How do I Become a Medical Research Assistant?

Mary McMahon

To become a medical research assistant, it is necessary to have a degree in science, along with lab experience. Many research facilities hire medical students or students who are in the process of obtaining a Ph.D. in the sciences to work as medical research assistants. These candidates use the research work to develop useful skills. It is also possible to be a career medical research assistant. Some people who work in research later return to school to obtain advanced degrees.

Medical research assistants may help by inputting findings into a database.
Medical research assistants may help by inputting findings into a database.

Medical research assistants work in labs and doctor's offices, helping people conduct research. The nature of the work varies, but can include keeping track of subjects, entering data into a computer system, and maintaining ethical standards. Someone who wants to become a medical research assistant needs to be detail oriented, skilled at working with people, and familiar with medical ethics.

Different labs have different requirements in regards to their medical research assistants.
Different labs have different requirements in regards to their medical research assistants.

Labs have differing requirements for their research assistants. It can be helpful to peruse job openings to get an idea of the kinds of positions available and the education and experience requirements associated with various research jobs. Someone who wants to become a medical research assistant may want to consider joining a professional organization for networking skills and obtaining certification that will make a person a more appealing candidate.

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Lab experience is necessary to become a medical research assistant.
Lab experience is necessary to become a medical research assistant.

While it is possible to obtain a high school degree, work in labs, and eventually apply for positions as a research assistant, candidates with bachelor's degrees are generally preferred. A person who intends to become a medical research assistant may want to consider internships and other opportunities that provide time in medical labs in order to gain valuable job skills while in school. After graduation, it is possible to apply for medical research assistant positions.

A medical research assistant placing a test tube in a centrifuge in a lab.
A medical research assistant placing a test tube in a centrifuge in a lab.

For people pursuing advanced degrees, such as medical and Ph.D. students, being a medical research assistant provides opportunities to work on cutting edge research and acquire skills. Colleges and universities often hire from within their own advanced degree students and a person can become a medical research assistant this way. Many schools also have partnerships with labs and this can provide an employment path as well. The work is generally on a contract basis.

A person who has become a medical research assistant may later decide to work exclusively in medical research. Having an advanced degree is necessary for this and the job skills acquired while providing assistance to researchers are also very valuable. Labs tend to encourage skilled research assistants to consider entering careers in medicine and medical research, along with related fields like biostatistics. Some labs may even provide assistance with education costs for promising candidates.

Medical research assistants need to be detail oriented and good at working with people.
Medical research assistants need to be detail oriented and good at working with people.

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