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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

  • $50,000

    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 Career Paths

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Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
PHD Researcher 2.9 years
Doctoral Fellow 2.9 years
Research Associate 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.4 years
Research Scholar 1.7 years
Research Assistant 1.6 years
Top Careers Before Postdoctoral Research Associate
Internship 4.6%
Researcher 2.7%
Lecturer 2.3%
Instructor 2.1%
Scientist 1.9%
Top Careers After Postdoctoral Research Associate
Scientist 7.7%
Instructor 3.7%
Consultant 3.4%
Lecturer 1.7%

Do you work as a Postdoctoral Research Associate?

Postdoctoral Research Associate Demographics

Gender

Male

45.8%

Unknown

30.6%

Female

23.6%
Ethnicity

Asian

39.5%

White

38.3%

Hispanic or Latino

9.5%

Black or African American

7.3%

Unknown

5.5%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Chinese

22.2%

Spanish

16.3%

French

11.7%

Mandarin

8.9%

German

7.7%

Russian

4.6%

Korean

3.7%

Japanese

3.7%

Turkish

2.8%

Xiang

2.8%

Portuguese

2.2%

Cantonese

2.2%

Carrier

1.8%

Italian

1.8%

Hindi

1.5%

Welsh

1.2%

Greek

1.2%

Czech

1.2%

Persian

1.2%

Arabic

1.2%
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Postdoctoral Research Associate Education

Schools

Texas A&M University

8.8%

Purdue University

7.6%

University of Florida

7.0%

Iowa State University

6.7%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

6.1%

North Carolina State University

5.1%

Ohio State University

5.1%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

5.1%

Michigan State University

4.9%

Arizona State University

4.4%

Cornell University

4.3%

University of Georgia

4.3%

University of Illinois University Administration

4.1%

University of Southern California

4.1%

University of Washington

3.9%

Washington State University

3.9%

University of Texas at Austin

3.8%

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

3.8%

Pennsylvania State University

3.6%

University of Pittsburgh -

3.6%
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Majors

Chemistry

25.9%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

14.0%

Physics

8.8%

Biology

5.4%

Microbiology

5.2%

Chemical Engineering

4.9%

Mechanical Engineering

4.5%

Pharmacy

3.2%

Materials Science And Engineering

3.1%

Electrical Engineering

2.9%

Genetics

2.8%

Biomedical Engineering

2.8%

Pharmacology

2.6%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.6%

Materials Sciences

2.2%

Physiology And Anatomy

2.1%

Neuroscience

2.0%

Botany

1.9%

Civil Engineering

1.7%

Biotechnology

1.5%
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Degrees

Doctorate

84.9%

Masters

7.7%

Other

4.8%

Bachelors

1.5%

Certificate

0.8%

Associate

0.3%

Diploma

0.0%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$50,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$32,000
Min 10%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$50,000
Median 50%
$78,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Los Alamos National Security
Highest Paying City
Los Angeles, CA
Highest Paying State
California
Avg Experience Level
2.8 years
How much does a Postdoctoral Research Associate make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the United States is $50,341 per year or $24 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $32,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $78,000.

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
Post Doctoral Research Associate University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, MA Jan 11, 2015 $100,000
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Metabolomics Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Sep 14, 2015 $98,400
Associate Research Scholar The Trustees of Princeton University Princeton, NJ Jul 01, 2015 $95,000
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 University of Notre Dame Du Lac Notre Dame, IN Jan 12, 2016 $55,121
Postdoctoral Research Associate The Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Sep 15, 2015 $55,099
Postdoctoral Research Associate The Florida State University Tallahassee, FL May 01, 2015 $55,099
Postdoctoral Research Associate Brown University Providence, RI May 01, 2015 $55,078
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Oregon Eugene, OR May 28, 2015 $55,024
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Illinois Urbana, IL Oct 23, 2015 $47,278
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Oklahoma Norman, OK May 15, 2016 $47,278
Postdoctoral Research Associate In Electrical Engineering University of Notre Dame Du Lac Notre Dame, IN Jan 02, 2016 $47,278
Post Doctoral Research Associate Purdue University West Lafayette, IN Jan 03, 2016 $47,268
Postdoctoral Fellow Research Associate Temple University--A Commonwealth University Philadelphia, PA Jan 10, 2016 $47,268
Post Doctoral Research Associate Purdue University West Lafayette, IN Jan 05, 2016 $47,268
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, MA Jul 18, 2016 $47,268

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Top Skills for A Postdoctoral Research Associate

  1. Protein
  2. Cell Culture
  3. Biology
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Experience in protein characterization and in designing constructs to increase protein solubility/stability.
  • Supervised medical students, graduate students and undergraduate students to learn techniques in cell culture, molecular biology and biochemistry.
  • Trained laboratory personnel and graduate students to develop laboratory skills and critical thinking in biology research.
  • Supervised two graduate students and several undergraduate students on implementing their research projects.
  • Studied the effects of genetic modifications on photosynthesis and plant productivity.

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Top 10 Best States for Postdoctoral Research Associates

  1. New Mexico
  2. Delaware
  3. Arizona
  4. Maryland
  5. Tennessee
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Idaho
  8. Maine
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Nevada
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