How To Become an Embryologist in 5 Steps
Updated September 21, 2022
Embryologists are medical scientists or health care professionals who focus on studying and improving fertility techniques. If you're passionate about helping others and enjoy science, being an embryologist may be a good career path for you. Learning more about what these professionals do can help you decide whether to pursue this role. In this article, we discuss what an embryologist is, explain what they do, describe where they can work, explore the steps you can follow to become one and review their potential earnings and current job outlook.
What is an embryologist?
An embryologist is a medical professional who specializes in the study of reproduction. Medical embryologists may work with other physicians to create comprehensive health care and family planning patient profiles. Some embryologists are doctors, but others choose to perform research instead.
What does an embryologist do?
Depending on the workplace and specialization, embryologists may have different specific responsibilities. These are some of the daily duties an embryologist may perform:
Researching and gathering fertilization data: To better understand how fertilization works and the techniques we can use to make the process simpler and more accessible, embryologists conduct studies and gather and analyze data.
Developing new techniques: By using studies and other medical or scientific data, embryologists can develop advanced techniques to assist with fertilization. They may work with medical engineers to develop equipment and tools useful for improving the process.
Performing procedures: To assist with family planning and fertilization, embryologists may harvest, store and implant various aspects of the fertilization process.
Collecting samples: Embryologists collect and test samples from their patients or subjects to better understand a person's ability to undergo fertilization techniques or to learn more about human reproduction.
Assisting with family planning: They can advise their clients on how to plan for their families and best practices for increasing fertility and promoting the health of the parents and the baby.
Related: How To Become a Fertility Nurse
Where do embryologists work?
These are some places where embryologists may work:
Fertility laboratories are the places where embryologists can use reproductive materials to create and develop a healthy embryo. An embryologist in the fertility laboratory receives the materials and information from the doctors and prepares the embryo before IVF. When the embryo is ready, the fertility laboratory transfers it back to the doctor so that they can perform the procedure.
Clinics and private practices
A clinic is the part of the hospital in which patients visit with medical professionals but don't admit to the hospital. Private practices are health care offices owned and operated by physicians rather than by a hospital board or administrators. If an embryologist pursues a medical degree, they may choose to work in a clinic or private practice. Those with medical licenses may prescribe the hormones and treatments to their patients, collect the materials, monitor the embryos and perform the procedure themselves.
A clinical laboratory is a research facility in which embryologists strive to collect data about reproductive trends. They use this information to develop strategies for improving fertility. For example, an embryologist in a clinical laboratory may gather information and determine that new hormone treatments can help promote an embryo's health and increase viable pregnancies. They can prepare clinical testing and develop the hormone into a safe and effective treatment.
How to become an embryologist
You can follow these steps to become an embryologist:
1. Determine if it's the best career for you
The first step to becoming an embryologist is ensuring it's the best career for you. If you're passionate about science, family planning and caring for others, embryology may be an excellent field for you. Successful embryologists have advanced empathy and patience, which they need to provide their patients with the best possible care, and they may also work long hours with inconsistent schedules. If you prefer to avoid clinical settings, are interested in a creative career or want a consistent and less rigorous schedule, you may want to pursue a different vocation.
Related: How To Choose a Career Path
2. Pursue a relevant bachelor's degree
To become an embryologist, you need a bachelor's degree in a related field. For example, you may pursue a degree in biology, biomedicine, biochemistry or clinical lab sciences. If you are still in high school, elect to take science classes and study human anatomy to learn more about how reproduction works. In college, focus on studying and developing relationships with your professors and peers. You need an advanced degree as well, so prepare for grad school by maintaining a high GPA, applying for scholarships and participating in university clubs and events.
3. Complete internships or gain lab experience
During college, consider completing internships and gaining lab experience. These experiences can help you build a resume that's more effective when applying to grad school or other positions. You can also use these opportunities to discover your passions and determine what you would like to specialize in. For example, by gaining experience in a lab, you may learn that you prefer working directly with patients.
4. Decide if you want to work directly with patients
The program you enroll in for grad school depends upon your career goals as an embryologist. If you want to work with patients to prescribe hormone treatments, help them plan their families and perform procedures, you likely need a medical degree. If you're interested in performing research or developing embryos in a lab, you may pursue an advanced degree in biochemistry, biomedicine or medical research.
5. Pursue a master's degree, Ph.D. or MD degree
Enroll in a program that suits your career goals and obtain your master's degree, Ph.D. or doctorate of medicine. Which degree you choose and how whether you pursue a master's or more advanced degree depends upon your career goals. During the program, you can refine your skills and create your professional network. During graduate or medical school, you can continue to develop your interests or begin personal research projects.
Salary and job outlook for embryologists
How much an embryologist can earn depends on factors including location, experience, expertise and whether they choose to focus on research or health care. The national average salary for an embryologist is $95,520 per year. Manhasset, New York, is the highest-paying city for embryologists, where they can earn $321,613 per year. An embryologist is a medical scientist, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for medical scientists may grow by as much as 6% between 2019 and 2029.
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