Nanotechnology for performing surgery at the molecular level. Therapies to help paralyzed children learn to walk again. Research to prevent disease-causing genetic disorders. Medical breakthroughs like these are occurring every day in labs across the country, but they aren’t possible without innovative individuals working with one goal in mind—to prevent and treat disease.
A graduate degree in the medical sciences opens up a world of possibilities. Whether you’re interested in applied research, product development, teaching or management, the future is bright for those with advanced degrees. For many students, a graduate degree in the medical sciences is a stepping-stone to becoming a medical doctor or dentist. But graduates can also be found working in medical research, pharmaceutical manufacturing and biotechnology.
Emerging Fields Means Fast Growth
Some of the top jobs in new industries are related to the medical sciences. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, jobs in the medical sciences are expected to be among the fastest growing jobs in the nation over the next 10 years. One new career field is in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 28 percent of all jobs in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry are made up of scientists and science technicians.
Ongoing research and development of new drugs to treat and cure diseases will require the talents of:
Nanotechnology, one of the newest fields in the medical sciences, will also require trained individuals interested in basic and applied research. Scientific research and development relies on employees with specialized education. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that individuals with bachelors degrees and higher held 72 percent of jobs in the industry.
Education and Your Salary
The more education, the higher the earnings, reports the Office of Science Education, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Those who complete more than 16 years of schooling can expect their salaries to start at about $55,000 annually, compared to $40,000 for those with 16 years of education or less. Individuals holding masters degrees in the medical sciences can earn average salaries like these:
- Biophysicist ($76,000)
- Biostatistician ($65,000)
- Epidemiologist ($56,000)
- Genetic Counselor ($52,000)
- Medical Scientist ($61,000)
When weighing the advantages of getting a graduate degree, be sure to consider the growing need for collaborations between research institutions and commercial enterprise programs. Technology centers are springing up all over the world, specifically designed to move ideas from the laboratory into the marketplace.
This opens up even more employment opportunities for those armed with a graduate degree in the medical sciences.
If you can’t decide which path to pursue, you can consider a career as a medical science liaison. Medical science liaisons fill a consulting role at pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies and often earn six-figure salaries.
A Graduate Degree Opens Doors
Graduate school provides the opportunity for students trained in the sciences to pursue specialized programs like biochemistry and molecular biology, cell biology, genetic counseling, clinical nutrition, occupational and environmental health, microbiology and immunology, neurobiology, nursing science, pathology, pharmacology and physiology.
One way to help you narrow your choices is to decide which kind of work environment best fits your career goals. Some graduates might prefer working for a government agency. Others might want to follow a career path in private industry. Many set their sights on academia. Others dream of running their own lab one day.
Career opportunities with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services include:
- The National Institutes of Health
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The Food and Drug Administration
The NIH spends about $2.25 billion each year on research projects in its own labs to research issues related to public health. The NIH provides opportunities to conduct both lab-based and clinical research. The NIH also collaborates with researchers at universities and it provides the majority of funding for biological research at university labs.
Other government agencies include:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Department of Homeland Security
Career opportunities aren’t limited to government agencies. There are employment opportunities in the private sector such as working for a large pharmaceutical company or a private research firm. Many graduates aim for teaching at a research university.
Perhaps you’d like to start your own company someday. The biotechnology industry wouldn’t be where it is today without Genentech, which was a startup organization in 1976.
Whether you set your goal to conduct genetic research, help develop new vaccines or write public policy, getting a graduate degree in the medical sciences will help you get where you want to be.