What's the Job Description of a Medical Scientist?

Medical scientists work at the highest level of medicine, yet they don't have direct interaction with patients. Read on to find out about duties and responsibilities of medical scientists, along with educational requirements and employment information. Schools offering Biomedical Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Medical scientists are essentially doctors who choose to focus their attention on conducting research and participating in clinical investigations rather than working directly with patients in a clinical setting. They might be trained in medicine, dentistry, pharmacology or medical pathology.

As a medical scientist, your main topics of research will generally be human disease and methods for improving human health. The results gathered from your research can be applied to developing new equipment, pharmaceuticals, methods of treatment or medical procedures. Another important aspect of your job revolves around writing grants and proposals as a means of funding your research projects. If you accept grant money, you must ensure that funds are allocated properly and that deadlines are met according to the specifics of the grant or proposal.

Important Facts About Medical Scientists

On-the-Job Training Frequently none; most employers assume candidates have the necessary training and skills
Key Skills Critical thinking, strong scientific and mathematical foundation, good judgment and decision making, problem solving, time management
Work Environment Predominately in office or laboratory settings
Similar Occupations Microbiologists, biochemists, biophysicists, agricultural and food scientists, epidemiologists, medical and clinical laboratory technologists, physicians, surgeons

Educational Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to become a medical scientist, you need to have completed a doctoral program, such as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in a biological science. Some Ph.D. programs that can lead to a career as a medical scientist include cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, neuroscience and pathology.

Earning an M.D. provides you with the possibility of undertaking clinical work, though additional education and licensure is required to work as a physician. Many medical scientists receive both an M.D. and a Ph.D., which provide them with the greatest range of research and employment possibilities. Some schools offer joint M.D./Ph.D. programs in which you can pursue both degrees simultaneously.

Employment and Salary Statistics

In May 2014, the BLS reported there were more than 100,740 people employed as medical scientists. Over one-third of these medical scientists were employed in the scientific research and development services industry. A substantial number were also employed by general medical and surgical hospitals, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies, or universities. The BLS predicted 13% occupational growth for medical scientists from 2012-2022.

The BLS also reported that the average yearly salary for medical scientists was $90,160 in May 2014. However, medical scientists working in certain industries received considerably higher or lower average salaries. For example, those working for the federal government earned $120,110 per year, on average. Conversely, those working for colleges, universities and professional schools earned an average of $66,120 per year in 2014, according to the BLS.

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