Pharmacy

2.8%

Pharmacology

2.8%

Electrical Engineering

2.5%

Genetics

2.2%

Computer Science

1.8%

Materials Science And Engineering

1.8%

Biomedical Sciences

1.6%

Medicine

1.5%

Biotechnology

1.4%
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Degrees

Doctorate

86.0%

Masters

6.7%

Other

4.8%

Bachelors

0.9%

Associate

0.8%

Certificate

0.6%

Diploma

0.1%
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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 Jan 02, 2016 $80,000
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
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 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Jan 12, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate Duke University and Medical Center Durham, NC Nov 15, 2016 $51,120
Senior Postdoctoral Associate Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Jan 05, 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 Jan 05, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Associate Yale University New Haven, CT Jan 03, 2016 $47,244
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 Yale University New Haven, CT Jan 01, 2016 $47,244
Postdoctoral Associate Yale University New Haven, CT Jan 07, 2016 $47,244
Postdoctral Associate Yale University New Haven, CT Feb 01, 2016 $47,244
Postdoctoral Associate Duke University and Medical Center Durham, NC Jul 01, 2015 $47,244
Postdoctoral Associate Duke University and Medical Center Durham, NC Sep 01, 2015 $47,244

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Top Skills for A Postdoctoral Associate

CellLinesProteinExpressionLaboratoryEquipmentLabTotalSynthesisChemistryMolecularGeneticsMolecularBiologyAdvisorResearchProjectsDNADataAnalysisNMRPHDRt-PcrEElisaRna-SeqNIHCellCulture

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Top Postdoctoral Associate Skills

  1. Cell Lines
  2. Protein Expression
  3. Laboratory Equipment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Generated stable cell lines with luciferase reporter to monitor tumor metastasis in animal models.
  • Supervised and mentored research assistants for protein expression and purification roles.
  • Helped or directly made purchase decisions for supplies, chemicals and laboratory equipment.
  • Trained students on various laboratory techniques, protocols and equipment for industry funded projects.
  • Involved total synthesis of Lonomycin and synthetic method development.

Top Postdoctoral Associate Employers

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