The work of medical scientists often goes unnoticed by the general public, but they are the ones we all have to thank for the medical research that improves medical diagnoses, treatments and devices. 

In fact, many of the improvements in human health that most of us take for granted are the result of clinical research findings from many medical scientists, such as biochemists, epidemiologists, geneticists, biophysicists and others. 

Medical scientists typically have a doctorate level education in biology or related life sciences, however, the education and training involved in becoming a medical doctor also provides an excellent foundation to get started as a medical scientist. 

If you are interested in this career path, here’s what you need to know about medical scientist jobs and the best way to prepare to enter this important field of work. 

Medical Scientists Play a Variety of Important Roles

medical scientist handling dangerous biological samples

Most medical scientists work to advance healthcare outcomes in some way, even if only peripherally. Medical scientists conduct research projects, experiments and analyze health research questions to help improve health outcomes. 

With a wide range of applications for improving human health, the work of medical scientists is important for both the public sector and private industry. 

Companies and institutions that employ medical scientists include:

  • Universities, colleges and professional schools
  • Scientific research organizations, both public and private
  • Governmental organization health departments
  • Hospitals & laboratories
  • Pharmaceutical and medical technology companies 

The tasks and duties of medical scientists can vary tremendously, depending on their area of focus, employer and specific role. For example, the daily work of medical scientists can involve diverse roles, such as:

  • Developing new medical devices, drugs or procedures
  • Designing and conducting studies on human diseases and other medical conditions, including writing research grant proposals and applying for funding
  • Carrying out clinical trials to test new medical technology or practices
  • Analyzing research and providing insights for either the public or private sector
  • Facilitating the work of technicians, engineers, product managers and others with non-medical backgrounds
  • Analyzing medical samples for healthcare services

Educational Requirements

medical scientist using an electron microscope

Becoming a medical scientist requires a significant level of education, but there are many ways of entering the field. For entry-level jobs, such as a medical lab assistant, a pertinent bachelor’s degree is sufficient in most cases, but to become a full-fledged researcher higher levels of education are required. 

Graduate degrees in life sciences and medical degrees offer the best preparation for those who want to enter the field of medical science. Students who obtain both a Ph. D. and a medical degree make the best candidates for medical science and research roles. 

A Medical Degree is an Excellent Pathway to Becoming a Medical Scientist

model of human heart on top of medical textbook

In the first two years of medical school, students learn the basics of lab work and research methods while taking courses that touch on the many facets of medical science, including biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics and others. 

By providing both the clinical skills needed of a physician and essential research skills, a medical degree, such as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), offers excellent preparation for prospective medical scientists. 

For medical science roles that involve direct contact with patients to administer drugs or other treatments, a medical license for that jurisdiction is required. But there are many medical science roles open to students who complete medical school but do not become licensed physicians. 

If You Are Fascinated by Human Health, Consider Becoming a Medical Scientist

medical scientist using a pipette to measure fluid samples

In the years ahead, it is expected that medical scientists will be in increased demand. Between an aging population in North America, the proliferation of chronic health conditions and the increased prevalence of pharmaceuticals, both the public and private sectors will need more medical scientists to meet these oncoming challenges. 

A career as a medical scientist can be intellectually stimulating, financially rewarding and allow you to make a major contribution to improve human health. If you are looking for an accessible medical education that will help you develop the clinical and research skills needed to excel in this field, consider studying medicine abroad at the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine. 

AUA is approved by the Canadian Ministry of Education, allowing eligible students to qualify for Canadian financial aid and receive Canadian federal loans, provincial loans, and participate in grant programs. Click here to learn more!