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Become A Research Fellow

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Working As A Research Fellow

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

  • $53,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Research Fellow 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 Research Fellow

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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Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Doctoral Fellow 2.9 years
Research Associate 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.0 years
Research Scholar 1.7 years
Research Trainee 0.8 years
Research Volunteer 0.8 years
Top Careers Before Research Fellow
Internship 10.9%
Researcher 3.5%
Fellow 3.2%
Instructor 2.8%
Lecturer 2.8%
Volunteer 2.2%
Scientist 2.0%
Top Careers After Research Fellow
Scientist 6.4%
Instructor 5.1%
Consultant 5.0%
Fellow 4.4%
Internship 4.3%
Director 2.5%
Lecturer 2.4%

Do you work as a Research Fellow?

Research Fellow Demographics

Gender

Male

43.3%

Female

35.3%

Unknown

21.5%
Ethnicity

White

44.8%

Asian

28.5%

Hispanic or Latino

11.2%

Black or African American

9.5%

Unknown

5.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

29.0%

French

16.3%

Chinese

9.8%

German

6.7%

Mandarin

6.0%

Russian

4.3%

Italian

4.0%

Japanese

3.6%

Arabic

3.5%

Portuguese

3.1%

Korean

2.8%

Hindi

2.7%

Cantonese

1.9%

Hebrew

1.2%

Carrier

1.1%

Greek

1.0%

Bengali

0.8%

Polish

0.8%

Urdu

0.8%

Persian

0.8%
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Research Fellow Education

Schools

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

7.4%

Johns Hopkins University

7.1%

Harvard University

6.5%

University of Pittsburgh -

5.7%

University of Texas at Austin

5.5%

Columbia University

5.1%

Ohio State University

4.9%

University of Washington

4.9%

Boston University

4.8%

University of Florida

4.7%

University of Pennsylvania

4.7%

New York University

4.5%

George Washington University

4.5%

Cornell University

4.5%

University of Maryland - College Park

4.3%

Emory University

4.3%

Pennsylvania State University

4.2%

Duke University

4.2%

Boston College

4.1%

University of California - Los Angeles

4.1%
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Majors

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

14.2%

Chemistry

14.1%

Biology

8.1%

Microbiology

6.2%

Medicine

4.9%

Physics

4.5%

Physiology And Anatomy

4.3%

Clinical Psychology

4.1%

Biomedical Engineering

3.9%

Pharmacy

3.9%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

3.6%

Pharmacology

3.4%

Mechanical Engineering

3.4%

Neuroscience

3.3%

Chemical Engineering

3.2%

Psychology

3.2%

Business

3.1%

Public Health

3.0%

Law

2.8%

Electrical Engineering

2.8%
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Degrees

Doctorate

57.6%

Masters

20.3%

Bachelors

12.1%

Other

7.9%

Certificate

1.5%

Associate

0.3%

Diploma

0.2%

License

0.0%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$53,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$33,000
Min 10%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$84,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Logistics Management Institute
Highest Paying City
South San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Hawaii
Avg Experience Level
2.4 years
How much does a Research Fellow make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Research Fellow in the United States is $53,090 per year or $26 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $33,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $84,000.

Real Research Fellow Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Research Fellow, Economic Policy American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research Washington, DC May 24, 2016 $165,000
Research Fellow, Economic Policy American Enterprise Insitutue for Public Policy Research Washington, DC Jun 07, 2016 $140,000
Research Fellow Public Policy Institute of California San Francisco, CA Jan 01, 2016 $120,016
Research Fellow Actavis Laboratories Fl, Inc. Weston, FL Apr 19, 2016 $111,176 -
$157,913
Post-Doctoral Hewlett-Packard Company Palo Alto, CA Mar 09, 2015 $110,614 -
$120,000
Postd Research Fellow/LEO Intermittent Lecturer University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Jan 09, 2016 $107,500
Research Fellow 5Blades Inc. New York, NY Aug 10, 2015 $100,000
Research Fellow, ICD Texturants Product Development Tate and Lyle Ingredients Americas LLC Hoffman Estates, IL Sep 15, 2016 $100,000 -
$150,000
Cardiovascular Research Fellow Spectrum Health Hospitals Grand Rapids, MI Jul 01, 2015 $100,000
Research Fellow Guggenheim Insurance Services, LLC New York, NY Feb 23, 2015 $99,425 -
$385,260
Research Fellow National Institutes of Health, HHS Bethesda, MD Jun 14, 2015 $97,218
Research Fellow National Institutes of Health, HHS Bethesda, MD Dec 27, 2016 $95,000
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Jan 09, 2016 $54,972
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Nov 22, 2016 $54,886
LEO Lecturer I/Research Fellow University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Jan 09, 2016 $54,641
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Nov 15, 2016 $54,636
Research Fellow National Institutes of Health, HHS Bethesda, MD May 01, 2015 $54,606
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Aug 01, 2015 $54,600
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $54,600
Research Fellow Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA Feb 15, 2016 $48,168
Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Oct 01, 2015 $48,160
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Oct 02, 2015 $48,157
Research Fellow Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA Feb 15, 2015 $48,147
Research Fellow University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Jan 12, 2015 $48,147
Research Fellow McLean Hospital Belmont, MA Sep 11, 2016 $48,147

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Top Skills for A Research Fellow

  1. Cell Culture
  2. Protein
  3. Research Projects
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted a full range of experiments focused on cell culture systems and developed novel adult neuron cultures from rodents.
  • Completed screens for targets including protein interaction targets.
  • Provided research guidance to all professionals with focused objectives on over a dozen of research projects simultaneously.
  • Conducted experiments to characterize the biological diversity of breast tumors using molecular and cell biology techniques.
  • Provided data analysis using SPSS, reviewed and edited materials for professional presentations; maintained strict adherence to confidentiality laws.

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Top 10 Best States for Research Fellows

  1. Maryland
  2. Arizona
  3. New Jersey
  4. Alaska
  5. North Carolina
  6. New Mexico
  7. Washington
  8. Minnesota
  9. Nevada
  10. Delaware
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  • (42 jobs)
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Top Research Fellow Employers

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Research Fellow Videos

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