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Become A Postdoctoral Research Associate

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Working As A Postdoctoral Research Associate

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

  • $45,110

    Average Salary

What Does A Postdoctoral 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.

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 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.

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 Research Associate Jobs

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Postdoctoral Research Associate Career Paths

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Senior Scientist Associate Director Program Director
Administrative Director
8 Yearsyrs
Research Chemist Laboratory Manager Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Research Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Program Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Analytics
13 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Professor Research Associate
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Senior Research Associate Scientist
Lead Scientist
8 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Scientist
Principal Research Scientist
10 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Senior Scientist
Principal Scientist
12 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Project Manager Senior Project Manager
Project Director
8 Yearsyrs
Instructor Project Coordinator Project Engineer
Quality Control Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
12 Yearsyrs
Research Fellow Research Scientist Senior Scientist
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Project Manager Product Manager
Research And Development Technician
6 Yearsyrs
Scientist Research And Development Scientist Senior Scientist
Research Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Professor Research Associate
Research Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Instructor Lecturer Research Associate
Research Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Research Chemist Analytical Chemist
Senior Chemist
7 Yearsyrs
Research Fellow Post Doctoral Researcher Research Associate
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Research Associate Research Scientist
Senior Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Research Associate Assistant Professor Senior Scientist
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Research And Development Scientist Research And Development Manager Research And Development Director
Vice President Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Postdoctoral Research Associate?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Research Associate 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.3 years
Top Employers Before
Fellow 5.6%
Internship 4.3%
Researcher 2.6%
Lecturer 2.2%
Scientist 2.1%
Instructor 1.9%
Top Employers After
Scientist 7.3%
Fellow 6.1%
Instructor 3.1%
Consultant 3.1%
Lecturer 1.7%

Do you work as a Postdoctoral Research Associate?

Postdoctoral Research Associate Demographics

Gender

Male

48.9%

Unknown

26.6%

Female

24.5%
Ethnicity

White

44.5%

Asian

44.3%

Hispanic or Latino

6.3%

Unknown

4.1%

Black or African American

0.8%
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Languages Spoken

Chinese

26.2%

Spanish

16.0%

Mandarin

10.2%

French

9.8%

German

6.2%

Russian

4.0%

Korean

3.1%

Xiang

3.1%

Japanese

3.1%

Turkish

2.2%

Carrier

2.2%

Italian

2.2%

Welsh

1.8%

Cantonese

1.8%

Hindi

1.3%

Shan

1.3%

Ukrainian

1.3%

Greek

1.3%

Portuguese

1.3%

Czech

1.3%
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Postdoctoral Research Associate Education

Schools

Iowa State University

8.2%

Texas A&M University

7.3%

University of Florida

7.2%

Purdue University

5.8%

North Carolina State University

5.5%

Michigan State University

5.5%

Washington State University

5.3%

Arizona State University

4.9%

Cornell University

4.9%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

4.6%

University of Illinois at Chicago

4.4%

Kansas State University

4.3%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

4.3%

Ohio State University

4.1%

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

4.1%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

4.1%

University of Georgia

4.1%

University of Arizona

3.9%

University of Texas at Austin

3.9%

University of Notre Dame

3.7%
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Majors

Chemistry

28.1%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

13.3%

Physics

9.4%

Chemical Engineering

5.4%

Biology

5.0%

Microbiology

4.9%

Mechanical Engineering

4.5%

Pharmacy

3.3%

Electrical Engineering

3.0%

Materials Science And Engineering

2.9%

Biomedical Engineering

2.5%

Genetics

2.5%

Pharmacology

2.3%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.2%

Neuroscience

2.0%

Materials Sciences

1.9%

Physiology And Anatomy

1.9%

Civil Engineering

1.7%

Botany

1.6%

Plant Sciences

1.5%
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Degrees

Doctorate

85.8%

Masters

6.5%

Other

5.2%

Bachelors

1.2%

Certificate

0.8%

Associate

0.5%

Diploma

0.0%
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Postdoctoral Research Associate Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Postdoctoral Research Associate The Trustees of Princeton University Princeton, NJ Jan 08, 2016 $118,000
Postdoctoral Research Associate Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Jun 01, 2015 $115,020
Postdoctoral Research Associate (Materials Scientist) Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC Idaho Falls, ID Jan 09, 2016 $106,008
Postdoctoral Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Sep 17, 2016 $104,000 -
$125,600
Postdoctoral Research Associate Texas A&M University College Station, TX Apr 07, 2016 $103,868
Postdoctoral Research Associate Northeastern University Boston, MA Oct 09, 2015 $100,343
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT Aug 15, 2015 $100,322
Postdoctoral Research Associate (Materials Scientist) Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC Idaho Falls, ID Jan 09, 2016 $100,008
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Metabolomics Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Sep 14, 2015 $98,400
Postdoctoral Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Sep 19, 2016 $92,000
Postdoctoral Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Jun 27, 2016 $87,988
Postdoctoral Research Associate Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Mar 07, 2015 $87,000
Postdoctoral Scholar-Research Associate The University of Southern California Marina del Rey, CA Jan 07, 2016 $86,424
Postdoctoral Fellow Research Associate Temple University--A Commonwealth University Philadelphia, PA Feb 01, 2016 $54,216
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, MA Oct 01, 2015 $54,180
Postdoctoral Research Associate North Carolina State University Riverside, CA Jan 11, 2016 $54,163
Postdoctoral Research Associate Environmental Change University of Notre Dame Du Lac Notre Dame, IN Aug 16, 2015 $54,107
Research Associate Postdoctoral Oak Ridge Associated Universities Oak Ridge, TN Aug 07, 2016 $54,096
Research Associate Postdoctoral Oak Ridge Associated Universities Oak Ridge, TN Jul 08, 2015 $54,096
Research Associate Postdoctoral Oak Ridge Associated Universities Oak Ridge, TN Mar 31, 2016 $54,084
Postdoctoral Research Associate North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC Jan 01, 2015 $46,987
Postdoctoral Research Associate Iowa State University of Science and Technology Burlington, WI Jan 01, 2016 $46,958
Postdoctoral Research Associate Iowa State University of Science and Technology Greenfield, WI Jan 01, 2016 $46,958
Postdoctoral Research Associate Stowers Institute for Medical Research Kansas City, MO Aug 22, 2015 $46,917
Postdoctoral Research Associate The Trustees of Princeton University Princeton, NJ Jan 01, 2015 $46,900 -
$60,000
Postdoctoral Research Associate Texas A&M University Boulder, CO Oct 21, 2015 $46,800

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Top Skills for A Postdoctoral Research Associate

CellCultureTotalSynthesisProteinExpressionLaboratoryLabChemistryMolecularBiologyTechniquesGeneExpressionResearchProjectsDNAAdvisorDataAnalysisRt-PcrNMRHplcScientificJournalsElisaPhysicsMouseModelNIH

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  1. Cell Culture
  2. Total Synthesis
  3. Protein Expression
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed novel spectroscopy (NIR/Raman/Mid-IR/Fluorescence/XRF)-based assays for quality control of raw materials in mammalian cell culture.
  • Involved and contributed to the total synthesis of the molecular motor.
  • Conducted protein expression, purification and biochemical experiments to characterize protein-DNA and protein-small molecule ligand binding.
  • Designed and documented protocols for procedures and analyses conducted in the laboratory; standardized techniques and improved efficiency.
  • Developed post-processing and visualization tools using MATLAB

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