You'll need strong analytical skills and practical laboratory experience to work as a biomedical scientist
As a biomedical scientist, you'll carry out a range of laboratory and scientific tests on tissue samples and fluids to help clinicians diagnose and treat diseases. You'll also evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.
Your work is extremely important to many hospital departments, such as operating theatres and A&E, and the functions you carry out are wide ranging. For example, you may work on medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes or AIDS, screen for and monitor a range of diseases or carry out tests for emergency blood transfusions.
Biomedical scientists usually specialise in one of three areas: infection sciences; blood sciences; or cellular sciences.
Infection sciences include:
Blood sciences include:
Cellular sciences include:
As biomedical scientist you'll need to:
Income data for NHS salaries from pay bands agreed under the Agenda for change. Figures are intended as a guide only.
If working for the NHS, you will generally do a standard 37.5 hours per week. A flexible approach to work is essential to cover weekend and bank holiday working. Shift work covering out-of-ours work may be required in some posts.
Some opportunities exist for part-time work or job sharing. Self-employment is unlikely as it is rarely possible to set up an independent laboratory.
You'll need to be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) to work as a biomedical scientist in the UK.
If you've already got a biomedical science degree accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), through an education provider approved by the HCPC, the next step is to undergo a period of training in an IBMS-approved training laboratory where you will complete an IBMS Training Portfolio. On successful completion of the training period, you can apply for a Certificate of Competence from the IBMS to show you're eligible to apply to the HCPC for registration as a biomedical scientist.
If your degree isn't accredited by the IBMS, contact them to have your degree assessed and they will advise on whether or not you need additional academic education.
Some degrees accredited by the IBMS, usually referred to as applied biomedical science degrees, include the training as part of the degree and these may also be approved by the HCPC.
You can take a BSc degree in Healthcare Science (Life Sciences) with options to specialise in blood sciences, infection sciences or cellular sciences through the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP). These degrees must be accredited by the IBMS or approved by the HCPC if you want to be eligible to apply for registration as a biomedical scientist when you graduate. For a list of accredited courses, see the IBMS website or NHS Careers Course Finder for a list of Healthcare Science degrees.
It's also possible to work as a trainee biomedical scientist if you have A-levels in life sciences, but only if your employer is willing to offer financial support and the time off to study for an accredited degree on a part-time basis.
You will need to have:
It's worth arranging a visit to a local hospital pathology laboratory before applying for courses to get a feel for the type of work carried out.
Competition for trainee positions is fierce as there are limited opportunities, so check job adverts regularly and contact hospitals directly. Most hospitals will have an approved training laboratory, although this doesn't automatically mean that they will take on a trainee. A placement or other work experience in a laboratory and evidence of medical interest is useful.
The NHS is one of the main employers of biomedical scientists. Work is generally carried out in clinical pathology laboratories and regional laboratories. You could also work for NHS Blood and Transplant or Public Health England or in pathology and research laboratories in private sector hospitals.
Other employers include:
There are also opportunities to work on healthcare projects worldwide with international non-governmental and voluntary organisations such as the:
Look for jobs vacancies at:
Specialist recruitment agencies also advertise vacancies, see:
Normally, in the first two years after registering with the HCPC, you continue your professional development with specialist training, usually in one discipline. The IBMS specialist portfolio provides evidence of your training, specialist knowledge, practical skills and competency.
On successful completion of the portfolio, you'll be eligible for the award of a specialist diploma in your chosen discipline, for example cellular pathology or clinical biochemistry, and are recognised as a specialist practitioner. Once you've got a recommended minimum of five years' whole-time equivalent post-registration experience you can take the IBMS Higher Specialist Diploma.
It's also possible to further your knowledge and expertise via an MSc or PhD. Once you've achieved a high level of scientific knowledge and experience, you may become eligible to register as a chartered scientist (CSci). For more details of post-registration professional development opportunities, see IBMS qualifications.
Opportunities for career development are generally good. There is a set career structure in place in the NHS and in order to progress through the pay bands you need to show you have the required skills, experience and knowledge.
Upon qualification, many biomedical scientists choose to specialise in a particular area of biomedical science and progress to senior and specialist roles.
Areas of specialism include:
It's also possible to move into new areas such as cytogenetics and molecular biology.
With further experience and qualifications, for example an MSc or PhD, it's possible to reach the top of the profession by becoming a consultant biomedical scientist.
Senior roles often involve managing a team or department within a laboratory, or managing a particular area of service provision such as health and safety, quality management or service delivery. You may also become involved in advanced specialist scientific work, clinical research or training and education. For information about careers in biomedical research, see the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Some biomedical scientists may choose a postgraduate route to other clinical roles, such as endocrinology, or you may wish to move into health promotion or the commercial sector in product development or scientific sales and marketing.