Entering the medical field is something that is usually considered because it offers great pay, good benefits, and the chance to help others. But for those who don’t want to engage in traditional bedside care, finding another path into the field is important. Becoming a health scientist is one option, and something that offers a lot of advantages to those willing to work in this exciting career.
Becoming a health scientist has a lot of different variety and opportunity for you, and with various specialized areas of study and plenty of room in the job market it isn’t hard to see why many are looking to this as a career option.
What Is a Health Scientist?
A health scientist is someone who works in the medical or research field, focusing their efforts on research and development of knowledge that is directly related to health. There are several different areas of specialization within the field including:
- Medical Microbiology
- Clinical Epidemiology
- Genetic Epidemiology
- Biomedical Engineering
- Clinical Virology
Depending on the area you choose to specialize in, your job duties will vary greatly. Most of your time will be spent in a research setting, usually a lab. Gathering data, investigating disease or genetic pre-disposition, or even developing new medical equipment could all be roles that you take up during the course of your job. And with about 50 different specialization areas to choose from, there is likely a career path that matches everyone’s interests.
Working as a health scientist requires a certain skill set. And while your education will do a lot to prepare you for a job in the field, having some personal characteristics will help as well. Here’s a quick look at some of the areas you will want to be strong in.
- Detail Oriented – Being able to pay attention to details is a major part of the job, and one that can’t be overlooked.
- Curious Nature – Since a large part of the health scientist’s role is to ask questions and then seek out the answers, having a natural curiosity will help you to enjoy your job and to excel at it.
- Good Communication – You’ll spend time working with a wide range of other people. Researchers, policymakers, health officials, and more may all end up needing to be talked to at some point, so it’s vital that you have good communication skills if you work in this position.
- Ability to Work Under Pressure – Sometimes you may face a deadline or a major issue. Being able to work well under pressure is another important characteristic to have.
Nature of the Work
The nature of the work will depend upon the specialization you choose and where you want your career to go. Many who work in the health scientist field spend most of their time in a lab, gathering data and using it to learn new things. Others become medical technicians and work to collect samples, run lab tests, and assist during medical procedures. And others work to monitor, evaluate, and develop new medical equipment.
Research facilities, hospitals, government agencies, and many other organizations regularly hire health scientists of a variety of disciplines. It’s best for you to spend some time figuring out the specialization you are most interested in so you can understand more about what you’ll be doing on a daily basis.
Education and Training
Spending time training in the medical field and related areas of study is the only path to a health scientist career. However, there are now many schools that offer an outright Health Science degree. Most jobs will require at least a Bachelor’s degree in the field, while taking the extra time to earn a master’s is a better option and one that will open up many additional doors of employment. Graduate level programs as well as undergrad ones usually offer areas of specialization as well, letting you focus your skills on a particular area of the health science field. This will have a big impact in where your career eventually takes you.
Average salaries vary depending on the area of specialization you focus in, the level of education you have, any additional training or on the job experience, and the specific employer. In most instances, wages of roughly $70,000 to $80,000 are the average for a health scientist, and the demand for them is only going to grow throughout the foreseeable future.