Embryologist – Reproductive Health

Medical scientists specializing in the study of reproduction are known as embryologists. They study embryos in a variety of settings such as fertility clinics, laboratories, commercial industries, and hospitals. Capable of combining research with clinical work, they can either work in a fertility clinic helping those with reproductive issues, or they may also work in a research lab.

Most commonly, embryologists can be found assisting in in vitro fertilization or IVF. This process starts with the stimulation of a woman’s ovaries, so she begins to ovulate. Once the eggs are formed, they are harvested using ultrasound guidance.

They can help with in vitro fertilization, usually referred to as IVF. IVF is a process that begins with ovulation induction for stimulating a woman’s ovaries. The eggs are then harvested through an ultrasound-guided technique. After the eggs are retrieved, they are fertilized in a laboratory for three to five days. Next, the embryos may be transferred into the woman’s uterus or they may be frozen for implantation at a later date.

An embryologist’s job involves retrieving eggs from a patient, conducting tests on samples, working with embryos, and retrieving sperm samples from a patient. From the time an egg is retrieved to the time that the embryo is planted into the womb, an embryologist must be responsible for every step of the process. Finally, after a viable embryo is implanted in the womb, they must monitor the pregnancy until a successful delivery is made.

Embryologist Specializations & Degree Types

Embryology has many sub branches in it. They are as follows:

  • Comparative embryology: This sub-branch studies, compares, and analyzes the embryological development of different types of species.
  • Descriptive embryology: Descriptive embryology deals with the observation and description of the development of an embryo.
  • Experimental embryology: Also called as analytical embryology or casual embryology, this type involves experimenting with embryos to study various developmental stages. Experimental embryology helps scientists understand the basic mechanisms of organisms. This field involves dissecting embryos, removing and transplanting various parts of an embryo, and even altering environmental conditions.
  • Chemical embryology: Also known as biochemical or physiological embryology, this branch deals with biochemical, physiological, and biophysical techniques.
  • Tetralogy: This branch deals with the malfunctioning of an embryo.
  • Developmental biology: This branch deals with the development of the embryo as well as other processes such as metamorphosis, the normal and neoplastic growth, regeneration and tissue repair.

Admission Requirements for a Reproductive Technology Program

An undergraduate degree in biology, biotechnology, biomedical science, or another related discipline is the minimum requirement for students who wish to become embryologists. A bachelor’s degree provides students with the foundation for getting started in the field. After earning a bachelor’s degree, students can also apply for a graduate degree in embryology. Earning a master’s degree is not a requirement, but it does help to qualify them for better employment opportunities. Some embryologists earn an MD or PhD as well. Students with a PhD or MSc will be favored for positions in management over students with just a BSc.

Admission requirements for a bachelor’s degree generally involves a high school diploma, a high school grade point average of at least 2.5, an official copy of high school transcript or GED, official transcripts from each college or university previously attended, and proof of English proficiency for international students.

Major admission requirements for a master’s degree in embryology include an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, transcripts, three letters of recommendation, personal statement or essay, and TOEFL scores for international students.

Accreditation for Embryology Degree Programs

Accreditation helps students gauge whether a program will provide them with relevant skills and knowledge. Accredited institutions undergo rigorous review based on certain quality standards. This ensures that they provide top-notch training to their students.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) provides accreditation to programs in biotechnology, while the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering also accredits programs in the field.

Although there is no accreditation body specifically for embryology, all prospective students of this discipline should ensure that their program of choice has been accredited by a reputable authority—one recognized by the Department of Education’s Commission on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

On-Campus Degree Programs Related to Embryology

Colorado State University

Colorado State University offers a bachelor of science degree program in biomedical sciences. The program prepares students for graduate programs in biomedical science, as well as a career in biotechnology.

Applicants to the program are required to submit high school transcripts, test scores, a personal statement, recommendation letters, and evidence of English proficiency (for international students only), among other documentation. Additionally, students who are first-year applicants and under 23 years of age or those who have passed high school less than five years ago must also submit SAT or ACT scores.

The program comprises 120 credit-hours. Courses include biomedical sciences, the fundamentals of physiology, introductory eukaryotic cell biology, the fundamentals of organic chemistry, an introduction to statistical methods, and the principles of biochemistry.

Students develop a strong understanding of anatomy and physiology, especially at the molecular level. They also develop soft skills such as leadership, communication, and critical thinking. At the end of the program, graduates can work in a variety of industries such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and biotechnology.

  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,407 per credit-hour

Northeastern University

Northeastern University offers a master of science in biotechnology program. This non-thesis brick-and-mortar program is enriched by a wide variety of practical opportunities preparing students to collaborate, lead and innovate as managerial, technical, or research professionals. The program offers the following concentrations:

  • Molecular biotechnology
  • Process development
  • Manufacturing and quality operations
  • Biopharmaceutical analytical sciences
  • Pharmaceutical technologies
  • Scientific information management
  • Regulatory science
  • Biotechnology enterprise

The faculty for the program includes renowned professors who bring extensive knowledge of their field, industry trends, and practical experience to the classroom.

Admission requirements for the program include a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited college or university, unofficial transcripts for all institutions attended, personal statement, a current resume, two letters of recommendation, and official TOEFL, IELTS or PTE scores for non-native English speaking applicants.

​Made up of 34​ credit-hours, the program provides students with professional skills and biotechnology expertise needed to be successful in governmental, clinical, and industrial settings. Some of the courses include an ​introduction to biotechnology, the biotechnology enterprise, molecular cell biology for biotechnology, analytical biotechnology, and experimental design and biostatistics.

The program provides students with an overview of innovation, intellectual property, planning, government regulation, and strategic alliances. Students also delve into biotechnology entrepreneurship, management, and the legal aspects of science. They gain real-world knowledge, awareness, perspective, and confidence. On completion of the program, students can pursue opportunities in various sectors including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, as well as entrepreneurial biotechnology.

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $52,700 for the program

Online or Hybrid Degree Programs Related to Embryology

Arizona State University

Arizona State University’s International School of Biomedical Diagnostics offers a fully online master of science in biomedical diagnostics. The program covers the following four core areas:

  • Application of diagnostics
  • Business of diagnostics
  • Science of diagnostics
  • Technology of diagnostics

The program’s admission requirements include a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university in biomedical informatics, life sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, biochemistry, or any other closely related field; a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0; official transcripts; two letters of recommendation; and proof of English proficiency.

​Comprising 30​ credit-hours, the program includes courses such as current perspectives in biomedical diagnostics, an introduction to biomedical informatics, health economics, the regulation of medical diagnostics, policy and payment models, biomedical device design, and molecular diagnostics.

The program introduces students to the role of diagnostics in different aspects of healthcare such as pharmaceuticals and technology, management of patients, healthcare finance, and healthcare policy.

Graduates of the program are well-equipped to pursue opportunities in quality systems, business development, regulatory affairs, clinical research support and management, sales management, and account management. They can take up roles as product heads, general managers, laboratory directors, national sales directors, regulatory and policy leads, and more.

  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $831 per credit-hour

University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado offers an online master’s degree in biomedical science, which provides students with a strong foundation in biomedical coursework and underlying and supporting medicine.

Admission requirements for the program include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (or an equivalent degree from a foreign institute), a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better, English language proficiency for international students residing outside of the United States, and test scores.

This is a 30-credit-hour program that requires students to pass a comprehensive exam in order to graduate. The curriculum includes courses such as ​biomedicine and careers, immunology and disease, virology, reproductive and developmental biology, molecular genetics, and developmental biology.

The program helps students enhance their academic credentials and get prepared for entrance to a health professional school or biomedical career.

  • Location: Greeley, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $580 per credit-hour

How Long Does it Take to Become an Embryologist?

Embryology is the study of embryos, not just human or mammalian, but also those of animals that have different fetal development cycles such as turtles or flies. A bachelor’s degree in biomedicine, biology, or biomedical science is generally the minimum requirement for becoming an embryologist. Some positions may require the student to have a master’s or doctoral degree. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four to five years to complete, while a master’s degree takes an additional two years of study, and a PhD takes another three years. In all, one can expect four to nine years of postsecondary studies to become an embryologist.

How To Become an Embryologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Embryologists are medical professionals and scientists focusing on reproductive research and fertility treatments. They are responsible for running fertility tests, harvesting eggs and sperm, and conducting in-vitro fertilization procedures for patients that have problems with fertility.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step for becoming an embryologist. Students will have to major in subjects such as medical laboratory science, biology, or a related field. With a bachelor’s degree, students can expect to find entry-level work in medical laboratories and acquire professional laboratory experience. However, a bachelor’s degree is not sufficient if one wishes to become an embryologist.

Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree (Two Years or More, Optional)

For conducting embryology procedures in a laboratory and advancing to positions of leadership, students will require a master’s degree. This will help them find work in labs observing and conducting IVF procedures.

Step 3: Earn a PhD or MD Degree (Three Years or More, Optional)

Further, if students wish to conduct independent research or work with patients, they will be required to earn either an MD or a PhD. Those with a PhD are well-qualified to conduct experiments and research around infertility and come up with new solutions. For treating patients or prescribing medicines, a medical degree is required.

What Do Embryologists Do?

Embryologists have a wide range of duties and responsibilities such as assisting physicians with clinical work, informing patients about embryonic abnormalities or reproductive health problems, retrieving eggs from patients, conducting diagnostic tests on embryos and eggs, and assisting with in vitro fertilization. They also conduct experiments to study the functions and genetics of embryos, maintain the viability of embryos during processing, and are responsible for maintenance of equipment and records.

Here are some common tasks that an embryologist might perform:

  • Performing various embryological medical procedures, such as fertility analysis and in-vitro fertilization
  • Counseling and advising patients on fertility and ART (assisted reproductive technology) procedures
  • Treating infertility issues using ART
  • Collecting, processing, and preserving reproductive gametes from patients
  • Ensuring that sperm, embryos, and eggs are properly stored and cared for in laboratories

Embryologist Certifications & Licensure

Certification is not a requirement for practicing embryology. However, earning a certification does help students demonstrate basic or advanced knowledge of clinical embryology and get access to lucrative opportunities.

One such certification is offered by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). The main objective of the ESHRE is to promote an understanding of reproductive medicine and biology. It is one of the most renowned certifications all over the globe. As an ESHRE-certified clinical embryologist, candidates will be able to participate in the continuing professional development (CPD) program developed by the ESHRE.

In order to receive this certification, students must have a BSc in natural sciences and at least three years of hands-on experience. For the senior clinical embryologist certification, students will need an MSc or PhD in natural sciences and a minimum of three years of hands-on experience.

How Much Do Embryologists Make?

While there is no specific information on the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) for embryologists, it does list the median salary of a medical scientist as $84,810, as of May 2018. The number of medical scientists in that year was 130,700.

According to PayScale (Dec. 2019), the average salary for an embryologist is $68,240 with the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $46,000
  • 150th percentile (median): $68,000
  • 90th percentile: – $110,000

PayScale also reports that the average pay by experience level for an embryologist is as follows:

  • Less than one year: $52,000
  • One to four years: $58,000
  • Five to nine years: $72,000
  • Ten to 19 years: $ 87,000
  • 20+ years: $83,000

Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani

Writer

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).