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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.
Hispanic or Latino10.4%
Black or African American0.9%
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Average Length of Employment
University of California - Berkeley6.8%
University of California - Irvine6.8%
Pennsylvania State University6.1%
University of California - Davis5.0%
New York University4.8%
Texas A&M University4.8%
University of California - Los Angeles4.7%
University of Florida4.6%
University of Texas at Austin4.6%
University of California - San Diego4.6%
University of Washington4.6%
Johns Hopkins University4.5%
University of Delaware4.4%
Carnegie Mellon University4.4%
Georgia Institute of Technology -4.3%
University of Southern California4.3%
University of Pittsburgh -4.3%
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University4.1%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Researcher||National Bureau of Economic Research||Cambridge, MA||Jul 01, 2015||$257,328|
|Researcher||National Bureau of Economic Research||Chicago, IL||Aug 01, 2015||$246,666|
|Abdominal and Oncologic Imaging Researcher||University Hospitals Medical Group, Inc.||Cleveland, OH||Mar 02, 2015||$208,700|
|Researcher||Recruit Institute of Technology, Inc.||Mountain View, CA||Nov 09, 2016||$200,000|
|Researcher||National Bureau of Economic Research||Boston, MA||Jun 01, 2015||$199,434|
|Mathematical Researcher||Renaissance Technologies LLC||Setauket-East Setauket, NY||Mar 02, 2015||$189,807 -
|Researcher||Microsoft Corporation||Cambridge, MA||Apr 13, 2016||$181,271|
|Researcher||Microsoft Corporation||Redmond, WA||Dec 01, 2015||$180,185|
|Mathematical Researcher||Renaissance Technologies LLC||Setauket-East Setauket, NY||Oct 28, 2016||$180,000 -
|Researcher||Apple Inc.||Cupertino, CA||Feb 11, 2015||$170,000 -
|Researcher||National Bureau of Economic Research||College Station, TX||Jan 08, 2016||$169,932|
|Researcher||National Bureau of Economic Research||Urbana, IL||Jul 15, 2015||$169,819|
|Researcher||Microsoft Corporation||Redmond, WA||May 15, 2016||$167,810|
|Researcher||Microsoft Corporation||Redmond, WA||Jul 23, 2016||$165,600|
|M&S Scientific Researcher||Pro Unlimited, Inc.||South San Francisco, CA||Aug 31, 2016||$98,197|
|Researcher||IBM Corporation||New York, NY||Sep 11, 2015||$98,100 -
|Design Researcher||Samsung Research America, Inc.||Mountain View, CA||Aug 25, 2016||$98,000|
|Design Researcher||Samsung Research America, Inc.||Mountain View, CA||Aug 23, 2015||$98,000|
|Researcher I||Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.||Oakland, CA||Aug 16, 2015||$97,000 -
|Researcher||General Motors Company||Warren, MI||Dec 28, 2015||$97,000|
|Design Researcher||Samsung Research America, Inc.||Mountain View, CA||Mar 09, 2016||$97,000|
|Simulation Researcher||General Electric Company-GE Global Research Center||Niskayuna, NY||Aug 26, 2015||$96,000|
|Researcher||California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Laboratory||Pasadena, CA||Jan 09, 2016||$62,982|
|Researcher||California Institute of Technology||Pasadena, CA||Feb 25, 2015||$62,400|
|Researcher 5||University of Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||Apr 15, 2016||$62,379|
|Researcher 2||University of Houston System||Houston, TX||Jan 05, 2015||$62,279|
|Researcher 2||University of Houston System||Houston, TX||May 01, 2015||$62,279|
|Researcher, Americas Division||Human Rights Watch||Washington, DC||Apr 01, 2016||$62,000|
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