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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 Research Investigator
Top Careers After Research Investigator
Hispanic or Latino10.8%
Black or African American0.7%
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University of Michigan - Ann Arbor7.4%
University of Pittsburgh -7.4%
University of Florida6.5%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill6.5%
University of Washington5.6%
University of Missouri - Columbia5.6%
State University of New York Buffalo4.6%
Michigan State University4.6%
University of Connecticut3.7%
Indiana University Bloomington3.7%
Wayne State University3.7%
Pennsylvania State University3.7%
University of Vermont3.7%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Clinical Research Investigator||Kadlec Regional Medical Center||Kennewick, WA||Jul 18, 2016||$250,837|
|Research Investigator||E.I. Dupont de Nemours and Company||Wilmington, DE||Jul 02, 2015||$116,646|
|Research Investigator II||Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc.||Cambridge, MA||Sep 25, 2016||$113,960|
|Research Investigator II||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||New Brunswick, NJ||Dec 01, 2015||$113,765|
|Research Investigator||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||Princeton, NJ||Apr 09, 2016||$112,000|
|Research Investigator II||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||Bloomsbury, NJ||Sep 01, 2015||$110,775|
|Research Investigator, Bioinformatics||Sanofi Us Services Inc.||Cambridge, MA||Sep 20, 2016||$110,000 -
|Research Investigator II||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||New Brunswick, NJ||Dec 14, 2015||$106,838|
|Research Investigator, Chemistry||Incyte Corporation||Wilmington, DE||Aug 27, 2016||$106,000|
|Research Investigator II||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||New Brunswick, NJ||Aug 22, 2016||$105,000|
|Research Investigator II||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||New Brunswick, NJ||Aug 15, 2015||$105,000|
|Research Investigator||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||Princeton, NJ||Aug 17, 2016||$105,000|
|Research Investigator, Analytical Development||Incyte Corporation||Wilmington, DE||Sep 11, 2015||$105,000|
|Research Investigator, Chemical Sciences||Sanofi-Aventis Us Inc.||Tucson, AZ||Aug 25, 2015||$90,306|
|Research Investigator, Modeling and Simulation||Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Cambridge, MA||Sep 02, 2015||$90,000|
|Nyscf Investigator/Researcher||The New York Stem Cell Foundation, Inc.||New York, NY||Mar 31, 2016||$90,000|
|Staff Research Investigator||The J. David Gladstone Institutes||San Francisco, CA||Jun 01, 2015||$89,500 -
|Staff Research Investigator||The J. David Gladstone Institutes||San Francisco, CA||Jan 06, 2015||$89,500 -
|Research Investigator I||Bristol-Myers Squibb Company||New Brunswick, NJ||Aug 15, 2015||$89,000|
|Research Investigator||E. I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company||Newark, DE||Apr 09, 2016||$85,000 -
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Jan 05, 2016||$85,000|
|Research Investigator||The Population Council, Inc.||New York, NY||Nov 21, 2016||$62,220|
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Jan 01, 2015||$61,400|
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Nov 30, 2016||$61,350|
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Jan 10, 2016||$60,000|
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Oct 01, 2015||$60,000|
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Jan 11, 2016||$60,000|
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Feb 16, 2015||$57,222|
|Research Investigator||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor, MI||Feb 01, 2015||$56,811|
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