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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

  • $56,000

    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 Career Paths

Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Research Scientist Senior Scientist
Principal Scientist
12 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Scientist
Senior Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Consultant Project Manager
Project Director
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
11 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Analytics
12 Yearsyrs
Scientist Research And Development Scientist
Scientist Senior, Research And Development
9 Yearsyrs
Scientist Senior Laboratory Technician
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Postdoctoral Scholar Doctoral Fellow
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Postdoctoral Scholar Research Fellow
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Analyst Senior Data Analyst-
Data Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Consultant Senior Analyst Research Manager
Clinical Research Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Education Consultant Research Consultant
Clinical Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Professor Senior Research Fellow
Scientific Director
12 Yearsyrs
Principal Scientist Research And Development Manager Vice President Of Research And Development
Chief Scientific Officer
6 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Psychotherapist Doctoral Fellow
Scientist, Project Leader
8 Yearsyrs
Principal Scientist Principal Investigator
Director Of Cell Biology
5 Yearsyrs
Staff Scientist Senior Chemist Scientist Senior, Research And Development
Principal Research Scientist
11 Yearsyrs
Staff Scientist Senior Research Associate
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Staff Scientist Quality Control Chemist Development Scientist
Senior Development Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Doctoral Fellow 2.9 years
PHD Researcher 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 Scientist
Internship 4.6%
Researcher 2.2%
Scientist 1.9%
Lecturer 1.8%
Top Careers After Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Scientist 9.2%
Consultant 4.2%
Instructor 3.0%
Director 2.0%
Internship 1.7%

Do you work as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist?

Postdoctoral Research Scientist Demographics

Gender

Male

43.5%

Female

29.1%

Unknown

27.4%
Ethnicity

White

39.1%

Asian

37.0%

Hispanic or Latino

11.2%

Black or African American

8.0%

Unknown

4.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

20.0%

German

17.1%

Chinese

15.7%

French

10.0%

Mandarin

5.7%

Swedish

4.3%

Portuguese

2.9%

Dutch

2.9%

Russian

2.9%

Cantonese

2.9%

Italian

2.9%

Urdu

1.4%

Vietnamese

1.4%

Fijian

1.4%

Galician

1.4%

Carrier

1.4%

Gurung

1.4%

Hindi

1.4%

Polish

1.4%

Arabic

1.4%
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Postdoctoral Research Scientist Education

Schools

Columbia University

18.3%

University of Missouri - Columbia

6.5%

New York University

5.3%

Purdue University

5.3%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

5.3%

Ohio State University

4.7%

University of Iowa

4.7%

University of Delaware

4.7%

University of Florida

4.1%

University of Illinois at Chicago

4.1%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

4.1%

Iowa State University

4.1%

University of Texas at Austin

4.1%

University of Colorado at Boulder

3.6%

University of California - Los Angeles

3.6%

City College of New York of the City University of New York

3.6%

Michigan State University

3.6%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3.6%

University of California - Davis

3.6%

University of California - San Diego

3.0%
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Majors

Chemistry

19.5%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

16.8%

Physics

7.1%

Biology

5.9%

Microbiology

4.9%

Neuroscience

4.6%

Pharmacy

4.4%

Physiology And Anatomy

4.1%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

4.1%

Genetics

4.1%

Chemical Engineering

4.1%

Biomedical Engineering

3.6%

Pharmacology

3.2%

Environmental Science

2.4%

Electrical Engineering

2.2%

Materials Science And Engineering

2.2%

Medicine

2.0%

Geology

2.0%

Materials Sciences

1.7%

Biomedical Sciences

1.4%
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Degrees

Doctorate

83.8%

Other

7.1%

Masters

6.4%

Bachelors

1.8%

Certificate

0.5%

Diploma

0.3%

Associate

0.1%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$56,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$37,000
Min 10%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$85,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Facebook
Highest Paying City
Menlo Park, CA
Highest Paying State
California
Avg Experience Level
3.2 years
How much does a Postdoctoral Research Scientist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the United States is $56,895 per year or $27 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $37,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $85,000.

Real Postdoctoral Research Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Post Doctoral Research Scientist Groupm Worldwide LLC New York, NY May 08, 2016 $120,000
PHD Research Scientist Invista S.À R.L. Lugoff, SC Aug 22, 2016 $100,000
Post-Doctoral Research Scientist IBM Corporation Yorktown Heights, NY Jul 28, 2015 $95,000 -
$130,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $80,184
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 08, 2016 $72,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist AAT Bioquest, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA Aug 22, 2015 $70,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Sep 01, 2015 $70,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist NMC, Inc. Los Alamos, NM Aug 22, 2016 $65,219
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Aug 17, 2015 $65,000
Post Doctoral Research Scientist Eli Lilly and Company Indianapolis, IN Aug 27, 2015 $65,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 10, 2016 $65,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Oct 01, 2016 $65,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 10, 2016 $53,602
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 02, 2016 $53,500
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Feb 01, 2016 $53,500
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Dec 15, 2015 $53,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist University of Rochester Rochester, NY Jan 09, 2016 $53,000
Research Scientist-Post Doctoral Adventist Health System/Sunbelt Inc. Orlando, FL Feb 05, 2016 $52,592
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Dec 01, 2016 $52,500
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 12, 2016 $52,500
Post-Doctoral Research Scientist University Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. Huntington, WV Jan 07, 2016 $48,963
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Feb 01, 2015 $48,960
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University Irvington, NY Aug 04, 2015 $48,899
Diagnostic Development Postdoctoral Research Scientist Novilytic, LLC West Lafayette, IN Sep 22, 2016 $48,100
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 10, 2016 $48,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 12, 2016 $48,000
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Columbia University New York, NY Jan 16, 2015 $48,000

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Top Skills for A Postdoctoral Research Scientist

  1. Cell Culture
  2. Protein
  3. Biology
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Assisted a technician in handling mice for surgery prior to imaging, and mentored the technician in cell culture techniques.
  • Support to lead optimization through calculations of physical chemical properties and small molecule interactions with proteins.
  • Led collaboration on NIH/NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative (PSI): Biology Community Nominated Target proposals from gene to structure-function characterization.
  • Develop independent research ideas and train laboratory staffs and clinical resident fellows for diverse research projects and collaboration.
  • Collaborated with colleagues to address teaching and research issues in environmental geochemistry and geology.

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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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