What Does a Scientist Do?

scientist Credit: U.S. Army RDECOM/CC-BY 2.0

Scientists are people who use research and experiments to learn more about the natural world. Scientists use scientific methods to derive knowledge systematically, performing repeatable experiments to ensure that their conclusions are valid and accurate. Scientists must not only be highly educated with regard to math and science, but they also must possess impeccable research skills. Additionally, scientists must be effective communicators and creative problem solvers.

Scientists typically focus their attention in a specific area or subject. For example, biologists are scientists who study living things, while astrophysicists study subjects such as planetary formation, the birth of stars and the fate of the universe. Some scientists have a very narrow focus and titles that reflect this. For example, while biologists study all life forms, ornithologists limit their studies to birds, and botanists restrict their research to plants. Some scientists, called theoretical scientists, concentrate on the conceptual framework of their field, while experimental scientists concentrate on conducting experiments.

Many scientists work at universities or colleges, where they also serve as professors or faculty members. They typically mentor Ph.D. candidates in addition to teaching undergraduate classes. Other scientists work at nonprofit institutions or in the private sector. Alternatively, some scientists become television personalities or authors, in order to educate the general public about science.