Careers in Medical Research

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Science has flourished because of our innate desire to explore what we do not know. One of the oldest fields of research, medical research continues to expand dramatically. The more we learn and the more techniques and cures we develop, the more we feel the need to advance further.

The career of a medical research scientist is certainly not mundane; it is exciting and challenging. More than a profession, medical research serves society, as well. The objective of medical research scientists is “to increase the body of scientific knowledge on topics related to medicine.” Their job is to create or improvise treatments and equipment by studying diseases and drugs. They assist humanity by finding ways and means to prevent disorders and keep people healthy.

What Exactly Does a Medical Researcher Do?

Research in the field of medicine covers a wide range of areas encompassing principles of basic science, drug trials, and more. Researchers analyze human diseases in order to improve human health. However, most researchers begin their careers in the field with the basic study of cells and molecules. This background ensures the researcher fully understands the processes of the human body and of other living organisms.

Medical researchers deal with data and details as well as life and its unpredictability. They need to be comfortable dealing with both diagrams and graphs and bacteria and viruses. Researchers routinely:
  • conduct experiments
  • study diseases and disease-causing agents
  • analyze results
  • identify the causes of diseases
  • develop drugs, vaccines, and therapies
  • maintain data
  • guide students
  • present/publish their findings
The field offers many opportunities. Based on individual aptitude and objectives, one may choose to work in basic science, clinical science, or applied science. Most medical researchers work in research laboratories, universities, hospitals, and chemical and pharmaceutical business units. As working in isolation would defeat the purpose of research, most medical scientists work as parts of multidisciplinary teams including professionals from varied disciplines.

Specialization in Research

Many researchers are involved in specialized fields ranging from genetic engineering to bacteriology. Fields that offer the best career prospects are:
  • anatomy (the study of animals’ organ structures and their relation to medicine)
  • bacteriology (the study of bacteria)
  • biochemistry (the study of substances affecting organisms and use of substances by organisms)
  • cell biology (the study of cellular organization and processes)
  • embryology (the investigation of infertility)
  • epidemiology (the study of the causes, spread, and prevention of disease)
  • genetics (the study of traits of humans and animals)
  • histopathology (the study of effects of disease on tissues)
  • immunology (the study of the immune system)
  • microbiology (the study of the characteristics of microorganisms)
  • neuroscience (the study of the function and structure of the nervous system, including the brain)
  • parasitology (the study of parasites)
  • pharmacology (the study of effects of drugs on biological systems)
  • virology (the study of viruses and viral diseases)
How Can One Become a Research Scientist?

The minimum requirement to be a medical researcher is a bachelor’s degree in a scientific discipline. For better prospects in the profession, it is advisable to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree. Recently, even graduates in subjects like statistics and bioinformatics have entered into medical research. If you possess technical, scientific, mathematical, written, and oral skills, you may be a promising candidate for the field. To be successful, you, of course, will need an inquisitive mind, patience, and diligence.

Salaries and Work Conditions

Research is not easy; it is stressful and physically demanding. In the United States, the average annual salary of a research scientist is $66,393. He or she will normally put in 40 hours of work in a week. Travel is rare, but opportunities for coordination and supervision become available as a researcher’s career progresses.
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Careers in Medical Research

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