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Chemikerin sitzt in einem Labor und hält ein Tablet in der Hand

DLR Projektträger provides detailed data on careers of medical scientists

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A survey conducted by DLR Projektträger for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) reveals more about job profiles and career paths of medical scientists with a doctorate and a permanent position at medical faculties and in non-university health research institutes, providing the first detailed data on this professional group.

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4th May 2022 — Scientists in the natural sciences and other disciplines also find numerous attractive fields of work in the medical sector – but until now, little data was available on the careers of medical scientists. DLR Projektträger is helping to close this gap. In April 2022, it published a detailed survey on behalf of the BMBF which contains information on job profiles and career paths. The survey is based on a recommendation by the Forum Health Research (Forum Gesundheitsforschung).

What is a "Medical Scientist"?

The Forum defines medical scientists as those scientists with a doctorate who work in health research but are not usually employed in patient care. They are scientists from different disciplines who conduct health research at universities, university hospitals, non-university health research institutions and departmental research institutions. Medical scientists come from the natural and technical sciences, social sciences, humanities and health sciences, among others. Physician scientists who are not involved in patient care are also counted among the group of medical scientists.

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Focusing on research and management

The survey’s target group were Medical Scientists with a doctorate on permanent contracts except physician scientists. According to a previous survey conducted by the Forum Health Research in 2020, approximately 30-40 per cent of these Medical Scientists with a doctorate employed at the medical faculties and the non-university health research institutions have a permanent position below the professorship level.

The results of the survey show that, on average, the range of activities of this target group predominantly includes research with a share of about 34 per cent and management (22 per cent) as well as teaching (16 per cent), technical/methodological tasks (15 per cent) and tasks in patient care (8 per cent).

At more than 50 per cent, biologists make up the largest share among Medical Scientists, despite an overall broad spectrum of disciplines. The proportion of women and men is about the same, and 38 per cent of the participants work in leading positions with at least five collaborators. On average, the respondents were only given a permanent postion at the age of about 40 and after around eight years on temporary contracts after their doctorate. Nevertheless, the majority of respondents stated that they were satisfied with research, opportunities for cooperation and independence in research.

Attractive positions, lack of predictability of careers

According to the survey, there are also attractive jobs for this group of academics below the professorship level. The information opportunities about career prospects both within and outside of academic research were rated rather poorly by the respondents. This indicates that there is potential for improvement here, also against the backdrop of the very late termination of tenure.

Permanent positions play an important role for the career prospects of medical scientists. It is also important for young scientists who aspire to a career in science below the professorship level to increase the plannability of careers and the compatibility of family and career. In order to enable young scientists to decide earlier on the appropriate career path, it is important that scientific institutions more clearly highlight the contents and opportunities of the job profile of Medical Scientist and provide comprehensive information about different career paths at an early stage.

Cross-divisional expertise of the DLR Projektträger

The survey, published in April 2022, was conducted by staff in the Department of Health and the Competence Centre Analysis and Evaluation at DLR Projektträger in 2021, and prepared as a publication on the Internet. It relates to employment at the medical faculties and non-university health research institutions. Almost 1,000 medical scientists took part in the survey.

The Forum Health Research

Initiated by the BMBF, the Forum Health Research consists of top representatives of German research organisations and the healthcare industry. The Forum facilitates a systematic and cross-organisational dialogue. DLR Projektträger supports this work as an office.

Main and Other Contacts

Contact at DLR Projektträger