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 may specialise in one of three 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
Depending on your specialism 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.
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 2019. They usually start on Band 5, £24,670 to £30,742 a year. A biomedical scientist specialist is on Band 6, £30,401 to £38,046 a year.
With further qualifications and experience this could rise to Band 7, £37,570 to £44,688 a year as an advanced biomedical scientist.
You would spend most of your time working in a hospital 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 and gloves.
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.
Five Scottish universities (Abertay, Glasgow Caledonian, Robert Gordon, Strathclyde 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.
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.
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; Dramatherapist; 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.