A medical researcher studies diseases and human health conditions in order to inform experiments that could lessen the incidence of diseases or help develop treatments. The medical research field encompasses numerous higher education institutions and medical facilities; most are hired in research labs for universities or hospitals while others find employment for pharmaceutical companies or government agencies. A medical researcher performs scientific research at various levels of complexity. Those that consistently produce quality projects could see promotion to a senior clinical research associate.
Daily medical research tasks include:
Planning and conducting experiments
Analyzing experiment results
Effectively using specialized computer software to disseminate data and create diagrammatic tools
Teaching or supervising students and assisting researchers
Conducting clinical trials
Discussing and presenting research progress with departments and staff
Collaborating within the industry and throughout academia
Writing technical articles, grants, or proposals based on research for publication
Still, these are among only a few of the tasks assigned to medical researchers. Depending on the school or institution, a researcher will be required to handle more specific duties and needs.
Medical Research Job Education Requirements
A career as a medical researcher requires a rigorous educational commitment. Generally, someone interested in the profession begins his or her education with an undergraduate degree in biological science. Then, the student may choose between two higher education routes. If specifically interested in biomedical research, the six-year trek to a PhD in biomedical science suffices. However, many students opt for a dual MD and PhD program at a medical college, which requires around seven to eight years of study, but better suited to the potential physician-scientist who wants instruction in medicine and research.
Usually, between three and four successful short-term contracts solidify a permanent position for researchers, often with teaching roles. However, a good track record allows one to foray into other areas like production, marketing or quality assurance, or a career as a pharmaceutical scientist.
Medical Research Job Market
As of 2012, the U.S. employs around 103,000 medical scientists. Medical research jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 13 percent between 2012 and 2020, which translates to an additional 13,700 jobs. The medical research field continues to develop and expand, due to the constant need for research into diseases and chronic illnesses, such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease and AIDS. Not only are people increasingly more dependent on pharmaceuticals, but also ever-emerging technological innovations keep workers in this industry in high demand.
Medical Research Job Salary Information
Federal funding significantly supports the medical research field; thus, positions in the field offer high starting salaries. Most medical research jobs require full-time hours, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median average salary for medical scientists in 2012 was $76,980 annually or $37.01 an hour. The top-paying industries for medical research jobs include pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing and research in the physical, engineering and life sciences with 2012 median salaries of $92,940 and $87,620, respectively. The top 10 percent earned over $146,000, and with success in academia, bonuses come into play.