dcsimg

Stem Cell Research

Stem Cell Research: Education, Schools, and Career Overview

The stem cell researcher learns about a cell’s basic properties and the characteristics that differentiate one specialized cell from another. There are different types of stem cells with varying potential for replication to repair or replace damaged tissues which, of course, could improve the quality of life for many people. The list of unanswered questions about how these cells can be so malleable, how they go about regenerating healthy tissue, and what structures in the body can utilize stem cells is endless. Each new discovery begs more questions. And, that's good news for you if a career in stem cell research is capturing your attention.

Nature of Work

Individuals pursuing stem cell research jobs can come from many different scientific disciplines—including biology, biochemistry, bioengineering, biophysics and biostatistics. Additional career paths may include physicians, nurses and genetic scientists. It is likely that your career in this field may allow you to work in partnership with scientists from other disciplines. This could add an interesting element to your research practice.

Stem cell researchers typically work in any number of organizations, including:

  • government research center
  • university
  • pharmaceutical company
  • healthcare provider organization
  • private stem cell research company
  • private hospital
  • cancer research institute
  • public bioinstrumentation company

Education Requirements for Stem Cell Research

It is becoming increasingly easier to begin your career as a stem cell researcher. From those who are exploring a career in science to students who just want to learn more about stem cell research, it is advisable to read professional journal articles about stem cell research. This may help you to focus your interest in the scientific discipline and type of degree you might like to pursue. Learning more in advance may also help you identify your personal position on the ethical and political aspects of stem cell research and therapy. Read on to find various career options in stem cell research.

Biology

Bachelor’s Degree in Biology

One effective way to enter the field of stem cell research is to earn a bachelor’s degree in general biology with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biology. Some universities may offer a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry combined with molecular biology because there is a close connection between molecular structure and the biochemistry of living systems.

Master’s Degree in Biology

A master’s degree in a molecular and cellular biology program typically requires 30-36 credit hours and may include specialty courses like cancer biology, genome biology and immunology. Some educational institutions may combine molecular and cell biology with developmental biology for a curriculum that would include courses in the developmental and reproductive processes.

Career Advancement Opportunities in Biology

Advanced degree programs in stem cell biology are typically available at the doctoral level in many educational institutions. Coursework may include:

  • cell and molecular biology
  • tissue and cell engineering
  • stem cell development for transplantation

Certification and Licensure

Clinical laboratory scientist certification (formerly called medical laboratory technologist certification) may be required for all biologists who work in a clinical laboratory facility that does any testing on a human specimen for diagnosis, assessment, or treatment related to health status. This may include a hospital or healthcare facility, a university laboratory, or an institute that does any evaluation of human tissue for clinical or therapeutic purposes. If you work for a governmental, public or private research institution or university and your work is purely done for research purposes, you may not need to be certified.

Biotechnology

Bachelor’s Degree in Biotechnology

A bachelor’s degree in biotechnology typically requires skills and principles learned from engineering, medicine, biology, and biochemistry. There are many good colleges, universities and technical schools that offer bachelor’s degree in biotechnology.

Master’s Degree in Biotechnology

A Master of Science (MS) program in biotechnology typically includes coursework in genomics, DNA and protein sequence analysis, biomaterials, statistical methods in computational biology and biotechnology regulations. Dual MS degrees in biotechnology and bioinformatics may be available at some universities.

Career Advancement

In addition to opportunities for supervisory or management positions in your laboratory department, more responsible research positions may be acquired with advanced degrees. Doctoral degree programs are available in this discipline.

Biostatistics

Bachelor’s Degree in Biostatistics

The first step to a career as a biostatistician is to earn a bachelor’s degree in maths or statistics. Coursework typically includes biostatics, statistical mathematics and data mining.

Master’s Degree in Biostatistics

Some universities offer a master’s degree in biostatistics. At this level, your coursework may include:

  • Probability
  • Advanced mathematical statistics
  • Experimental treatment design
  • Survival data analysis
  • Statistical analysis software

Career Advancement Opportunities in Biostatistics

If you are interested in working in public health organizations or universities, an advanced degree may be required. An advanced degree in biostatistics may require 4-6 semesters and additional 2-4 semesters to complete your dissertation. These higher degrees typically provide coursework that is rich in research design, methods and theory.

Skills and Qualities

Important skills and qualities for a career in stem cell research include:

  • Heightened attention to detail
  • Excellent computer skills
  • Curiosity for new developments in the field
  • Good communication skills
  • Experience in handling laboratory instruments, including advanced microscopes, spectroscopic equipment, incubators for cell growth, imaging units, biomedical pumps, and laser equipment.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Biology graduates may find employment as technicians in a laboratory that does basic or applied research in a government institution, university, private research institute, or hospital.

Jobs in biostatistics can be found in universities, governmental and private research institutions, pharmaceuticals firms, insurance companies, and many healthcare delivery organizations. Salaries can vary dramatically based on the employees experience level, the type of employer and the size of the organization. Employee benefits are usually very good because many statistical positions are in large well-developed professional, governmental, or private organizations.

Within the context of regenerative medicine, biotechnology jobs may be found in public or private companies, universities, governmental institutes, or healthcare facilities. Biotechnologists may work as biological, medical, or materials scientists. The employment demand is expected to continue because progress in advanced technology means continual change within the field.

CareerAnnual Mean WageBottom 10% Annual WageTop 10% Annual Wage
Biological Scientists, All Other$83,600$45,030$126,390
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

CareerTotal EmploymentProjected Job Growth Rate
Biological Scientists, All Other42,6407.9%
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Sources:

  • Biological Technicians, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, April 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm
  • Summary Report for: 19-1020.01 – Biologists in O*Net OnLine, accessed February 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-1020.01
  • Summary Report for: 15-2041.01 – Biostatisticians in O*Net OnLine, accessed February 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-2041.01

Stem Cell Research Schools