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Why Pursue a Career in Biomedical Research?

Biomedical researcher wearing eye protection

We conduct frontline research across the spectrum of bioengineering, brain research and neuroscience, new advances in pharma, and big data approaches to solving critical health challenges. Our students go on to jobs researching breakthrough medications to biomedical research jobs developing the next generation of hip or knee prosthesis. Some of the fastest-growing and most-rewarding careers in health are open to skilled graduates with a master's degree or doctorate in biomedical research.

What is biomedical research?

People unfamiliar with current trends in biomedical research may picture a lonely scientist in a lab coat peering over a microscope to discover a new pathogen. This does happen, and the study of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens continues to be a vital part of medical research, but other work in the field encompasses diverse scientific research ranging from, for example, better ways for individuals with intellectual disabilities to communicate or developing new cochlear implants to help people with hearing deficits.

A simple definition for biomedical research is: postgraduate or doctoral research in any field related to medicine and biology that has the potential to heal and improve lives.

What is a biomedical scientist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a biomedical scientist conducts research to improve human health. Biochemists focus on the chemistry of biological processes, including cell functioning and disease processes. Biophysicists study the physical principles underlying life and living things. Epidemiologists work within the public health domain to investigate how diseases spread and reduce their spread. Clinical biomedical researchers analyze biological material in laboratories in hospitals, clinics or as part of research teams. Biomedical engineers design equipment that can interface with the human body, including prosthetics. At Rush all these professionals and more work together on integrated teams to jointly solve important health problems.

Who does a biomedical scientist work with?

Depending on their specialty, a biomedical research scientist can work with other scientists as part of a research team. Medical research no longer takes place exclusively in labs. Biomedical research can take place in the community. For example, a biomedical research scientist could develop a way for children with autism spectrum disorder to communicate better with peers and study their method's effectiveness in a school or community-based clinic. Researchers studying Parkinson's disease could work with patients and their families to discover whether or not family members can help improve disease outcomes or daily functioning. Teams developing new drugs or treatment methods for diseases like diabetes can work in both the laboratory and community clinic settings.

Which areas of medicine can biomedical research scientists work in?

Biomedical research jobs may focus on any area of the health care system, from pharmaceutical research to community health. Philanthropic organizations, professional societies as well as the federal government may provide research grants for a broad range of biomedical projects. A biomedical scientist could work as part of a team studying environmental concerns, socioeconomic trends and large-scale population trends.

Some biomedical research scientists conduct studies with subjects wearing biometric devices that can monitor individual health indicators, while others are developing ways to restore or improve brain function after illness or injury. Other biomedical scientist jobs could be involved with developing new cancer therapy or developing new imaging techniques to detect early disease.

Where do biomedical research scientists work?

Medical research takes place in many environments, including within college or university research labs. Federal government agencies employ many biomedical researchers and through grants also fund additional research in specific diseases. Private businesses require biomedical scientists, both through the pharmaceutical industry and the medical device industry. Big data analysis also plays a role in biomedical research and data analysis roles are another avenue for biomedical research. Hospitals and clinics employ biomedical researchers, who may study disease processes and public health trends.

What is a typical biomedical scientist salary?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median salary for a medical scientist was $80,530 per year as of 2016. Biomedical engineers had a median salary of $85,620 per year in 2016, the BLS found.

Where biomedical scientists work will influence their average pay, as well as their area of specialty, education and experience. Scientists working in the pharmaceutical industry earned an average of $113,800 a year, according to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Research and development scientists working in engineering, life sciences and physical sciences (biophysicists) earned $95,120 a year on average.

With more than 24,200 biomedical research scientists, California is the state with the highest level of employment in the field, according to the BLS. California medical research scientists earned more than $105,000 a year in 2016, the BLS reported. Other states with high levels of employment opportunity in the field include New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Biomedical scientists in Maryland earned more than $107,000 a year on average, according to the BLS.

Educational requirements to be a biomedical research scientist

Many medical researchers become interested in further research after working as a physician, nurse or in a related field, such as dentistry. Researchers who have bachelor's degrees in chemistry, biology or similar bioscience fields can opt to enter PhD programs. Some researchers may choose to enter dual degree programs where they will earn an MD or an advanced nursing degree and a PhD. Medical research can begin while candidates are undergraduates, gaining experience in laboratory work and principles of ethical research. Some medical research scientists have master's degrees and experience in data analysis and modeling. Postdoctoral programs offer additional experience and opportunities to supervise other research team members.

Certifications and degrees associated with biomedical research science careers

Although students may begin performing medical research as part of their undergraduate education, most biomedical research scientists have doctoral or master's degrees and additional specialized education in data analysis or bioengineering. Gene therapy and drug trial researchers must have an MD and be licensed to practice medicine.

Learn about Rush University's biomedical research programs.