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"In high school, I wanted to be a doctor. In college, I found I enjoyed scientific research more and decided I could help people by developing new drugs. It's enormously rewarding not only to apply my knowledge in new ways, but to see the difference we can make in patients' lives."   —Bill

A Scientist at Work

Bill is a product development scientist at a biopharmaceutical company developing new treatments for asthma. He joined the company after working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for four years. He has a B.S. in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in pharmacology.

Bill designs experimental studies to evaluate potential new drugs and the processes to manufacture them. He reviews and analyzes laboratory results, writes reports, and makes recommendations to management about the drugs that seem most promising, and whether it's going to be practical to produce them commercially. He has three technicians who do most of the hands-on laboratory work.

Bill works a busy 40-plus-hour week, sometimes staying late or coming in on the weekend to finish an important report. He spends much of his time in his office, analyzing data from experiments, designing new experiments, reading the latest scientific literature, and writing. He spends the rest of his time in the laboratory with fellow scientists and technicians, often in lively discussions that generate new ideas. He also spends time in company meetings outside the lab. While he sometimes wishes he could spend more time in the lab doing experiments, he enjoys explaining his work to the non-scientists in business or engineering divisions of the company, and learning about what they do. He expects this can lead to new career options for him.

Career Map

If you are always asking why, are intrigued by puzzles or mysteries, and have a thirst for knowledge, you would probably enjoy being a scientist.

Scientists have an in-depth knowledge of a scientific area such as biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, or toxicology.

Scientists in industry may design studies to evaluate or improve products or processes, develop tests to ensure product quality, or explain the scientific aspects of products or processes to regulators, customers, or investors.

Scientists in government may conduct research or environmental testing, make recommendations for food and drug product approvals or scientific policy, or perform forensic analysis.

Scientists at large research universities teach and conduct research; at smaller institutions, their primary responsibility is teaching.