Devising and conducting experiments is one of the many responsibilities of stem cell researchers. Sometimes referred to as stem cell scientists, these cell biologists often work in labs, determining how stem cells can be used to treat medical conditions resulting from abnormal cell division and differentiation. Salaries vary by lab setting.
In 2012, half of all medical scientists earned at least $76,980 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $146,650, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $41,340 annually. But none of these figures account for area of research. Indeed, an online resource for jobseekers, sets salaries at closer to $82,000 a year, on average.
As with almost any career, employer affects earnings. A 2012 survey published in “The Scientist,” a magazine for life science professionals, found that scientists in private-industry labs earned much more than those in academic or government settings. When specializing in cell biology, such as stem cell research, scientists earned an average of $102,000 a year. Those in government facilities averaged $81,500, while scientists in academic institutions earned $65,000 annually.
Employers typically seek candidates with a Ph.D. or a joint M.D.-Ph.D. degree. A Ph.D. in the life sciences usually takes about six years to complete beyond the four years of undergraduate study. Joint M.D.-Ph.D. programs take about seven years to complete. Both degree paths consist of classroom and laboratory study, but the joint degree also exposes students to patient care and diagnostic procedures.
The BLS expects employment for medical scientists to grow by as much as 36 percent through 2020. This is almost three times the growth rate for all U.S. occupations, an average of 14 percent. In this relatively small field, the 36 percent growth works out to the creation of more than 36,000 new jobs. The largest sector of growth should be in private industry, so the earning potential is high for scientists looking to specialize in stem cell and other life-science research.