Biomedical scientists test samples of body fluids, blood and tissue to help doctors diagnose disease and to monitor patients’ treatment. They have a sound knowledge of biology, biochemistry and chemistry.
You could be:
- working in a laboratory, in a hospital, in the pharmaceutical industry, for a private company or a government department
- using computers, microscopes and other hi-tech laboratory equipment
- identifying viruses or other organisms, causing, for example, hospital-acquired infections, cancer, HIV or food poisoning
- testing samples in emergency situations, for example to find out if a patient has had a heart attack or has overdosed
- making up slides to look at under a microscope
- growing cultures of organisms that cause diseases
- communicating test results to medical staff
- keeping accurate records and producing reports.
You may specialise in one of three specific areas:
- medical microbiology – the study of micro-organisms
- virology – the study of viruses
- immunology – the study of the immune system
- blood transfusion science
- clinical chemistry – the study of body fluids and the adverse effects of chemicals on the body
- haematology – the study of blood
- cytology – the study of cells
- histopathology – the study of human tissue
- reproductive science.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
- where you work
- the size of the company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
Biomedical scientists in the NHS are paid on the Agenda for Change scale. The current pay scales are from April 2018. They usually start on Band 5, £23,113 to £29,905 a year. A biomedical scientist specialist is on Band 6, £27,635 to £37,000 a year.
With further qualifications and experience this could rise to Band 7, £32,974 to £43,471 a year as an advanced biomedical scientist.
- You would spend most of your time working in a laboratory.
- Hours would normally be regular but you may have to do shifts or be on call to give emergency cover.
- You might work close to infectious viruses or bacteria but would be protected against them.
- You would have to wear protective clothing, such as a white coat, a mask or gloves.
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- You need to have an honours degree in biomedical science. You normally need 4 Highers, including science subjects, for entry to the degree. You may also need English, Maths and Biology or Chemistry at National 5.
- Four Scottish universities (Abertay, Glasgow Caledonian, Robert Gordon and the West of Scotland) offer integrated degrees accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), which also meet the registration requirements of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). HCPC registration is essential if you want to work within the NHS.
- The University of Strathclyde also offers BSc Hons Biomedical Science which is accredited by the IBMS. However, to meet the registration details of the HCPC you would need to complete IBMS registration and gain the IBMS Certificate of Competence.
- If you have a relevant degree which is not recognised by the IBMS, you would contact them to request a degree assessment. You would then complete the recommended top-up modules, and follow the HCPC registration procedure as above.
- You may be able to enter with 3 Highers or a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) in biomedical sciences. You then study part time for an approved degree. For an HNC or HND you normally need 1-2 Highers. This route depends on employer financial support and is much less common.
As a biomedical scientist you might work in the National Health Service (NHS), the Blood Transfusion Service, private or Medical Research Council laboratories, Food Standards Agency or in pharmaceutical manufacturing.
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What Does it Take?
You need to be able to:
- concentrate and record your work carefully
- work as part of a team of specialists
- organise your own workload
- work accurately under pressure
- work on your own initiative and make decisions.
You should have:
- excellent attention to detail and observation skills
- good hand skills, to use delicate equipment
- respect for patient confidentiality
- a very high level of accuracy
- strong communication skills.
- Training is on the job and through courses you do while working as a trainee.
- Part of your training involves completing a portfolio with evidence of your work towards the certificate.
- Training usually takes 1-2 years, depending on your degree.
- Biomedical scientists usually start by working at a laboratory bench.
- With experience, you may be able to specialise or to move to quality control.
- You might supervise other staff or manage laboratory staff and services.
- You must normally undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to keep up to date with the latest developments and technology.
- You may need to gain further qualifications, such as an MSc or the Fellowship of the Institute of Biomedical Science to progress to a high level.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Tel: 0300 500 4472
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards of professional training, performance and conduct in the following health care professions: Arts Therapists; Audiologist; Biomedical Scientist; Chiropodist and Podiatrist; Clinical Scientist; Dietician; Occupational Therapist; Operating Department Practitioner; Orthoptist; Paramedic; Physiotherapist; Practitioner Psychologist; Prosthetist and Orthotist; Radiographer; Speech and Language Therapist. (The HCPC may regulate other healthcare professions in the future.) The HCPC website contains a register of all approved courses in the above professions.
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