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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgzYw77KRsU.
Quick Facts: Medical Scientists
2023 Median Pay $100,890 per year
$48.50 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 119,000
Job Outlook, 2022-32 10% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 11,600

What Medical Scientists Do

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health.

Work Environment

Medical scientists typically work in offices and laboratories. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Medical Scientist

Medical scientists typically have a Ph.D., usually in biology or a related life science. Some get a medical degree instead of, or in addition to, a Ph.D.

Pay

The median annual wage for medical scientists was $100,890 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical scientists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 7,500 openings for medical scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for medical scientists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of medical scientists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about medical scientists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Medical Scientists Do About this section

Medical scientists
Medical scientists study human diseases in a variety of ways, such as by analyzing data from clinical trials.

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.

Duties

Medical scientists typically do the following:

  • Design and conduct studies to investigate human diseases and methods to prevent and treat diseases
  • Prepare and analyze data from medical samples and investigate causes and treatment of toxicity, pathogens, or chronic diseases
  • Standardize drugs' potency, doses, and methods of administering to allow for their mass manufacturing and distribution
  • Create and test medical devices
  • Follow safety procedures, such as decontaminating workspaces
  • Write research grant proposals and apply for funding from government agencies, private funding, and other sources
  • Write articles for publication and present research findings

Medical scientists form hypotheses and develop experiments. They study the causes of diseases and other health problems in a variety of ways. For example, they may conduct clinical trials, working with licensed physicians to test treatments on patients who have agreed to participate in the study. They analyze data from the trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

Some medical scientists choose to write about and publish their findings in scientific journals after completion of the clinical trial. They also may have to present their findings in ways that nonscientist audiences understand.

Medical scientists often lead teams of technicians or students who perform support tasks. For example, a medical scientist may have assistants take measurements and make observations for the scientist’s research.

Medical scientists usually specialize in an area of research, with the goal of understanding and improving human health outcomes. The following are examples of types of medical scientists:

Clinical pharmacologists research new drug therapies for health problems, such as seizure disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.

Medical pathologists research the human body and tissues, such as how cancer progresses or how certain issues relate to genetics.

Toxicologists study the negative impacts of chemicals and pollutants on human health.

Medical scientists conduct research to better understand disease or to develop breakthroughs in treatment. For information about an occupation that tracks and develops methods to prevent the spread of diseases, see the profile on epidemiologists.

Work Environment About this section

Medical scientists
Medical scientists usually work in offices and laboratories.

Medical scientists held about 119,000 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of medical scientists were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 36%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 19
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 19
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 5
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 4

Medical scientists typically work in offices and laboratories. In the lab, they sometimes work with dangerous biological samples and chemicals. They must take precautions in the lab to ensure safety, such as by wearing protective gloves, knowing the location of safety equipment, and keeping work areas neat.

Work Schedules

Most medical scientists work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Medical Scientist About this section

Medical scientists
Medical scientists typically have a Ph.D. and sometimes are certified medical doctors as well.

Medical scientists typically have a Ph.D., usually in biology or a related life science. Some get a medical degree instead of, or in addition to, a Ph.D.

Education

Medical scientists typically need a Ph.D. or medical degree. Candidates sometimes qualify for positions with a master’s degree and experience. Applicants to master’s or doctoral programs typically have a bachelor's degree in biology or a related physical science field, such as chemistry.

Ph.D. programs for medical scientists typically focus on research in a particular field, such as immunology, neurology, or cancer. Through laboratory work, Ph.D. students develop experiments related to their research.

Medical degree programs include Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), and advanced nursing degrees. In medical school, students usually spend the first phase of their education in labs and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, and medical ethics. During their second phase, medical students typically participate in residency programs.

Some medical scientist training programs offer dual degrees that pair a Ph.D. with a medical degree. Students in dual-degree programs learn both the research skills needed to be a scientist and the clinical skills needed to be a healthcare practitioner.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Medical scientists primarily conduct research and typically do not need licenses or certifications. However, those who practice medicine, such as by treating patients in clinical trials or in private practice, must be licensed as physicians or other healthcare practitioners.

Training

Medical scientists with a Ph.D. may begin their careers in postdoctoral research positions; those with a medical degree often complete a residency. During postdoctoral appointments, Ph.D.s work with experienced scientists to learn more about their specialty area and improve their research skills. Medical school graduates who enter a residency program in their specialty generally spend several years working in a hospital or doctor’s office.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Medical scientists must be able to explain their research in nontechnical ways. In addition, they may write grant proposals in order to get funding for their research.

Critical-thinking skills. Medical scientists must use their expertise to determine the best method for approaching research questions.

Data-analysis skills. Medical scientists use statistics to evaluate research questions and information from clinical trials.

Decision-making skills. Medical scientists must determine what research questions to ask, how to investigate the questions, and which data answer the questions.

Observation skills. Medical scientists conduct experiments that require monitoring samples and other health-related data.

Pay About this section

Medical Scientists

Median annual wages, May 2023

Medical scientists, except epidemiologists

$100,890

Life scientists

$88,620

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for medical scientists was $100,890 in May 2023. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $168,020.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for medical scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $111,610
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 109,680
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 106,620
Hospitals; state, local, and private 97,910
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 76,060

Most medical scientists work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook About this section

Medical Scientists

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Medical scientists, except epidemiologists

10%

Life scientists

7%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of medical scientists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 7,500 openings for medical scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand for medical scientists will stem from greater demand for a variety of healthcare services as the population continues to age and rates of chronic disease continue to increase. These scientists will be needed for research into treating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, and problems related to treatment, such as resistance to antibiotics. In addition, medical scientists will continue to be needed for medical research as a growing population travels globally and facilitates the spread of diseases.

The availability of federal funds for medical research grants also may affect opportunities for these scientists.

Employment projections data for medical scientists, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Medical scientists, except epidemiologists

19-1042 119,000 130,700 10 11,600 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of medical scientists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Agricultural and food scientists Agricultural and Food Scientists

Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.

Bachelor's degree $76,400
Biochemists and biophysicists Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes.

Doctoral or professional degree $107,460
Epidemiologists Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are public health workers who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury.

Master's degree $81,390
Health educators Health Education Specialists

Health education specialists develop programs to teach people about conditions affecting well-being.

Bachelor's degree $62,860
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians perform medical laboratory tests for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.

Bachelor's degree $60,780
Microbiologists Microbiologists

Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, and fungi.

Bachelor's degree $85,470
Physicians and surgeons Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses and address health maintenance.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $239,200 per year.
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $84,380
Veterinarians Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health.

Doctoral or professional degree $119,100
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Scientists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/medical-scientists.htm (visited April 22, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.