This article will help you review ways to start a career in the medical sciences, and what programs have to offer. It then explores what the prerequisites are for these programs, areas you may research and the career outlook.
Medical science is a field of research; thus, the minimum amount of education required is a doctoral degree in the biological or medical sciences. Graduate coursework prepares students for an occupation in research, so these programs are usually available as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. Many of these programs provide real-world opportunities to build and practice their research skills. Often the research they conduct is trying to solve a real problem, or discover information that will benefit the field as a whole. It is possible, however, for medical scientists to enter the field of medical science with a medical degree. These individuals usually neither have a license to practice medicine, nor have they attended any residency at a hospital preferring research over practice. For more information, continue below.
Programs At a Glance
PhD in Medical Sciences
- This is an upper level graduate degree program.
- Applicants for these programs need to have Bachelor's degree or equivalent with: a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE score of 1100 or better, and completed courses in general biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, quantitative analysis and mathematics including calculus.
- Classes are typically held on-campus, while research may be on-campus or in a laboratory facility.
Some schools require students to already have a medical doctoral degree and some years of residency before they can enroll in a PhD program in the biological or medical sciences. Programs usually involve first-year lab rotations where students are exposed to cutting edge lab equipment. Students complete courses in research methods and biostatistics.
Most of a student's time in graduate school students is focused on research. Eventually, they are required to write a thesis or dissertation on their area of specialization. Written and oral comprehensive exams are sometimes also included. In addition to lectures by professors, students also learn through seminars, research meetings, journals and becoming teaching assistants. Some schools offer graduate students the chance to present their work in formal and informal settings.
Students in a biological sciences or medical sciences PhD program usually choose a research area in which they focus their studies and dissertation. Some common specialties at offered at universities include cancer, neurology, anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, biochemistry, immunology, and physiology.
Medical science is a research field, which employs medical scientists for that purpose. These scientists typically perform research on diseases in an attempt to find cures, vaccines, and expand the knowledge of the scientific community. They are familiar with laboratory processes and procedures using such equipment as electron microscopes. They are also familiar with the written word because many must write grant proposals in order to receive funding. Medical scientists can find employment in hospitals, educational institutions, laboratories, pharmaceutical manufacturing and research and development (R&D) firms, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Job Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, medical scientists can expect to experience about average job growth of 8% from 2014 through 2024. Research on pharmaceuticals and illnesses will drive growth. There will also be some growth when the federal government increases funding for medical research. The BLS reported in May 2016 that most medical scientists (excluding epidemiologists) earned between $44,550 and $159,570 a year depending on experience, with the median salary being $80,530.
Those interested in starting a career as a medical scientist will need to prepare for an education path that will lead to a PhD or in some cases an MD. These programs are graduate programs designed to build up a student's research skills and then provide them with opportunities to apply them to real life problems.