Medical Scientists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Recommended high school classes include anatomy and physiology, health, biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, English, and speech classes. Be sure to take writing and communications classes, if offered at your school. Developing strong communication and writing skills is important in this field, particularly because medical scientists must be able to write effective grants and publish their research findings.

Postsecondary Education

Medical scientists must have a Ph.D. in a biological science; some scientists also have medical degrees. An increasing number of new graduates also complete postdoctoral work in the laboratory of a senior researcher.

Most students prepare for graduate study by earning a bachelor’s degree in a biological science. Those interested in specializing in biotechnology earn degrees or minors in biotechnology. 

Once students have earned their bachelor’s degrees, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are two main paths for prospective medical scientists. They can enroll in a university Ph.D. program in the biological sciences that involves about six years of study, with specialties in a specific area such as genetics or pathology. They can also enroll in a joint M.D.-Ph.D. program at a medical college which involves about seven to eight years of study.

Other Education or Training

Some medical scientists enroll in postdoctoral training at universities or with government agencies, like the National Institutes of Health. They are frequently involved in laboratory work in areas such as gene splicing as well as other research projects.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Voluntary board certification is offered to pharmaceutical scientists by the American Board ofClinical Pharmacology ( Contact the board for more information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

To be a successful medical scientist, you should be detail oriented; organized; patient; enjoy conducting research; have strong scientific skills; and be able to work both independently and as part of a research team. You should also be a good communicator since you will have to explain your findings to a variety of groups with a range of knowledge of the field—from fellow scientists, to the press, to the general public. Strong writing skills are important because medical scientists often write grant proposals to request funding for their research.