A medical scientist is someone with a strong scientific background who conducts research in a specific field of medicine, often seeking ways to combat diseases. A person who wants to become a medical scientist should have strong analytic skills and an interest in the sciences. Years of training are required to become a medical scientist; a doctoral degree in a science-related field such as chemistry or biology is typically the minimum education required to gain employment in various clinical settings, which may include a laboratory, research university, or private industry. After obtaining doctoral degrees, many students who want to become medical scientists obtain postdoctoral positions to gain more research experience.
A person seeking to become a medical scientist needs to earn a bachelor’s degree, typically in a biological science. During the undergraduate experience, a student who wants to enter the medical research profession needs to take courses such as physics, engineering, chemistry, and mathematics. Writing and communication courses are often helpful as well: Medical scientists compose grant proposals and write up research findings, and they also may need to offer instructions to others.
Generally, after receiving an undergraduate degree, a potential medical scientist concentrates in a particular area. Some specializations of medical science include cytology, infectious diseases, and pathology. One path to becoming a medical scientist entails completing a doctorate program, which generally takes six years, in a specialized area.
Another way to become a medical scientist is to receive dual training to become skilled as both a medical scientist and a doctor. An individual who wants to do clinical research may need a medical degree even though he may not want to practice as a physician. A medical scientist who interacts with patients to perform procedures such as drawing blood or removing tissue must obtain a physician's license, which requires successful completion from an accredited medical college or university and passing a specific assessment examination. Dual physician and doctorate programs may take up to eight years to complete. An individual who obtains a joint degree gains a competitive edge in obtaining research funding.
After completing an advanced degree, an aspiring medical scientist may begin his or her career path with a period of postdoctoral work. During this time, a person gains additional familiarity by working in a research environment. Postdoctoral work also allows a person to hone his or her skills on specific practices under the tutelage of a senior researcher. In some instances, postdoctoral work may lead to a full-time job.