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Become A Postdoctoral Research Scientist

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Working As A Postdoctoral Research Scientist

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

  • $51,092

    Average Salary

What Does A Postdoctoral Research Scientist 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 Scientist

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 Scientist Jobs

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Postdoctoral Research Scientist Career Paths

Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Assistant Professor Senior Software Engineer Senior Analyst
Analytical Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Regional Director Human Resources Vice President
Chief Science Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Visiting Assistant Professor Assistant Professor Senior Scientist
Chief Scientific Officer
7 Yearsyrs
Scientist Project Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Analytics
13 Yearsyrs
Research Engineer Program Manager Business Developer
Head Of Business Development
8 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Specialist Phlebotomist
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
12 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Senior Scientist
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Scientist
Research Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Senior Software Engineer Senior Analyst
Research Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Instructor Research Scientist Research And Development Manager
Senior Manager Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Scientist
Senior Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Research Fellow Scientist
Senior Scientist, Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Research Fellow Post Doctoral Researcher Research Scientist
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Technical Director Research And Development Director
Vice President Of Research And Development
13 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Senior Project Manager Director Of Product Development
Vice President Product Development
13 Yearsyrs
Instructor Assistant Professor Research Director
Vice President Research
9 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Senior Scientist 4.9 years
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Staff Scientist 3.5 years
Scientist 3.4 years
Research Fellow 2.3 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 5.3%
Fellow 4.8%
Researcher 4.2%
Lecturer 2.0%
Instructor 1.7%
Scientist 1.7%
Top Employers After
Scientist 10.1%
Fellow 8.5%
Consultant 3.5%
Instructor 2.9%
Researcher 2.3%
Lecturer 1.7%

Do you work as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist?

Postdoctoral Research Scientist Demographics

Gender

Male

48.3%

Female

28.2%

Unknown

23.4%
Ethnicity

Asian

39.4%

White

38.3%

Hispanic or Latino

10.2%

Black or African American

7.0%

Unknown

5.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Chinese

27.2%

French

13.6%

Spanish

13.1%

German

11.5%

Japanese

5.8%

Russian

5.2%

Mandarin

3.7%

Carrier

2.6%

Arabic

2.6%

Xiang

2.1%

Korean

1.6%

Ukrainian

1.6%

Italian

1.6%

Portuguese

1.6%

Swedish

1.0%

Hindi

1.0%

Dutch

1.0%

Bulgarian

1.0%

Croatian

1.0%

Cantonese

1.0%
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Postdoctoral Research Scientist Education

Schools

University of California - Davis

9.0%

Ohio State University

7.9%

Pennsylvania State University

7.5%

University of California - Berkeley

6.6%

University of California - Los Angeles

6.0%

Iowa State University

5.5%

University of California - Irvine

5.1%

University of Texas at Austin

4.9%

University of Florida

4.7%

University of California - San Diego

4.7%

Columbia University

4.5%

University of Washington

4.5%

Stanford University

4.3%

Cornell University

3.8%

University of Pennsylvania

3.6%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

3.6%

University of Delaware

3.6%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

3.4%

University of California - Santa Barbara

3.4%

Northwestern University

3.4%
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Majors

Chemistry

23.4%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

13.7%

Physics

10.7%

Biology

5.8%

Chemical Engineering

5.4%

Mechanical Engineering

4.3%

Microbiology

4.3%

Neuroscience

3.5%

Biomedical Engineering

3.4%

Materials Science And Engineering

3.3%

Electrical Engineering

3.1%

Pharmacology

2.9%

Pharmacy

2.5%

Physiology And Anatomy

2.5%

Genetics

2.4%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.1%

Materials Sciences

1.9%

Geology

1.7%

Computer Science

1.6%

Computer Engineering

1.5%
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Degrees

Doctorate

85.1%

Masters

6.4%

Other

6.0%

Bachelors

1.2%

Certificate

1.0%

Diploma

0.1%

Associate

0.0%
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Real Postdoctoral Research Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Postdoctoral Scientist JHU Applied Physics Laboratory Laurel, MD Aug 15, 2016 $90,000
Postdoctoral Scientist JHU Applied Physics Laboratory Laurel, MD Oct 24, 2016 $90,000
Biotechnology Postdoctoral Researcher Total New Energies USA, Inc. Cambridge, MA Sep 11, 2015 $86,572
Postdoctoral Researcher (Materials Science) Sandia Corporation Albuquerque, NM Jun 20, 2016 $85,700
Postdoctoral Research Oceanographer U.S Geological Survey-Coastal and Marine Geology Program Woods Hole, MA Mar 24, 2015 $80,766
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $80,184
Postdoctoral Research Assocaite Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Sep 01, 2016 $77,300 -
$87,700
Postdoctoral Research Assocaite Los Alamos National Security, LLC Los Alamos, NM Jan 09, 2016 $77,300 -
$87,700
Postdoctoral Research Asso. In Polymer Simulation & Modeling Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Jan 21, 2015 $76,008
Postdoctoral Scientist-Climate Environmental Defense Fund, Inc. New York, NY Oct 17, 2016 $76,000
Postdoctoral Researcher (Cancer Metabolism) Research Corporation of The University of Hawaii Urban Honolulu, HI Apr 16, 2016 $74,443
Postdoctoral Research Assoc.-Atom Probe Tomo/Microscopy Ut-Battelle, LLC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) Oak Ridge, TN Feb 16, 2016 $72,217
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 08, 2016 $72,000
Postdoctoral Research Assoicate Washington State University Pullman, WA Jan 12, 2015 $71,960
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 14, 2016 $51,293
Postdoctoral Scientist Wolfe Laboratories, Incorporated Woburn, MA Aug 22, 2016 $51,200
Postdoctoral Researcher Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research Cambridge, MA May 01, 2015 $51,195
Postdoctoral Researcher Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research Cambridge, MA Sep 01, 2015 $51,195
Postdoctoral Researcher Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research San Diego, CA Sep 14, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Researcher Oregon Health & Science University Portland, OR Dec 09, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Researcher Oregon Health & Science University Portland, OR Sep 12, 2016 $51,120
Postdoctoral Researcher The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX Jun 01, 2015 $47,224
Postdoctoral Researcher The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, TX Jan 06, 2015 $47,224
Research Scientist, Postdoctoral Florida Hospital Orlando, FL Nov 15, 2015 $47,124
Postdoctoral Researcher Southern Research Institute (SRI) Birmingham, AL Jan 09, 2015 $47,048
Postdoctoral Researcher Montana State University Huntley, MT Jan 04, 2016 $47,000
Postdoctoral Researcher University of Wyoming Laramie, WY Jul 22, 2015 $47,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Apr 05, 2016 $47,000
Postdoctoral Fellow Research Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia, PA Jan 25, 2015 $47,000

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Top Skills for A Postdoctoral Research Scientist

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  1. Cell Culture
  2. Protein
  3. Lab
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Targeted metabolomics analysis using LC-MS/MS Cell culture and isotope enrichment
  • Designed and constructed fluorescent chimeric protein for quantitative fluorescence microscopy methods.
  • Participated in international research collaboration agreements.
  • Generated recommendations for improving standard laboratory procedures and experimental designs, resulting in higher productivity and cost effectiveness of research.
  • Studied Z-ring synthesis and expansion by photo-activated localization microscopy and time-lapse imaging.

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Top 10 Best States for Postdoctoral Research Scientists

  1. New Jersey
  2. Connecticut
  3. New Mexico
  4. Maryland
  5. North Carolina
  6. Tennessee
  7. Delaware
  8. Rhode Island
  9. Maine
  10. Pennsylvania
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Top Postdoctoral Research Scientist Employers

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Jobs From Top Postdoctoral Research Scientist Employers

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