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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 Staff Scientist
Top Careers After Staff Scientist
Hispanic or Latino6.6%
Black or African American0.7%
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Pennsylvania State University12.7%
North Carolina State University5.2%
University of Massachusetts - Lowell5.2%
Johns Hopkins University5.2%
University of Pittsburgh -5.2%
University of California - Los Angeles4.8%
University of Maryland - College Park4.8%
University of Delaware4.8%
University of California - San Diego4.8%
University of California - Irvine4.5%
University of California - Berkeley4.2%
University of Washington4.2%
University of California - Davis4.2%
University of California - Santa Barbara3.9%
University of Arizona3.9%
University of South Florida3.6%
State University of New York Buffalo3.6%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Staff Scientist||Linkedin Corporation||Mountain View, CA||May 28, 2016||$165,006 -
|Geological Staff Scientist||Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory||Berkeley, CA||Apr 01, 2016||$162,000|
|Instructor/Staff Scientist I||Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center||Boston, MA||Aug 01, 2015||$150,000|
|Physicist Staff Scientist/Engineer||Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory||Berkeley, CA||Jan 02, 2015||$140,400|
|Staff Scientist||SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory||Menlo Park, CA||Feb 02, 2015||$140,000|
|Staff Scientist||Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Tarrytown, NY||Jan 10, 2016||$137,857|
|Physicist Staff Scientist Engineer||Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory||Berkeley, CA||Jan 10, 2016||$137,508|
|Staff Scientist||Sas Institute Inc.||San Diego, CA||Nov 07, 2016||$135,000 -
|Staff Scientist||Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Tarrytown, NY||Apr 15, 2016||$131,596|
|Staff Scientist||National Institutes of Health, HHS||Phoenix, AZ||May 15, 2016||$130,000|
|Staff Scientist||Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Tarrytown, NY||Aug 13, 2015||$129,000|
|Staff Scientist||National Institutes of Health, HHS||Bethesda, MD||Jan 02, 2016||$127,000|
|Staff Scientist||Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.||Tarrytown, NY||Mar 09, 2016||$126,998|
|Staff Scientist||National Institutes of Health, HHS||Bethesda, MD||Feb 26, 2015||$90,822|
|Staff Scientist||The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 29, 2016||$90,000|
|Staff Scientist||National Institutes of Health, HHS||Hamilton, MT||May 29, 2016||$90,000|
|Staff Scientist, Biology||Takeda California, Inc.||San Diego, CA||Aug 25, 2015||$90,000 -
|Electron Microscopy Staff Scientist||Purdue University||KS||Jan 15, 2015||$90,000|
|Core Staff Scientist||H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute||Tampa, FL||Apr 06, 2015||$90,000|
|Staff Scientist-Microbiology||Aiken Biosciences, Inc.||San Jose, CA||Jan 04, 2016||$90,000|
|Environmental Staff Scientist||Gannett Fleming, Inc.||Houston, TX||Mar 19, 2015||$66,581|
|Environmental Staff Scientist||Gannett Fleming, Inc.||Houston, TX||Jul 20, 2015||$66,581|
|Staff Scientist||The Henry M. Jackson Foundation||Bethesda, MD||Dec 28, 2015||$66,000|
|Staff Scientist||Lasergen, Inc.||Houston, TX||Jul 18, 2015||$66,000|
|Staff Scientist||The Salk Institute for Biological Studies||San Diego, CA||Nov 20, 2016||$66,000|
|Staff Scientist||The University of Chicago||Chicago, IL||Jul 16, 2015||$65,000|
|Research Fellow/Staff Scientist I||Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center||Boston, MA||Oct 10, 2016||$65,000|
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