How is science used as a doctor

Doctor in research

A degree in human medicine does not necessarily mean patient care and clinical routine. Research activities and a passion for science can provide an alternative career perspective to the classic doctor in a practice or clinic. As a doctor in research? Interesting facts on this topic in the following post.

Medical research

Modern medicine today would be inconceivable without preclinical and clinical research. For example, we owe research to the possibility of antiviral therapy against HIV infection or the almost complete cure of the hepatitis C virus in just eight to twelve weeks with suitable drugs.

Only through research can medical understanding grow, new therapies and drugs can be developed, and current laboratory methods can be improved or simplified, which is also useful for clinical diagnostics.

In the classic sense, medical and scientific research is a professional field of biologists, chemists and molecular medicine specialists. But research can also represent an attractive and alternative professional field for doctors outside of the operating theater, ward work and patient care.

As a doctor in research, you can deal with diseases that you have been confronted with in everyday clinical practice and get to the bottom of them. The need for doctors in research is great: researched pathologies are better viewed by the doctors in the overall picture, so that the clinical consequences can be better understood based on the overall constellation.

As a doctor in research - fields of activity

In Austria, young doctors wait up to 18 months for a rotating place, depending on the federal state. If the application as a regular doctor or assistant doctor does not want to succeed as quickly as expected or if it becomes clear during the human medicine degree that you actually do not want to practice as a doctor, alternative professional careers are available.

Because: The daily work with a degree in human medicine does not necessarily have to take place in the operating theater or on the ward as a doctor, but can also take place far away from patient care. Research can also be an attractive professional alternative for medical professionals, including:

  • Work in pharmaceutical companies
  • research
  • Basic research

Work in pharmaceutical companies

Working in the pharmaceutical industry is the most frequently chosen alternative for medical professionals in Austria. A degree in human medicine as well as additional sound business knowledge are required in order to be able to pursue a professional activity in a pharmaceutical company. Areas in which one can be employed are, for example, the implementation and evaluation of application studies, advice to doctors and the sale of drugs.


The areas of work with regard to research include activities in research institutes, biotech companies and also in the pharmaceutical industry. Since the working hours can vary greatly depending on the research project, flexibility is definitely required. In addition, the competition never sleeps, which is why science needs to "show your elbows". Because it is not for nothing: “publish or perish” - publish or go under. Whoever publishes new research findings first, preferably in good journals, will also reap recognition. Publishing often takes months until your own data is finally published.

Most medical professionals involved in research do clinical research and want to research how certain diseases or certain symptoms can be treated. In clinical research, which takes place directly or in collaboration with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, doctors conduct studies with experimental therapies and drug studies. Working in clinical research as a doctor is important and can improve treatment approaches for everyday clinical practice.

Basic research

Anyone who is willing to give up patient care completely and concentrate only on research can opt for an academic career at a university or research institute and, for example, work as a group leader in a research group. Here one often deals with basic research, i.e. one examines a disease at the "root" / at the "origin" at the molecular level. For this purpose, work in a cancer research center comes into question, in which, for example, methods are developed on how tumors can be better visualized using radiological methods or how tumors can be better assessed. You can also look at how the blood flow in tumors changes during chemotherapy, for example.

Research as part of an experimental doctoral thesis

Some of the medical profession was able to gain experience in research as part of an experimental doctoral thesis while studying human medicine and was able to carry out laboratory work. The interest and passion for research may even have been discovered through the preparation of the experimental doctoral thesis. These interested parties then opt for Petri dishes and pipettes instead of stethoscopes or surgical scissors.

Research interest: part-time or full-time?

There are also many medical professionals who both care for patients and invest time in research; Especially in university hospitals, the balancing act between patient care and research interest is possible, so that the passion for science can also be possible part-time without having to leave everyday clinical life completely.

One should not forget, however, that the workload in a clinic is above average even without research activity and it is certainly a challenge to combine clinic and research.

Those who see their professional future exclusively in research can make this their main occupation and also conduct research at non-university institutions.

As a doctor in research: advantages and disadvantages

Anyone who sees research as an alternative to the conventional medical profession should, above all, have enthusiasm for the research area. Research is particularly suitable for those inquisitive who are willing to be very committed. In the following some advantages - with reference to full-time research - and disadvantages are mentioned:


Full-time research includes the following advantages, among others:

  • flexible working hours
  • no rigid shift work
  • regular vacation
  • flexible leisure activities
  • direct participation in medical progress
  • international collaborations
  • independent and independent work
  • Creativity in the workplace


Here are some of the disadvantages of doing research:

  • extreme competition
  • high mental stress from competition and setbacks
  • in the case of research parallel to everyday clinical work: double work and even less free time for the same wage
  • very long working hours
  • no reference whatsoever as to whether the job is actually more fulfilling
  • Failures are part of everyday research
  • Research is a long process / not a quick win
  • no success without good publications
  • Dependence on third-party financial resources

As a doctor in research - salary

Research work parallel to day-to-day hospital life can be varied and beneficial if you do not want to give up patient care entirely, but this is not additionally remunerated. This means: Anyone who conducts clinical research parallel to being a doctor earns just as much as without research.

The salary depends on the respective collective agreement or the years of service. Research carried out in universities or research institutes is remunerated at around 4,000 euros gross per month. Since there is no collective bargaining agreement in industries, the salary here can be much higher and there is even no upper limit.