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A scientist is a person who explores and examines aspects of the physical world to better understand how they function. It is a generic term encompassing a wide range of fields. All scientists have some type of specialization, such as the human body or the oceans, which provides them with a more formal and specific title. The process of exploration and discovery for a scientist follows a strict set of rules known as the scientific method. This method ensures that new discoveries are confirmed as factual and not just speculation.
The primary duties of a scientist in any field are exploration and research. In different settings, this can mean different things. A scientist who specializes in microbiology could study new bacteria, while a scientist who studies the atmosphere could research the patterns of the wind. The ultimate goal is always to add knowledge to the larger scientific community and help to fuel new discoveries in the future.
Some scientists, such as geologists, spend most of their time outdoors, physically exploring the target of their research. Other scientists, such as a physicist studying how particles interact, spend most of their time in a laboratory. There also are fields where both are required.
Depending on the field of study, the actual job a scientist performs can vary greatly. Doctors studying a new illness will be treating patients and performing studies on cultures and blood samples. An astrophysicist will spend time performing calculations and constructing computer models.
While a scientist can work in any field of study, they also can work for a range of employers. There are large companies that hire scientists to help with their products and projects. There also are governmental organizations that require scientists. Universities and colleges employ scientists to teach and research. Some scientists are able to secure research grants independently or join a funded scientific project and spend their time working toward a defined goal.
Being a scientist requires a very good education. This usually means a earning a doctorate in the chosen field. In many cases, it also means finding internships during school that can provide hands-on experience with the equipment and data that will eventually be the tools of the trade. Many scientists regularly publish their findings or notes from their work, adding to their credentials.
Some scientists, such as a clinical pathologist, might require official certifications. Others might only need membership in a professional association. The requirements and duties of scientists are as broad and diverse as the areas in which they study.