Job Description

Medical scientists conduct research dealing with the understanding of human diseases and the improvement of human health. They engage in clinical investigation, research and development, or other related activities

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Finding solutions to problems that affect people’s health and lives
  • Intellectually challenging
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Medical scientists typically do the following:

  • Design and conduct studies that investigate both human diseases and methods to prevent and treat them.
  • Prepare and analyze medical samples and data to investigate causes and treatment of toxicity, pathogens, or chronic diseases.
  • Standardize drug potency, doses, and methods to allow for the mass manufacturing and distribution of drugs and medicinal compounds.
  • Create and test medical devices.
  • Develop programs that improve health outcomes, in partnership with health departments, industry personnel, and physicians.
  • Write research grant proposals and apply for funding from government agencies and private funding sources.
  • Follow procedures to avoid contamination and maintain safety.
  • Many medical scientists form hypotheses and develop experiments, with little supervision. They often lead teams of technicians and, sometimes, students, who perform support tasks. For example, a medical scientist working in a university laboratory may have undergraduate assistants take measurements and make observations for the scientist’s research.

Medical scientists study the causes of diseases and other health problems. For example, a medical scientist who does cancer research might put together a combination of drugs that could slow the cancer’s progress. A clinical trial may be done to test the drugs. A medical scientist may work with licensed physicians to test the new combination on patients who are willing to participate in the study.

In a clinical trial, patients agree to help determine if a particular drug, a combination of drugs, or some other medical intervention works. Without knowing which group they are in, patients in a drug-related clinical trial receive either the trial drug or a placebo—a pill or injection that looks like the trial drug but does not actually contain the drug.

Medical scientists analyze the data from all of the patients in the clinical trial, to see how the trial drug performed. They compare the results with those obtained from the control group that took the placebo, and they analyze the attributes of the participants. After they complete their analysis, medical scientists may write about and publish their findings.

Medical scientists do research both to develop new treatments and to try to prevent health problems. For example, they may study the link between smoking and lung cancer or between diet and diabetes.

Medical scientists who work in private industry usually have to research the topics that benefit their company the most, rather than investigate their own interests. Although they may not have the pressure of writing grant proposals to get money for their research, they may have to explain their research plans to nonscientist managers or executives.

Medical scientists usually specialize in an area of research within the broad area of understanding and improving human health. Medical scientists may engage in basic and translational research that seeks to improve the understanding of, or strategies for, improving health. They may also choose to engage in clinical research that studies specific experimental treatments.  

Different Types of Organizations
  • Research and development in medical device, biotechnology companies
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
  • Offices of physicians  
  • FDA 
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Do a Masters/PhD with low pay after university
  • Biomedical scientists work on the cutting edge, so those interested  need to be willing to move to where the larger companies are and where interesting things are happening.
Current Industry Trends
  • Working at a start-up
  • Attending graduate school then going to industry and not staying in academia
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Science experiments
  • Playing with Legos
  • Math puzzles and games
  • Watching science fiction movies/tv show
2016 Employment
2026 Projected Employment
Education and Training Needed
  • Bachelors: Biology, chemistry or related fields. Take classes including life sciences, physical sciences, and math
  • Ph.D
  • Some also have medical degrees: medical degree (MD, DO, PharmD, Doctor of Medical Laboratory Sciences[MLSD], MBBS)
Things to do during high school/college
  • Students can also volunteer at the hospital or research lab or join biomedical/math/science clubs.  
  • Student should oversee large studies or large programs. It’s helpful to be part of a club where students can organize events or other projects for others. It will be helpful because it gives students the chance to work on their organizational and communication skills which are key skills for the job.
Typical Roadmap
Medical Scientist roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Search for job postings and apply
  • Network with people in the industry to understand the industry better and the lingo
  • Find a mentor or other industry member to review your resume
What it really takes to make it and succeed
  • Being analytical and being very data-driven
  • Having good soft-skills and being able to communicate very effectively
  • Being able to effectively negotiate and debate scientific ideas
  • Determination is important; it is likely that devices submitted to the FDA for approval will not be accepted the first time around. In particular, biomedical scientists need to have the determination to problem solve and figure out how to get the device approved.
Recommended Resources
Plan B
  • Academic research
  • Government research agencies
  • Teaching
  • Scientific writers
  • Patent law
  • Consulting
  • Public policy
  • Science journalism
Words of Advice

“If you enjoy science a lot don’t let failure deter you, that’s how we know a lot of the things we know today, through trial and error and experimentation.” Roshan Yoganathan   


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Gladeographic Medical Scientist


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Source: Interviews, Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET

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