California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists in San Diego County

May also be called: Cancer Researchers; Cell Culture Scientists; Clinical Laboratory Scientists; Clinical Pharmacologists; Clinical Research Associates; Clinical Research Directors; Clinical Researchers; Clinical Research Scientists; Cytologists; Toxicologists; Virologists

What Would I Do?

With millions of people living side by side in cities, diseases can spread more easily than they have in the past. Medical Scientists deal with the understanding of human diseases, the improvement of human health, and the advancement of knowledge of living organisms. For example, they study viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. Some Scientists try to identify changes in cells or in chromosomes that signal the development of medical problems. Basic medical research is needed in the fight against disease by developing new tests, drugs, vaccines, and surgical procedures. Medical Scientists who are also physicians can administer new drugs to patients in clinical trials, monitor their reactions, and observe the results.

Some Scientists may work directly with individual patients or larger groups of patients as they administer drugs and monitor and observe the patients during clinical trials.Those who work in private industry conduct applied research or support product development, using knowledge discovered through research to develop new drugs and medical treatments.

Scientists working in colleges and universities, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations typically submit grant proposals to obtain funding for their projects. Those who rely on grant money may be under pressure to meet deadlines and to conform to rigid grant writing specifications when seeking or extending funding.

Job duties include clinical investigation or other research, production activities such as drug compounding, technical writing, or teaching. Basic research duties include preparing and analyzing organ, tissue, and cell samples to identify toxicity, bacteria or microorganisms, or to study cell structure. Scientists may work with health departments, industry personnel, physicians, and others to develop health safety standards and public health improvement programs.

Medical Scientists include occupations such as physicians, dentists, public health specialists, research managers, teachers, consultants, pharmacologists, medical pathologists, but exclude practitioners who provide medical or dental care or dispense drugs.

Tools used by Medical Scientists include: calorimeters, centrifuges, chemical re-agents, computer controlled analyzers, dropping pipettes, electron microscopes, flame photometers, mass spectrometers, and spectrophotometers. Medical Scientists use scientific and analytical software, as well as medical and scientific journals to aid in their research.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Investigate cause, progress, life cycle, or mode of transmission of diseases or parasites.Critical Thinking
Conduct research to develop methodologies, instrumentation and procedures for medical application, analyzing data and presenting findings.Science
Prepare and analyze organ, tissue, and cell samples to identify toxicity, bacteria, or microorganisms or to study cell structure.Biology
Follow strict safety procedures when handling toxic materials to avoid contamination.Reading Comprehension
Standardize drug dosages, methods of immunization, and procedures for manufacture of drugs and medicinal compounds.Writing
Plan and direct studies to investigate human or animal disease, preventive methods, and treatments for disease.Learning Strategies
Confer with health departments, industry personnel, physicians, and others to develop health safety standards and public health improvement programs.Speaking
Evaluate effects of drugs, gases, pesticides, parasites, and microorganisms at various levels.Complex Problem Solving
Teach principles of medicine and medical and laboratory procedures to physicians, residents, students, and technicians.Instructing
Use equipment such as atomic absorption spectrometers, electron microscopes, flow cytometers, and chromatography systems.Selective Attention
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Medical Scientists usually work independently. However, they and other scientists increasingly work as part of teams, interacting with engineers, business managers, and technicians. They may work independently in private industry, in university, or government laboratories or offices, exploring new areas of research or expanding on specialized research. Jobs are generally available in pharmaceutical and biotech industries and government health departments.

Scientists usually are not exposed to unsafe or unhealthy conditions; however, those who work with dangerous organisms or toxic substances must follow strict safety procedures to avoid contamination. Medical Scientists, who rely on grant money, work under pressure to meet deadlines and to conform to rigid grant-writing specifications when preparing proposals to seek new or extended funding.

Scientists may have to travel nationally or internationally to attend conferences and present the results of their research.

Medical Scientists typically work regular hours in offices or laboratories, but longer hours are not uncommon. Long or irregular hours are often necessary when, for example, grant application deadlines are looming or a particularly important experiment is underway.

Medical Scientists can join the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA), the California Medical Association (CMA), or the National Medical Association (NMA). Those who work for the State of California can join the Service Employees International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

For those who are good at science and math, and who are interested in the fight against illness, this may be an ideal occupation. The job of Medical Scientist will appeal to those who enjoy working in a scientific, highly analytical, and logic-based environment. This occupation requires an extensive amount of thinking and can involve searching for facts, paying attention to detail, and figuring out problems.

Medical Scientists must be able to communicate clearly and concisely both orally and in writing. Strong communications skills are needed for those who want to work in consulting or managerial positions, or to provide instruction or advice to physicians and other health care professionals.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

It is unusual for overtime to be paid in academic institutions, but is more common in private industry.


The median wage in 2017 for Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists in California was $98,671 annually, or $47.44 hourly. The median wage for Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists in San Diego County was $100,950 annually, or $48.54 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2017Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$78,996$100,950$139,633
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefits generally include medical, dental, life and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Some Medical Scientists may be self-employed and therefore are responsible for their own benefits and retirement.

What is the Job Outlook?

Medical Scientists can expect to face competition for most jobs, in part because of the attractiveness of the career. If the number of advanced degrees awarded continues to grow, they may face considerable competition for basic research positions and funding. However, those with both a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) and a doctor of medicine (M.D.) are likely to experience very good opportunities.

Medical Scientists have enjoyed rapid gains in employment since the growth of biotechnology companies. Much of the basic medical research done in recent years has resulted in new knowledge, including genetic engineering. Genetic
engineering studies genes to determine their functions, and the possible use of stem cells to treat human diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and spinal cord injuries. The heightened awareness of bioterrorism and rare, but infectious diseases, such as West Nile Virus or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), should increase the demand for these workers. Employment growth should also occur as a result of the expected expansion in research related to illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.

Besides job openings due to employment growth, openings will arise as workers leave the labor force or transfer to other occupations. Doctoral degree holders can expect to face considerable competition for basic research positions and for research grants.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists are expected to increase by 19.7 percent, or 4,600 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists are expected to increase by 16.8 percent, or 540 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 460 new job openings per year is expected for Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists, plus an additional 730 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 1,190 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 54 new job openings per year is expected for Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists, plus an additional 99 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 153 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A Ph.D.typically qualifies people to research basic life processes or particular medical problems and to analyze the results of experiments. It is particularly helpful for Medical Scientists to earn both a Ph.D. and an M.D.


Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for this occupation. In addition to formal education, a period of postdoctoral work in the laboratory of a senior researcher is becoming increasingly common for Medical Scientists. Postdoctoral work provides valuable laboratory experience, including experience in specific processes and techniques such as gene splicing, which is transferable to other research projects.

Early Career Planning

High school students planning to become Medical Scientists should take advanced courses in mathematics and science. Students who are planning to have careers as Medical Scientists should have a bachelor’s degree in a biological science.

Continuing Education

Once students have completed their undergraduate studies, they can then select a specialty for their advanced degree, such as cytology, bioinformatics, genomics, or pathology. Many aspiring Medical Scientists pursue medical degrees to perform clinical work.

Licensing and Certification

Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

In California, Medical Scientists are required to have a State license. In addition, documentation from a professional certification agency is necessary before a license is issued. California does not recognize any other State licenses. Certification can be obtained through the following agencies: the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification (BOC), offering certification for medical laboratory professionals; the American Board of Medical Genetics, offering certification in clinical biochemical genetics clinical cytogenics, and clinical molecular genetics; and the American Board of Clinical Chemistry, offering certification in clinical chemistry and toxicological chemistry and molecular diagnostics. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Clinical, Medical, Researcher, and Scientists.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Scientific Research and Development Svc37.6%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals21.4%
Colleges and Universities11.9%
Pharmaceutical & Medicine Manufacturing6.8%
Offices of Physicians5.4%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges and universities. Those working in the industry may recommend an interested candidate for jobs. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Also, networking with colleagues and professors may help Medical Scientists land their first research job. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists.

  • Clinical Research
  • Hospitals
  • Medical Scientists
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Research Institute

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Advancement among Medical Scientists usually takes the form of greater independence in their work or tenure in university positions. Others choose to move into managerial positions and become natural science managers overseeing the work of life and physical scientists or work as self-employed consultants.

Some Medical Scientists are specialists, qualified by unique undergraduate education or additional training to perform more complex analyses than usual within a specific field. Specialties include clinical biochemistry, hematology, coagulation, microbiology, bacteriology, virology, parasitology, mycology, immunology, immunohematology (blood bank), histopathology, cytopathology, genetics, cytogenetics, electron microscopy, and work in in-vitro fertization (IVF) labs. Medical Scientists with a specialty may need additional credentials, such as Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB) from the American Association of Blood Banks, or a Specialist in Hematology (SH) from the ASCP.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists with links to more information.

Biochemists and BiophysicistsGuide
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechnologistsGuide
Natural Sciences ManagersGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification19-1042
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists19-1042.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IAR
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Physiology, General 260901
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Anatomy and Physiology041000