Stem Cell Scientist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Stem cell scientists require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and experience requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Stem cell scientists conduct experiments that lend to an understanding of cells and diseases such as cancer. A career in this cutting-edge scientific field requires formal education, research skills, and the ability to work in a lab setting.

Essential Information

Stem cells act as a repair system, replenishing damaged tissues via cell division. The primary goal of a stem cell scientist is to understand how this regeneration process can be influenced. Generally, stem cell scientists work in laboratory settings and follow strict lab protocols. Because of the technical nature of stem cell research, employers generally desire candidates who have a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in a life science and ample related work experience.

Required Education PhD
Other Requirements Extensive related experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% for medical scientists, except epidemiologists*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $82,240 for medical scientists, except epidemiologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Stem Cell Scientist Job Description

Stem cell scientists primarily study how stem cells can transform into the various tissues of the human body. Understanding this information can shed light on how to treat cell division ailments, such as cancer and birth defects. Additionally, stem cell scientists look at ways to manipulate this genetic information to grow cells into usable organs and tissues.

Duties of a Stem Cell Scientist

Scientists generally work in creating cell lines or cultures of stem cells. These cultures are basically eternal since scientists can continually regrow a line without obtaining additional cells from an organism. Scientists may perform a multitude of tests and augmentations to a cell line. Because stem cells are not fully understood, scientists generally perform research by experimenting on the cells themselves or with organisms.

Stem Cell Scientist Requirements

Educational Requirements

Employers commonly require prospective stem cell scientists to have a doctorate in a biological science, such as microbiology. Prerequisites for a doctoral program in microbiology generally include completion of a bachelor's degree program in a life science and successful completion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

PhD programs in microbiology generally focus on research and laboratory experience and culminate in the planning and presentation of a research project. Courses focused on microbial genetics and prokaryotic molecular biology may be relevant for future stem cell scientists.

Experience Requirements

Many occupations in stem cell research require years of experience in a lab working with specific cultures and techniques. While a PhD program may provide some background, there are a variety of additional options for gaining required experience. For example, after graduation, some prospective scientists may engage in research fellowships in stem cell research. A fellowship may involve working with life science researchers and staff in molecular biology, gene therapy and organ engineering projects.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary earned by medical scientists (except epidemiologists), the category under which stem cell scientists fall, was $82,240 in May 2015. The employment of medical scientists in general, except epidemiologists, is expected to grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

Stem cell scientists generally work in lab settings, conducting experiments with cultures to shed light on how cell division, diseases, and cell regeneration works. Working in this field typically requires a PhD in the biological sciences. After completing a PhD, prospective candidates can gain lab work experience through fellowships.

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