Inside Medical Scientist Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Competitive Work Environment...
As an epidemiologist conducting medical research at a major teaching hospital, I was surprised at how competitive the work environment is. It seems like everyone is always competing to be the most recognized, most published or have the best laboratory space. I thought it would be more collaborative." (Epidemiologist; 2014)

Career: 18 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied Public Health - Epidemiology at Columbia University in New York; completed Master degree in 1996

"Daily Work In Laboratory Varies...
The profession actually varies quite a bit day by day. Some days are very slow, and there is not that much activity going on while other days you are constantly running between different machines. It is important to learn how to balance your time between data collection and data analysis." (Research Assistant; 2014)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, female
School: Studied Neuroscience at Vanderbilt in Tennessee; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Broad Understanding Needed...
I was surprised at the flexibility of the career and the subjects we cover on a daily basis. For example, as a researcher, we often have to research different systems of the body and how they are influenced by the product we are developing. This means that I have to have a general knowledge of all body systems, and not just a concentrated knowledge of one or a few." (Entrepreneur/Medical Research; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University in Pennsylvania; completed Master degree in 2011

"Writing Is Abundant In Science...
There is a lot more writing (grant-writing) than I expected in a science field." (Physician Scientist; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, male
School: Studied Biology at Washington University In St. Louis in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Demanding And Diverse Workload...
I am surprised by how demanding and diverse the workload is. We are expected to plan, perform, analyze, and publish experiments, all the while staying up to date on all the latest research and findings in our field, attending seminars, and staying in compliance with all institutional, local, state, and federal regulations" (Biomedical Researcher; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Medical Sciences at University Of South Florida in Florida; completed Master degree in 2012

"Rewarding Career...
I was surprised how rewarding this career is. Working for big pharma can have negative connotations but being able to give those with no hope just a little hope that a new drug might work for them is an amazing feeling." (Research Assistant; 2013)

Career: , currently based in Nevada, female
School: Studied Psychology at UNLV in Nevada; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"I was surprised initially about the pace of the environment. I expected research to progress a lot faster but people make mistakes and said mistakes must be fixed before research can progress" (Research Assistant; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, male
School: Studied Microbiology at Virginia Tech in Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Funding Issues...
My field has issues with funding, it is hard to get money to carry out projects." (Researcher; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, female
School: Studied Health Professions at Hunter in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"I was surprised to find that programming skills are really important in the field. Taking statistics classes is necessary no matter what your overall interest is." (Public Health Researcher; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, female
School: at Boston University in Massachusetts; completed Master degree

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Student/ Research Assistant: "The best part of my job would have to be the flexible working hours. I'm able to pretty much set my own schedule and work whenever I want as long as I get my work done. Again, this is due in large to the fact that we don't work directly with the public. Another good thing is how much I learn every day. It's a great experience for what I want to do in the future. The worst part would have to be the autopsies. We have to be very careful while in the morgue because it's a risky place for infections. Also, the odor from bone dust produced from the medical examiner cutting into a deceased patient's skull is very offensive." (2011)

Manager II, Clinical Quality Assurance: "One of the best parts of my job is that about 25% of it involves travel. I've been all over the US, Europe and South America, places I would probably never have visited had it not been for my job. Another great component is that my job differs every day. We have about 30 different studies in progress at any time so I'm constantly reading and doing research in order to support my colleagues. The worst part of my job is probably delivering bad news. During audits you routinely note deficiencies and have to convey them to the auditee. Sometime the news is not well received as nobody like to hear that they've done something wrong. I" (2010)

Career Background

Medical Scientist

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"Life Long Career...
Make sure that research is a field that you would like to be in during old age." (Researcher; 2014)

"Publications Are Important...
Do well on your PhD and publish in high-impact journals." (Physician Scientist; 2014)

"Start Exploring Different Research Early...
If you want to work as a medical scientist, it is important to start early and gain experience working in different types of laboratories. The more exposure you have to different environments, the closer you get to finding what type of research you want to do." (Research Assistant; 2014)

"Stay Confident In The Face Of Competition...
I would be aware before going to work as a medical researcher, that you need to exhibit a lot of confidence and never be afraid to promote yourself or your work. You should always do you best work for your subjects and the greater good and not let a competitive workplace get under your skin." (Epidemiologist; 2014)

Make as many connections as you can with people in your intended field. I was offered jobs from doctor acquaintances because this is such a growing field." (Research Assistant; 2013)

"Risky But Can Pay Off...
I make a very good living in the small business/biotechnology arena. It is risky, but if you find a good partnership, it is worth the effort and risk." (Entrepreneur/Medical Research; 2013)

"Make Sure You Want It First...
I would try to get as much experience as possible and make sure it's something you want to do." (Research Assistant; 2013)

"Pay Attention And Double-Check Your Work...
Attention to detail is a must. Without double-checking everything, there will inevitably be errors in the data and the analysis or interpretation. Also, try to see things from multiple angles: if you are convinced that one explanation is the reason for a phenomenon, you should examine other explanations as well, because they may be just as plausible, and that way you're not stunned when someone suggests it in a public audience." (Biomedical Researcher; 2013)

"Believe You Can Do It...
The first tip I'd like to give is to have confidence in yourself and your learning abilities. I guarantee that you'll feel lost when you first start, but you'll catch on quickly and you'll be amazed by how much you're learning. The second tip would be to always wash your hands. The risk of contracting an illness in the lab is high due to the closeness of working with human samples as well as harsh chemicals. The final tip I can give is to ask questions. Asking questions is the best way to learn." (Student/ Research Assistant; 2011)

"How To Get A Research Job...
Look at web sites for pharmaceutical companies and review the open positions. The job description will tell you what activities you'll be performing on a day-to-day basis and also the required education and training involved for the job. Since most people in this industry support education, you could call HR and have them assist you in talking with someone in a particular role in order to get more information about what that career entails." (Manager II, Clinical Quality Assurance; 2010)