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.
|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 -
|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|
3/28/2012 Planning for a Successful Career in Science
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