Medical Scientist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 23, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation necessary to become a medical scientist. Get an overview of the requirements - including degree programs and job duties - to determine if this is the career for you.

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Medical scientists typically complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biological Sciences, or their medical degree. Prior to completing graduate studies or medical school they complete an undergraduate degree in biology or a medical health related major. Medical scientists who work with patients must be licensed doctors.

Essential Information

Medical scientists help develop new medical breakthroughs that benefit humanity. This process involves a great deal of research and performing clinical trials to find out the effects of new drugs and vaccines. Many medical scientists enter into joint M.D. and Ph.D. programs, and those interacting directly with patients need a physician's license.

Required Education Doctoral or professional degree
Other Requirements Licensure required for scientists who work with patients
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 8%
Average Salary (2018)* $96,420

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical Scientist Job Description

Medical scientists run trial procedures on volunteer test groups or individual subjects to see how drugs interact with the patients. They work in settings like hospitals, clinics and laboratories. These conditions are usually safe, but sometimes they have to work with dangerous substances and in those cases medical scientists carefully follow all the necessary safety procedures. Normal 40-hour week hours are common for this position, but odd and longer hours are typical when it comes to long research projects.

Job Duties

The purpose of a medical scientist' job duties is to discover new methods of enhancing human health. The end result of these procedures and research is to come up with new treatment options, drugs and vaccines. Medial scientists perform research on specimens, such as bacteria and viruses, then regularly perform reviews, clinical investigations and write technical reports during this research process.

Medical scientists that run a clinical trial have to interview patients and go through their medical histories. Afterwards, they decide which patients go into what testing group. One group is typically offered the trial medication while the other is offered a placebo; however, this is not always the case and different groups are offered different samples of medication. After that step is completed, the medical scientist observes any change in their health and behavior, then reports it.

Educational Requirements

The end educational goal for a medical scientist is typically a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biological Sciences, although some medical scientists choose to get a medical degree, such as the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), instead. Before this, they acquire an undergraduate education by attaining a bachelor's degree in biology or in a medical health related major.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical scientists that work with patients have to be licensed doctors. This physician licensure requires that a medical scientist has completed one to seven years of medical schooling at the graduate level with a medical school accredited by an officially recognized organization.

Additionally, an examination must be passed by the medical scientist for the licensure. Medical scientists also must be able to shift effortlessly from working in a team setting to independently. This requires the ability to effectively communicate with writing and speech.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Comparatively average employment growth of 8% for medical scientists was predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from 2018-2028. In 2018, the BLS noted an annual average salary of $96,420 for this occupation.

Medical scientists perform research and clinical trials to try to identify new drugs and vaccines that are not only safe for people, but can also prevent or cure illnesses. Medical scientists typically work in hospitals, clinics or laboratories.

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