What Is a Scientist? Definition and Types
Updated October 13, 2023
Scientists can be found in nearly every industry. From business to teaching to regulation, scientists work in a variety of fields and specialize in several forms of research. In this article, we will explore what a scientist is, what they do and the different types of scientists.
What is a scientist?
A scientist is a professional who conducts and gathers research to further knowledge in a particular area. Scientists may make hypotheses, test them through various means such as statistics and data and formulate conclusions based on the evidence. There are several types of scientists and nearly every industry requires the knowledge and research performed by these professionals.
What do scientists do?
Scientists aim to find measurable data through various analysis and testing methods. The most commonly used method in science is the scientific method. This procedure is used to amass measurable evidence based on a hypothesis.
The steps a scientist may take throughout the scientific method include:
Making an observation
Asking questions related to the observation
Gathering information related to the observation
Creating a hypothesis that describes assumptions of the observation and makes a prediction
Testing the hypothesis through a systematic approach that can be recreated
Analyzing the data drawn from the testing and modifying, accepting or rejecting the original hypothesis
Replicating the test until the observations and theory align
This process can be completed in nearly every scientific situation. For example, a developer scientist may form a hypothesis related to changing human behavior and continue to test this theory until it is either proven or disproved. The only difference between how the scientific method is used is the means and industry in which it is performed.
Skills required to be a scientist
While some skills needed by scientists will vary depending on the industry they are in, there are a few skills that most scientists are required to have to be successful. The following are skills that good scientists across a variety of fields possess:
Science is primarily based on asking questions and performing tests and analyses based on these questions. Having curiosity is what prompts scientists to ask these questions in the first place. Being inquisitive is one of the most important components of being a successful scientist.
A scientist should be able to identify and test a problem or idea using the scientific method. Having good problem-solving skills allows scientists to select appropriate variables when testing hypotheses and come up with new solutions that will elicit the desired outcome.
Scientists are constantly collecting and analyzing data, all of which must be neatly organized and documented. Good organizational skills allow scientists to remain on top of their statistics and findings and efficiently draw conclusions between various pieces of information.
A major component of being a scientist is effectively communicating your findings. Communication skills that scientists need include both written and oral communication. For example, a scientist may perform a presentation of their findings or they may write a research piece that outlines their experimentation and the results.
Many scientists perform various projects that support their scientific investigations. Whether you work in a lab or the business industry, as a scientist you should be able to plan and execute a variety of projects in an efficient and timely manner.
Types of scientists
Several industries utilize scientists to gather, test and organize information that will further the success of that industry. The following are a few of the many different types of scientists working today.
A botanist, in the broadest sense, is a scientist who studies plants. However, there are several types of botanists, including those who study soil erosion, plant medicine, the chemical properties of plants and the interaction of plants with other beings such as animals and humans. Botanists typically have a degree in botany or biology and can work in various settings including remote parts of the world and greenhouses. A botanist may also be referred to as a phytologist or plant scientist.
Product development scientist
This type of scientist specializes in developing new products as well as enhancing the efficiency of current products. Common products that a product development scientist may study and create include food, drugs and medical technology. Product development scientists work in a variety of fields including biotechnology, the food industry and pharmaceutical science. This type of scientist typically holds a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the field they work in (e.g. food science).
A physicist is a scientist that studies the various aspects of physics including energy and matter. There are two major types of physicists: theoretical physicists, who study the mathematical aspects of physics to explain and predict physics-related phenomena; and experimental physicists, who study and observe physical phenomena and analyze experiments related to it. Examples of a physicist include atomic physicists, engineering physicists, particle physicists and quantum physicists.
Political scientists study the origin, creation and processes of political systems. They may research different political ideas as well as study and analyze governments, political ideas and trends and policies. There are four major areas of study for political scientists: comparative politics, American politics, political theory and international relations. Most political scientists hold either a master's degree or doctorate in political science or a related field.
A computer scientist is primarily concerned with the development and testing of models that demonstrate various properties of computer-based systems. A computer scientist may specialize in software engineering, theoretical computer science or computer applications. Many computer scientists work for software development companies or scientific development and research firms. This type of scientist typically has a master's degree or doctorate in computer science or a similar field of study.
A biologist is a scientist who focuses on the study of biology or life. Biologists are primarily interested in exploring and explaining how various types of living matter function as well as how different living systems interact with each other. Different types of biologists include geneticists, ecologists, marine biologists and toxicologists. The level of education required to be a biologist will vary depending on the specific field, but most biologists hold a master's or doctorate in their field of study.
An astronomer is a scientist who studies astronomy. Their primary focus of interest is on astronomical beings outside of Earth, such as stars, galaxies and planets. There are various fields that an astronomer can specialize in, including solar astronomy, planetary science and physical cosmology. Most astronomers hold a doctorate in physics or astronomy.
How to become a scientist
Each type of scientist will require different skills, education and experience. However, there are certain steps that someone must take to become a scientist. These steps include:
Take critical thinking and analytical skills classes in high school.
Enroll in math, chemistry, biology and other science-related courses in undergraduate college.
Choose a science major that interests you.
Get a lab internship in college to gain real-life experience.
Obtain a graduate degree in the scientific field you wish to specialize in.
Apply for and obtain a research internship.
Enroll in a post-doctoral research program.
Seek and apply for full-time employment as a scientist.
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