Research & Development Careers

Imagine contributing to the discovery and development of life-saving drugs, medical devices, or other biotechnologies. Working in R&D for a life sciences company can be extremely exciting—and fulfilling. Explore the possibilities and discover MCPHS programs that will position you for success in preclinical research, translational research, or clinical research.

Preclinical Research

Teams of scientists work for years on ideas for new biotechnologies and products before they are tested in people. For example, drug hunters start by identifying potential targets: molecules inside cells that play a role in disease. Then they must design compounds that hit those targets and run hundreds—or even thousands—of experiments in the laboratory to optimize the compounds and get a preliminary read on their safety and effectiveness.

Featured Jobs in Preclinical Research

Portrait of a male in a medical research laboratory.

R&D Associate (Research Associate)

Research associates work in the lab to support the discovery of new therapeutics by designing and conducting experiments, interpreting data, and drawing and presenting conclusions. These early-career professionals have a basic understanding of the principles and concepts of a scientific discipline as well as research methods, enabling them to make vital contributions to a team.

Salary range (USD): $62,163 - $79,123†

Female and male scientist in a lab setting.

Specialist Chemist (Medicinal Chemist)

Medicinal chemists at companies have been known to dream about molecules. Literally. These professionals design, synthesize, and optimize compounds with the potential to become medicines, and they know that minor tweaks in the structure of a molecule can have major effects on its properties.

Salary range (USD): $112,000 - $137,300†

Male scientist in lab reading information on a bottle.


Pharmacologists in R&D take molecules synthesized by medicinal chemists and put them through their paces in a series of lab tests. The goal is to predict how compounds will behave inside the body. Think of pharmacologists as systems analysts with expertise at the intersection of biology and chemistry.

Salary range (USD): $106,926 - $121,862† 

Close-up of a pill being held in a gloved hand by female scientist.

Pharmaceutical Scientist

Pharmaceutical scientists take molecules synthesized by medicinal chemists that have been tested by pharmacologists and determine the best way to delivery them into the body. For example, pharmaceutical scientists might decide to package a potential treatment in a pill or use an ointment or needle to deliver it to patients.

Salary range (USD): $87,858 - $113,281†

Translational Research

Other professionals focus on moving new technologies—including potential medicines—from the laboratory to the clinic. These individuals must speak the language of both bench scientists and clinicians, bridging the divide between them when preparing for, designing, and running first-in-human studies. Translational researchers also feed insights from the clinical setting back to the laboratory, shaping innovation for patients.

Featured Job in Translational Research

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Translational Research Scientist

A translational research scientist combines clinical and research expertise to shape and test new technologies for patients. Professionals in this space have direct experience working with patients or patient samples as well as deep knowledge of science and research methods. They serve as a conduit between bench scientists and clinicians, building bridges to accelerate the development of new drugs and medical devices.

Salary range (USD): $88,170 - $132,151†

Clinical Research

After a new technology shows potential in laboratory tests and first-in-human studies, teams design larger clinical trials to definitively prove that the drug or device is safe and effective. These studies may involve dozens, hundreds, or thousands of patients, depending on the technology and the disease its being used to treat. Clinical trials—including those run by biopharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations—present challenges and opportunities that professionals must be prepared to tackle. 

Featured Jobs in Clinical Research

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Clinical Research Associate

Clinical research associates oversee clinical trials for biopharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, contract research organizations, and government agencies. These professionals, also known as clinical monitors, thrive in complex environments and work to ensure that studies follow standard guidelines and practices that are designed to protect patients.

Salary range (USD): $103,780 - $210,330*

Female looking at a laptop and desktop with data on the screens.

Data Analyst Director (Data Scientist)

Data scientists now play an essential role in every stage of R&D, including in clinical research. These interdisciplinary experts combine knowledge of statistics, programming, scientific methods, and systems to perform complex analyses on large datasets. A data scientist can apply sophisticated tools to mine clinical trial data for patterns, sharing insights with colleagues to shape product development.

Salary range (USD): $177,692 - $235,224†

*Source of salary information: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (pulled summer 2023)
†Source of salary information: (pulled summer 2023)