Medical Scientist job outlook
Medical scientists are expected to grow
much faster than average over
the coming decade. Those with both a Ph.D. and M.D. are likely to experience the
Employment change. Employment of medical
scientists is expected to increase 40 percent over the 2008-18 decade, much
faster than the average for all occupations. Medical scientists have enjoyed
rapid gains in employment since the 1980s—reflecting, in part, the growth of
biotechnology as an industry. Much of the basic biological and medical research
done in recent years has resulted in new knowledge, including the isolation and
identification of genes. Medical scientists will be needed to take this
knowledge to the next stage—understanding how certain genes function within an
entire organism—so that medical treatments can be developed for various
diseases. Even pharmaceutical and other firms not solely engaged in
biotechnology have adopted biotechnology techniques, thus creating employment
for medical scientists. However, job growth will moderate from its previous
heights as the biotechnology industry matures and begins to grow at a slower
rate. Some companies may also conduct more of their research and development in
lower-wage countries, further limiting employment growth.
Employment growth should also occur as a result of the expected expansion in
research related to illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, and avian flu, along with
growing treatment problems, such as antibiotic resistance. Moreover,
environmental conditions such as overcrowding and the increasing frequency of
international travel will tend to spread existing diseases and give rise to new
ones. Medical scientists will continue to be needed because they greatly
contribute to the development of treatments and medicines that improve human
The Federal Government is a major source of funding for medical research.
Large budget increases at the National Institutes of Health in the early part of
the decade led to increases in Federal basic research and development
expenditures, with research grants growing both in number and dollar amount.
However, the increase in expenditures slowed substantially in recent years.
Going forward, the level of Federal funding will continue to impact competition
for winning and renewing research grants.
Job prospects. Medical scientists with
both doctoral and medical degrees are likely to experience the best
opportunities. Workers with both a biological and professional medical
background will have a distinct advantage in competing for research funding, as
certain opportunities are only open to those with both qualifications.
Medical scientists are less likely to lose their jobs during recessions than
workers in many other occupations because they are employed on long-term
research projects. However, a recession could influence the amount of money
allocated to new research and development, particularly in areas of risky or
innovative medical research. A recession also could limit extensions or renewals
of existing projects.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
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