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Become A Scientist

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Working As A Scientist

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

  • $75,801

    Average Salary

What Does A Scientist 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 Scientist

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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Scientist Jobs

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Scientist Career Paths

Scientist
Quality Assurance Manager Human Resources Manager Human Resources Vice President
Chief Science Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Professor Senior Scientist
Chief Scientific Officer
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Psychologist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Faculty Physician Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Study Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Education Director Nursing Director
Director Of Clinical Operations
12 Yearsyrs
Principal Investigator Assistant Professor Laboratory Director
Director Of Laboratory Operations
15 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Specialist Quality Assurance Supervisor Laboratory Manager
Director Of Laboratory Services
13 Yearsyrs
Group Leader Technician Quality Control Inspector
Quality Control Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Group Leader Production Supervisor Quality Engineer
Quality Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Project Leader Quality Assurance Manager
Quality Systems Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Project Leader Quality Assurance Manager Regulatory Affairs Manager
Regulatory Affairs Director
12 Yearsyrs
Project Leader Quality Assurance Lead Quality Assurance Manager
Regulatory Affairs Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Research And Development Director
12 Yearsyrs
Research And Development Scientist Senior Scientist
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Professor Senior Scientist Research And Development Manager
Senior Manager Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
Staff Scientist Environmental Specialist Environmental Scientist
Senior Scientist, Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Professor Adjunct Instructor Research Scientist
Study Director
7 Yearsyrs
Research And Development Manager Research And Development Director
Vice President Of Research And Development
13 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Senior Scientist 4.9 years
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Lead Scientist 3.6 years
Staff Scientist 3.5 years
Scientist 3.0 years
Contract Scientist 1.4 years
Top Careers Before Scientist
Fellow 6.1%
Internship 5.4%
Chemist 4.9%
Researcher 2.3%
Top Careers After Scientist
Consultant 5.5%
Fellow 4.0%
Chemist 3.3%
Manager 3.0%
Director 2.8%
Instructor 2.1%

Do you work as a Scientist?

Scientist Demographics

Gender

Male

50.8%

Female

39.0%

Unknown

10.2%
Ethnicity

White

48.1%

Asian

25.9%

Hispanic or Latino

12.5%

Black or African American

8.8%

Unknown

4.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

30.5%

Chinese

11.9%

French

11.2%

German

9.5%

Mandarin

5.9%

Russian

4.7%

Hindi

3.8%

Japanese

3.6%

Italian

3.2%

Arabic

2.3%

Portuguese

2.0%

Cantonese

2.0%

Ukrainian

1.6%

Korean

1.4%

Carrier

1.4%

Xiang

1.3%

Swedish

0.9%

Vietnamese

0.9%

Dakota

0.9%

Polish

0.9%
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Scientist Education

Schools

Johns Hopkins University

7.6%

Pennsylvania State University

6.6%

Northeastern University

6.1%

University of Washington

5.5%

University of California - Davis

5.4%

Purdue University

5.4%

North Carolina State University

5.3%

Temple University

5.1%

University of California - Berkeley

4.8%

University of California - San Diego

4.8%

Michigan State University

4.7%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.7%

University of Connecticut

4.6%

University of Florida

4.5%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

4.4%

Texas A&M University

4.3%

University of Arizona

4.3%

University of Massachusetts Amherst

4.2%

University of Maryland - College Park

4.1%

Drexel University

3.8%
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Majors

Chemistry

25.7%

Biology

15.6%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

12.3%

Pharmacy

5.4%

Microbiology

5.3%

Physics

4.2%

Business

3.8%

Chemical Engineering

3.5%

Biotechnology

3.4%

Environmental Science

2.7%

Pharmacology

2.1%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.1%

Geology

2.1%

Biomedical Engineering

1.9%

Computer Science

1.8%

Physiology And Anatomy

1.8%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

1.7%

Electrical Engineering

1.6%

Genetics

1.5%

Public Health

1.4%
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Degrees

Doctorate

31.1%

Masters

30.1%

Bachelors

27.1%

Other

7.7%

Certificate

2.3%

Associate

1.2%

Diploma

0.3%

License

0.0%
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Real Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Observatory Scientist TMT Observatory Corporation Pasadena, CA Jul 15, 2015 $240,000
MTS 2, Applied Scientist EBAY Inc. San Jose, CA Jun 08, 2015 $200,000
Scientist Microsoft Corporation Mountain View, CA Jun 30, 2015 $177,600
Communication Systems Scientist Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Sep 06, 2015 $177,000
Market Scientist Vatic Operations LLC San Francisco, CA Sep 15, 2015 $175,000
Market Scientist Vatic Operations LLC New York, NY Jan 27, 2016 $175,000
Decision Scientist Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Jul 11, 2016 $170,000
Speech Scientist JIBO, Inc. Redwood City, CA Sep 14, 2015 $170,000
Earth Scientist Chevron Corporation Houston, TX Aug 03, 2015 $159,806
Applied Scientist Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA May 23, 2016 $156,600 -
$176,600
Applied Scientist Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Aug 20, 2016 $156,600
Machine Learning Scientist Wal-Mart Associates, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA Jun 30, 2016 $155,000
Applied Scientist Microsoft Corporation Sunnyvale, CA Mar 27, 2015 $154,936
Visiting Scientist Food and Drug Administration, HHS Silver Spring, MD Aug 15, 2015 $99,905
Visiting Scientist Food and Drug Administration, HHS Silver Spring, MD Mar 20, 2016 $99,905
Visiting Scientist Food and Drug Administration, HHS Silver Spring, MD Jun 03, 2016 $99,905
Visiting Scientist Food and Drug Administration, HHS Silver Spring, MD Apr 26, 2015 $99,905
General Health Scientist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/DHHS San Juan, PR Oct 07, 2016 $99,785
Scientist II Bayer Cropscience LP Morrisville, NC Aug 31, 2016 $99,738
Scientist Amgen Inc. Cambridge, MA Dec 19, 2016 $99,692
Scientist Amgen Inc. West Greenwich, RI Aug 30, 2015 $99,692
Scientist Lanzatech Skokie, IL Aug 21, 2016 $82,410
Scientist The Methodist Hospital Research Institute Houston, TX Jun 15, 2016 $82,400
Scientist II Universities Space Research Association ME Jan 12, 2016 $82,369
Scientist III Bridgestone Americas, Inc. Akron, OH Jul 09, 2016 $82,008
Scientist I Pros, Inc. Houston, TX Sep 14, 2016 $82,000
Scientist III Boston Biomedical, Inc. Cambridge, MA Sep 05, 2015 $82,000
Scientist 1 Ashland Inc. Bridgewater, NJ Aug 26, 2015 $82,000
Scientist Intrexon Corporation San Diego, CA Apr 20, 2015 $82,000 -
$110,000

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Top Skills for A Scientist

  1. Methods
  2. Laboratory Equipment
  3. Cell Culture
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provide training and troubleshooting on laboratory robotic methods and systems.
  • Perform laboratory equipment qualification, calibration, preventative maintenance and coordinates outside contractor support for the same.
  • Worked on different Primary Cell Cultures including Mouse & Rat (Dorsal Root Ganglion) Neurons with dosing of animals.
  • Delivered bulk quantities of intermediates and drug candidates for toxicological testing via collaboration with process, pharmaceutical and separation sciences.
  • Optimized the efficiency of purification procedures by minimizing downtime and staggering schedules of simultaneous processes.

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Top 10 Best States for Scientists

  1. Washington
  2. New Mexico
  3. Delaware
  4. California
  5. Arizona
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Minnesota
  8. Rhode Island
  9. Maine
  10. Nevada
  • (1,252 jobs)
  • (163 jobs)
  • (76 jobs)
  • (5,456 jobs)
  • (317 jobs)
  • (2,324 jobs)
  • (346 jobs)
  • (57 jobs)
  • (54 jobs)
  • (60 jobs)

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