What is a Scientist?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: October 2, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Science
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Of course, the simple answer to this question comes from Merriam-Webster.com, which states, ‘a scientist, is a person learned in science and especially natural science.’ Unfortunately, however, this definition doesn’t do us much good when figuring out the career aspects of a scientist.

Understanding what a scientist is, requires a deeper look at the job duties. It would be best if you also looked at the different types of scientists. It’s also important to understand some of the common steps you will need to become a scientist.


Job Duties of a Scientist

Most scientists will look for measurable data through analysis and testing. They will spend time using the scientific method. This method follows the steps below:

Scientists use this process to come to conclusions. You will likely do work in a lab and spend lots of time researching as a scientist.

Common Types of Scientists

Computer Scientist

A very common type of scientist, a computer scientist, will be concerned with testing and developing models that demonstrate specific properties within a computer-based system. In addition, computer scientists can choose a specialty, such as computer applications, software engineering, or theoretical computer science.

It’s common for computer scientists to work in software development or at a research firm. Therefore, you will likely need a master’s degree or a doctorate to enter this field.


As a physicist, you will be a scientist that studies the aspects of physics. This may include matter and energy. The two main types of physicists are theoretical physicists and experimental physicists.

If you become a theoretical physicist, you will study mathematical aspects of physics. But, on the other hand, an experimental physicist will study and observe physical phenomena and analyze the experiments having to do with them.

You may also go into a subspecialty, such as becoming an engineering physicist, quantum physicist, atomic physicist, or particle physicist.


Another common type of scientist is a biologist. This type of scientist will study life or biology. The primary area of interest will be different types of living matter and how they function. Biologists study the different living systems.

You can go into many different areas of biology. Some of the common options include marine biology, ecology, toxicology, and gynecology. However, you will likely need a master’s or doctorate in biology to enter this field.


An astronomer is a scientist studying astronomy. The focus of an astronomer is outside the Earth, such as planets, galaxies, and stars. There are many fields astronomers can go into. Some of the common options include physical cosmology, solar astronomy, and planetary science.

If you want to become an astronomer, you will likely need a doctoral degree in astronomy or physics.


As a botanist, you will be a scientist that studies plants. There are many types of botanists, however. For example, you may work with the chemical properties of the plants, the soil, plant medicine, or another area of botany.

To become a botanist, you will need to get a degree in biology or botany. It’s common to work in remote areas of the world and in greenhouses in this career. Sometimes, botanists are called plant scientists or phytologists.

Political Scientist

As a political scientist, you will look at political systems to help create better processes. You may research different ideas and study different governments. Policies and trends will be a big part of your research.

There are a few areas you can go into with political science. For example, you can go into comparative politics, political theory, international relations, or American politics.

If you want to enter political science, you will likely need a master’s degree or doctorate in political science.


As a geoscientist, you will explore the Earth and the internal environment. Typically, you will study the structure, processes, and composition of the Earth. You might help discover minerals, mines, and petroleum deposits as a geoscientist.


As a meteorologist, you will study climate, weather, and the environment. You may report the weather daily or study how the climate is adjusting in a specific area. This is an important position and a very popular option within the field of science.

Product Development Scientist

this type of scientist will work to develop new products and improve current products. They will study products and work to make them better. Commonly, this type of scientist will work in food, medical, or drug technology.

Steps to Take to Become a Scientist

If you want to become a scientist, you will certainly need to go to college. Here are the common steps you will need to take to become a scientist.

Step #1 – Complete High School or GED

During high school, you need to do very well with your science and math courses. Take honors or AP courses whenever possible. Keep your GPA up and score very high on the SAT or ACT. A good test prep course can help with your AP courses and with your SAT or ACT score.

High scores will help you get into a better college or university program. In addition, this will ensure you have the best opportunity to become a scientist in the field you prefer.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

You will need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a scientist. This is vital as most scientists will need a graduate degree. However, it starts with your bachelor’s degree.

Make sure you choose a major that makes sense with the type of scientist you want to become.

Step #3 – Go Into a Graduate Program

Most scientists will need to get a master’s or doctoral degree. In some cases, you can start working in your field with a bachelor’s degree. However, you may need to work towards your graduate degree if you want to gain advancement opportunities.

Make sure you understand what the field you want to go into requires. Some fields will require a master’s degree, while others will require a doctorate. If you want to teach, you will need an advanced degree, as well.

Step #4 – Work in a Research Internship

Usually, as a part of your degree, you will need to complete an internship. This will likely be a research internship, which will help you gain hands-on experience.

Step #5 – Enroll in a Post-Doctoral Research Program

While you may not need to take this step, some scientists must complete a post-doctoral research program. This is important for some fields and will give you plenty of experience as a scientist.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Scientist

How much can I make as a scientist?

According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a scientist is about $92K per year. Your salary will depend on the type of scientist you become, along with your experience. The location where you work can also impact your salary.

Throughout your career as a scientist, you may hold many different jobs. For example, if you become a research associate, your average salary will be about $57K per year. Those becoming research scientists can earn an average salary of about $104K per year.

Working as a laboratory technician is common as you complete your degree work. This type of position pays around $19 per hour. You can also work as an associate scientist and earn around $29 per hour.

If you decide to become a clinical research scientist, you can earn around $104K per year. This is a higher-paying choice for scientists. Some employers will pay nearly $200K per year for this type of position.

What is the work environment like for a scientist?

The environment you work within will depend on your actual position. Some scientists will work outside, taking samples often. Others will spend most of their time in a lab or classroom. Depending on the type of science you go into, you may work in front of a computer, outside, in a lab, or even in a classroom.

What type of skills do I need to become a scientist?

There are many skills you will gain along the way through education and training. However, it would be best if you had a healthy curiosity before deciding to go into science as a career path. Scientists need to be curious, and they also need to have an open mind.

You should also develop your problem-solving skills and organizational skills. Being a good communicator is also an important skill of a scientist.

There are many types of scientists. If you want to go into science for a career, choosing the right field will make a difference. First, it’s necessary to choose the right career path for you. Start by looking at the different job duties and choose the science career you know you will love.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.