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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.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Principal Scientist
Top Careers After Principal Scientist
Hispanic or Latino6.6%
Black or African American0.7%
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University of Pennsylvania6.6%
University of California - San Diego6.6%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill5.7%
Pennsylvania State University5.2%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology5.2%
Case Western Reserve University5.2%
State University of New York Buffalo4.8%
Johns Hopkins University4.8%
Michigan State University4.8%
University of Texas at Austin4.8%
University of California - Irvine4.4%
University of Florida3.9%
University of California - Davis3.9%
University of California - Berkeley3.9%
University of Iowa3.9%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Principal Scientist||Wal-Mart Associates, Inc.||San Bruno, CA||Jul 16, 2015||$180,000|
|Principal Scientist||APIO, Inc.||Guadalupe, CA||Apr 15, 2015||$159,135|
|Principal Scientist of Speech||Wearable Intelligence, Inc.||San Francisco, CA||Aug 23, 2015||$155,000|
|Principal Scientist, Pharmacology & Toxicology||Juno Therapeutics, Inc.||Seattle, WA||Mar 09, 2015||$155,000|
|Principal Translational Scientist||Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP||Waltham, MA||May 09, 2016||$146,850 -
|Principal Translational Scientist||Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP||Waltham, MA||Sep 26, 2016||$146,850 -
|Principal Modeling & Simulations Scientist||Sunovion Phramaceuticals Inc.||Marlborough, MA||Jun 12, 2016||$145,000|
|Principal Scientist-Printed Electronic Materials||TYCO Electronics Corporation, A Te Connectivity Ltd. Company||Menlo Park, CA||Aug 20, 2015||$145,000 -
|Principal Scientist 1 (Modeling and Simulation)||Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP||Waltham, MA||Apr 11, 2015||$141,650|
|Principal Scientist||Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP||Waltham, MA||Sep 04, 2015||$141,650|
|Principal Scientist||Amgen Inc.||Thousand Oaks, CA||Apr 06, 2015||$140,000|
|Principal Scientist/Head, Pharmacology||Juno Therapeutics, Inc.||Seattle, WA||Sep 12, 2016||$140,000 -
|Scientist Principal-Formulation||TEVA Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.||Weston, FL||Sep 29, 2016||$139,050|
|Principal Scientist||Uhana, Inc.||Stanford, CA||Nov 16, 2015||$130,000|
|Principal Scientist-Milk Powder||Hilmar Cheese Company||Turlock, CA||Oct 13, 2015||$120,000 -
|Principal Scientist, Bioinformatics||Roche Sequencing Solutions, Inc.||Pleasanton, CA||Jul 09, 2016||$119,059 -
|Principal Scientist I, Bioinformatics, Sequencing||Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.||Pleasanton, CA||Sep 12, 2015||$118,331 -
|Principal Scientist||Pfizer Inc.||San Diego, CA||Apr 30, 2015||$118,000|
|Principal Scientist, Integrated Vehicle Systems Department||Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North A||Ann Arbor, MI||Jul 19, 2016||$117,847|
|Principal Scientist, NDS||Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Ridgefield, CT||Sep 17, 2015||$116,355 -
|Principal Scientist||Waters Technologies Corporation||Milford, MA||Oct 01, 2015||$116,210 -
|Principal Scientist, Biotherapeutics||Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Ridgefield, CT||Sep 18, 2015||$115,800 -
|Principal Scientist, Sequencing||Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.||Pleasanton, CA||Aug 20, 2016||$104,624 -
|Principal Scientist, Sequencing||Roche Sequencing Solutions, Inc.||Pleasanton, CA||Aug 20, 2016||$104,624 -
|Principal Scientist||KVK-Tech, Inc.||Newtown, PA||Sep 14, 2015||$104,582 -
|Principal Scientist||Instrumentation Laboratory Company||Bedford, MA||Feb 11, 2015||$101,325|
|Principal Scientist I, Bioinformatics||Roche Sequencing Solutions, Inc.||Pleasanton, CA||Sep 19, 2016||$100,547 -
|Assoc Principal Scientist Biostatistics||Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.||Rahway, NJ||Aug 15, 2015||$100,422|
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