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Become a Biomedical Scientist: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a biomedical scientist. Learn about the job description and duties and see the step-by-step process to start a career as a biomedical scientist.

Should I Become a Biomedical Scientist?

Biomedical scientists research diseases for the purpose of advancing knowledge and developing new treatments. After completing their education, biomedical scientists can find positions at scientific research and development agencies, colleges, pharmaceutical organizations and medicine manufacturing companies.

Biomedical scientists often work independently or lead others such as technicians or students in their work. Most of their time will be spent working in an office or laboratory setting. Although dangerous chemicals, materials, and toxins may be involved in their research, precautions are taken to minimize risk. Such scientists are employed on a full-time basis.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Ph.D. is typically required
Degree Field Biology or related degree
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required for those who treat patients
Experience Experience is helpful
Key Skills Communication, critical thinking, data analysis, decision making, and observation skills, familiarity with analytical or scientific, database user interface and query, graphics or photo imaging, word processing and spreadsheet software
Salary (2014) $79,930 yearly (median for all medical scientists except epidemiologists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O Net Online

Step 1: Receive a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring biomedical scientists may want to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, or they may seek a specific undergrad program for biomedical science. Students may take foundational classes in chemistry, biology, math and physics. Because research requires strong communication skills, students may also take liberal arts classes in writing and speech.

Step 2: Consider a Master's Degree

After receiving a bachelor's degree, students may pursue a master's degree. However, it is not necessary to have a master's degree in order to apply for many Ph.D. programs. Students may apply for a program specifically in biomedical sciences or other similar fields. Many universities require the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) in order to apply. Other universities may even ask for a Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Typically, a master's degree program lasts two years. Some examples in coursework include immunology, cell biology, biochemistry and pharmacology.

Step 3: Pursue Postdoctoral Programs

A Ph.D. degree is required for biomedical scientists. If students wish to obtain a medical degree, they can consider programs that combine the postdoctoral and medical degrees. Most universities require a GRE and a bachelor's degree for admission to such programs.

The coursework for a Ph.D. degree program is combined with specialized research of the student's choosing, such as cancer biology or infectious disease. Students are also required to take a qualifying exam and construct a sound dissertation, which they will defend. Typically, a Ph.D. program takes at least five years. In order to cover the costs of living, some universities offer a stipend to students in the Ph.D. program. Students can also be considered for fellowships for more funding.

Step 4: Consider a Medical Degree

All biomedical scientists are required to have a medical degree if they want to pursue clinical work. However, a medical degree is not necessary for biomedical scientists who prefer to work solely in research rather than clinical studies. Medical school typically lasts four years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that acceptance to medical school is highly competitive, and many med schools ask for students to take the MCAT. Biomedical scientists also have to complete an internship and residency and become licensed in order to practice medicine, according to the BLS.

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