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Medical Scientists Job Description, Career as a Medical Scientists, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Post Graduate education

Salary: Median- $61,680 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Medical scientists are basically professionals who study disease processes. They conduct research about human diseases, with an aim to improve human health. Apart from laboratory research, medical scientists can also be engaged in clinical investigations, technical writing, and drug application reviews.

Medical scientists study biological systems to understand the cause and mechanism of the action of diseases. They then try to develop treatment techniques that help in the eradication or containment of the disease. Most medical scientists are involved in clinical trials to verify the viability and effectiveness of certain treatment techniques. They may administer specific drugs to patients and see their responses in order to determine the drug’s effectiveness.

Medical scientists who are involved in the field of applied research make use of knowledge previously obtained from basic research, to develop new drugs and treatments. They have less autonomy in choosing their area of research and have to work according to business goals of their employers and the marketability of the product being tested.

Some medical scientists may choose to specialize in the field of epidemiology. They investigate causes of a disease and its transmission modes so as to come up with means for its prevention. Most epidemiological medical scientists focus on major infectious diseases such as influenza and cholera. Epidemiologists can be either research epidemiologists or clinical epidemiologists.

Research epidemiologists research eradication or control measures of major infectious diseases. Some scientists may work on illnesses that affect the entire body such as AIDS or typhus, whereas others may specialize in localized illnesses of specific organs.

Clinical epidemiologists work together with the medical staff in hospitals. They offer suggestions regarding the containment and prevention of infectious disease outbreaks.

Education and Training Requirements

Medical scientists must have a doctoral degree in the field of biological sciences. In many cases, one may obtain a medical degree and then choose to become a medical scientist instead of going into clinical practice. However, a medical scientist having both a medical degree as well as a doctoral degree in biology is highly sought after in the field of research.

The minimum educational requirement for epidemiologists is a master’s degree obtained from a school of public health. A medical or doctoral degree is required in some cases depending upon the work profile. Many epidemiologists, especially those who administer drugs during clinical trials, are required to be licensed physicians.

After completion of formal education, a person must work in a post doctoral position before applying for permanent jobs. The post doctoral work provides vital laboratory experience and may automatically lead to permanent jobs in some institutions.

Getting the Job

Private companies dealing with clinical research usually post their job requirements in employment journals and web portals. The best way to find a medical scientist position is through networking with colleagues, professors, and professionals in the field. After completing proper training and research period in labs, post doctoral students attached to universities often get temporary jobs as medical scientists in the institution itself.

Licensed physicians can become medical scientists in both government and private hospitals with suitable vacancies.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of their field of study, medical scientists need to keep abreast of all the latest developments in the field of biological sciences. Career advancement for medical scientists can occur through continuing education courses and certification programs in their related fields. For example, The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology offers a certification program. Applicants must pass an exam after the training period in order to be certified as an infection control professional.

With advancement, medical scientists get a greater degree of independence in their work. They may also receive larger budgets to conduct research, or longer tenure offers in university positions. Some medical scientists choose to go for managerial positions and are involved in preparing budgets and work schedules for the department or research team.

The employment of medical scientists is slated to see a 20% increase over the period of 2006-2016. With an increasing focus on monitoring patients at hospitals, the demand for medical scientists is expected to rise. Advancement in technology and intent shown by public bodies in tackling various human epidemic and pandemic threats such as bird flu, swine flu, and AIDS also ensures the existence of good demand for medical scientists.

Working Conditions

Medical scientists mostly work in laboratories in government institutions, universities, or private industries. Most research projects are funded by private or government grants, and it is imperative to obtain desired result and convince the funding agency of the research viability. Scientists who rely on grant money for research may face the pressure of meeting deadlines. Even though medical scientists are not generally exposed to unhealthy conditions, those working with toxic or pathogenic substances are required to follow stringent safety protocols.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
2107 Wilson Blvd.
Suite 700, Arlington, VA 22201

American Society for Microbiology
Career Information—Education Department
1752 North St. NW.
Washington, DC 20036

Infectious Diseases Society of America
Guide to Training Programs
66 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 600
Alexandria, VA 22314.

Earnings and Benefits

The median annual salary for medical scientists was $61,680 in May 2006. The yearly salary can range from $44,830 to $88,130 or higher. Those employed in the pharmaceutical and medicine industry are usually offered the highest salaries.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine