what is a scientist?

Scientists systematically gather and use research and evidence to make hypotheses and test them to gain an understanding and knowledge for the greater good. A scientist may also use statistics or data to further evidence their hypotheses.

As a scientist, you can work in any science-related field, from astronomy over food science to microbiology and animal science. That means you may find a job in companies dealing with research projects or work in hospitals and government institutions to conduct research and expand knowledge in a particular area.

what does a scientist do?

The central role of a scientist is to explain the natural world using scientific methods. As a scientist, you make observations and conduct experiments to test them. If the results aren't consistent with your hypothesis, you draw the appropriate conclusion or present a new idea. A scientist must apply a systematic process when conducting experiments.

Due to the massive variety of scientific roles, your employers will depend on your field of study. If you are a botanist or zoologist, you spend days in the forest cataloging plants or animals, while an astronomer spends time in observatories and labs.

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average salary of a scientist

The median salary of a scientist is $77,000 per year. The remuneration package usually depends on the area of specialisation and experience level. An entry-level scientist with minimal skills takes home around $70,000 annually. However, if you perform complex duties and have many years of experience in the role, your salary increases to $106,000 per year.

Most employers cater for expenses and provide car allowances for travel to and from the research facility. Some provide housing allowances and pay for overtime work. You also receive medical and life insurance payments from your employer.

what factors affect the salary of scientists?

The main determinant of a scientist's salary is the area of specialisation. Some science disciplines are complex and command a higher pay structure. For instance, when you are a medical research scientist, your field is susceptible and requires more accuracy and certainty since your findings can influence human life. Your education and skill level also impact your salary. If you have an undergraduate degree, you cannot earn the same as someone with a PhD in the same field. The level of experience also dictates your remuneration package.

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types of scientists

A career as a scientist allows you to explore multiple areas of expertise. Some of the types of scientists include:

  • botanist: some scientists focus on plants and study their chemical properties and correlation with other species. As a plant scientist, you research soil erosion, chemical properties or plant medicine. All your studies are aimed at revealing the relationship between plants and animals.
  • physicist: as a scientist, you can focus on exploring energy, matter and other aspects of physics. Physicists often explore theoretical aspects or conduct experiments to explain physical phenomena.
  • medical scientist: as a medical scientist, you can specialise in microbiology or immunology to assist in diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases. You conduct tests and experiments to determine the effectiveness of some drugs or treatment procedures in fighting bacteria.
  • computer scientist: as a computer scientist, you test and develop various properties of computer-based systems. You also develop software and computer applications and ensure they perform the expected functions.
  • food scientist: as a food scientist, you work in the food processing industry. Food scientists use their knowledge to improve the  processing, canning, freezing, storing, packaging, and distributing of food. Most food scientists work in the research and development departments of food processing companies.
  • biologist: as a biologist, you focus on living things and their interactions in the ecosystem. Biologists can be ecologists, geneticists or marine biol

working as a scientist

As a scientist, you perform laboratory tests and conduct field research to discover the underlying cause of a particular problem. Let's explore the specific duties and responsibilities of a scientist.

Smiling male looking away.
Smiling male looking away.

education and skills

Some of the routes to becoming a scientist include:

  • getting a bachelor's degree: to become a scientist, you need to complete a bachelor's degree in science or your preferred field of study. You can pursue a generalist degree or complete a qualification in specialised subjects like medical laboratory science or biomedical science. During the degree, you gain practical experience working in laboratories, and you can complete work placements in recognised laboratories after the course.
  • choosing your specialisation: if you complete a science degree course, you have to specialise in your final year. If you choose a broader field like medical science, you can specialise further.

skills and competencies

As a scientist, you require the following qualities:

  • analytical skills: as a scientist, you spend a majority of your time examining evidence and conducting experiments to come up with explanations for different results. Having the analytical skills to work accurately and make logical observations is critical. You can use your analytical skills to identify issues and develop solutions.
  • time management skills: you must organise your work efficiently in the field or lab. Time management skills help you prioritise important tasks and complete your job effectively under pressure.
  • writing skills: you must have strong written communication skills since your role involves writing detailed scientific papers or submitting reports. Sometimes, you must present to other professionals at conferences, so communication skills are beneficial.
  • teamwork skills: as a scientist, you can work alone on a project or collaborate with other scientists on research. You need people skills to work well with research colleagues and share ideas.

FAQs about working as a scientist

Here are the most asked questions about working as a scientist:

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