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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

  • $50,794

    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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Research Fellow Jobs

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Research Fellow Career Paths

Research Fellow
Assistant Professor Program Director Adjunct Instructor
Associate Dean
10 Yearsyrs
Postdoctoral Associate Research Associate Project Coordinator
Associate Project Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Psychologist Clinical Supervisor Clinical Manager
Clinical Operations Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Licensed Practical Nurse Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Project Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Instructor Clinical Coordinator Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Research Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Project Manager President Data Analyst
Data Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Scientist Project Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Analytics
13 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Director Of Clinical Operations
13 Yearsyrs
Post Doctoral Researcher Research Associate
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Assistant Professor
Medical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Faculty Pharmacist Medical Science Liaison
Medical Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Senior Scientist
Principal Scientist
12 Yearsyrs
Instructor Project Manager Senior Project Manager
Project Director
8 Yearsyrs
Post Doctoral Researcher Research Scientist Senior Scientist
Research Director
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Professor Research Associate
Research Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Assistant Professor Professor Research Associate
Research Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Instructor Lecturer Research Associate
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Scientist Research Scientist
Senior Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Research Associate Scientist Senior Scientist
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager Research And Development Director
Vice President Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Research Associate 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.0 years
Fellow 1.6 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 9.9%
Fellow 5.6%
Researcher 3.2%
Instructor 2.9%
Lecturer 2.6%
Scientist 2.5%
Volunteer 2.0%
Top Employers After
Scientist 7.5%
Fellow 7.2%
Consultant 4.7%
Instructor 4.7%
Internship 3.8%
Director 2.5%
Lecturer 2.1%

Do you work as a Research Fellow?

Research Fellow Demographics

Gender

Male

48.0%

Female

37.8%

Unknown

14.2%
Ethnicity

White

56.3%

Asian

30.8%

Hispanic or Latino

7.3%

Unknown

4.5%

Black or African American

1.0%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

27.9%

French

15.7%

Chinese

10.3%

German

6.8%

Mandarin

5.8%

Russian

4.6%

Italian

3.8%

Japanese

3.8%

Arabic

3.2%

Hindi

3.2%

Portuguese

3.1%

Korean

3.0%

Cantonese

1.7%

Greek

1.2%

Carrier

1.2%

Hebrew

1.0%

Bengali

0.9%

Urdu

0.9%

Vietnamese

0.9%

Turkish

0.8%
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Research Fellow Education

Schools

Johns Hopkins University

8.0%

Harvard University

6.7%

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

6.5%

University of Texas at Austin

5.9%

University of Florida

5.3%

University of Pittsburgh -

5.2%

Cornell University

5.1%

Boston University

5.0%

Duke University

4.9%

Emory University

4.6%

University of Pennsylvania

4.4%

Pennsylvania State University

4.4%

University of Iowa

4.4%

Columbia University

4.4%

Purdue University

4.4%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

4.3%

Vanderbilt University

4.2%

University of Southern California

4.1%

New York University

4.0%

Georgetown University

4.0%
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Majors

Chemistry

15.6%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

14.1%

Biology

8.0%

Microbiology

6.0%

Physics

4.7%

Physiology And Anatomy

4.7%

Medicine

3.9%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

3.8%

Biomedical Engineering

3.8%

Mechanical Engineering

3.7%

Clinical Psychology

3.6%

Pharmacy

3.5%

Chemical Engineering

3.4%

Neuroscience

3.4%

Pharmacology

3.4%

Psychology

3.0%

Business

3.0%

Public Health

2.9%

Genetics

2.9%

Electrical Engineering

2.7%
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Degrees

Doctorate

59.5%

Masters

19.1%

Bachelors

11.2%

Other

8.3%

Certificate

1.4%

Associate

0.3%

Diploma

0.2%

License

0.0%
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Internship
Temporary

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
Postd Research Fellow/LEO Intermittent Lecturer University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Jan 09, 2016 $107,500
Research Fellow, ICD Texturants Product Development Tate and Lyle Ingredients Americas LLC Hoffman Estates, IL Sep 15, 2016 $100,000 -
$150,000
Research Fellow 5Blades Inc. New York, NY Aug 10, 2015 $100,000
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
Research Fellow Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, Inc. Washington, DC Apr 01, 2015 $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 Jan 14, 2016 $54,600
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Jan 09, 2016 $54,600
Research Fellow Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA Sep 01, 2015 $48,212
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle, WA Jan 12, 2016 $48,205
Research Fellow Joslin Diabetes Center Boston, MA Jan 02, 2016 $48,194
Research Fellow Harvard University Boston, MA Aug 27, 2015 $48,192
Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Mar 16, 2015 $48,192
Research Fellow Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA Jan 08, 2016 $48,192
Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Jul 09, 2016 $48,192

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Top Skills for A Research Fellow

CellCultureProteinExpressionLaboratoryLabResearchProjectsMolecularBiologyTechniquesGeneExpressionUndergraduateDiseaseChemistryDNASynthesisRt-PcrDataAnalysisMedicineRNANIHAdvisorCellLinesPHD

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  1. Cell Culture
  2. Protein Expression
  3. Laboratory
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.
  • Trained senior-level project scientists in basic bioinformatics and protein expression.
  • Presented writing reports monthly and delivered oral presentations to departmental seminars and laboratory meetings.
  • Trained new users on laboratory equipment.
  • Supervised undergraduate research projects, helped oversee management of laboratory operations and compiled research progress reports.

How Would You Rate Working As a Research Fellow?

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Top Research Fellow Employers

Research Fellow Videos

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Career Advice on becoming a Research Fellow by Linda K (Full Version)