This career option is ideal for those who want to make discoveries that may have a significant impact on quality of life, or that can treat or cure diseases—for thousands of people. Researchers identify problems, design and conduct experiments, analyze the data, and prepare it for dissemination.
What do they do?
The life of a researcher will vary dramatically depending upon whether they have a master’s or doctoral degree. In both cases, researchers either work with clinicians and patients to organize studies that may evaluate, for example, treatment outcomes or relationships between various physiological functions and disease; or they are may be involved in studying the mechanisms underlying either normal function or disease processes. Researchers may study the coordination of movements, mechanisms that control muscle response to exercise, or mechanisms underlying a muscle disease such as muscular dystrophy. Research may be at the level of genes, molecules, cells, systems, or behaviors. Researchers often work together, attacking a problem from multiple perspectives.
If you have a master’s degree, you will likely work under the supervision of the lab director, who will request that you conduct experiments or analyses that provide part of the information needed to answer the research question. If you have a doctoral degree, you will likely be the lab director, designing studies and supervising and coordinating the work of others to answer your research questions. You may write up your work for publication and present your findings at conferences.
Where do they work?
Both master- and doctoral-level researchers may work in:
- pharmaceutical or biotech industries
- university, private, and government research labs
What will I like or dislike?
- using your intelligence and technical skills for problem solving
- collaboration with like-minded individuals
- satisfaction derived from your research findings
- autonomy at the doctoral level
- long hours (for doctoral-level researchers)
Employment of scientific researchers is expected to increase much faster than average for all occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, job growth for biological researchers should increase by 21% between 2008 and 2018.
What are the educational requirements?
- master degree with thesis is approximately 2 years
- doctoral degree is approximately 4–7 years (for academic positions, postdoctoral training may also be required)