Biomedical science is generally comprised of research, testing and analysis in the field of medical science. It covers a wide range of subject matter, including organs, bodily fluids, cells, human tissues, the immune system and viruses. There is also a focus on disease-causing micro-organisms and the possible treatments for their effects.
Biomedical scientists usually focus on one or two of these particular areas. Their work is primarily lab-based, using advanced medical equipment and automated systems to grow, test and analyse cultures from affected samples.
Results and recommendations on possible avenues of treatment are conveyed to physicians and medical specialists responsible for patient treatment. Biomedical scientists also study the effects of various drugs and treatments on lab cultures, and are critical contributors to the overall diagnosis-treatment cycle.
Although they work predominantly in the lab, biomedical scientists can be employed by a variety of organisations: private and public sector hospitals, forensic and medical research institutes, local and central government health authorities, and academic institutions.
The National Health Service (NHS) and Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of the Department of Health, are the largest employers in the public sector.
Salary & benefits
Pre-registration biomedical trainees earn salaries between £21,000 and £28,000; post-registration salaries are between £26,000 and £35,000; and senior scientists (with over five years of experience) earn anything up to £70,000.
Allowances paid to biomedical scientists may include shift or overtime allowances for weekend, holiday and rotational work schedules.
Those employed in hospitals or large healthcare facilities may need to work in shifts in order to handle sample-testing procedures for incoming emergency and critical cases.
While 95% of a biomedical scientist’s work is lab-based, with little or no patient interaction, some employers may require their biomedical specialists to work closely with patients and other members of the medical team.
However, biomedical scientists are barred from providing medical advice unless they have the relevant qualifications.
The basic academic requirements to work as a biomedical scientist are an accredited degree and a Certificate of Competence awarded by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS).
Students can study for an undergraduate degree and IBMS certificate simultaneously, or undertake studies for the IBMS certificate after completing the three year degree.
Practical experience through vacation or industrial training placements is desirable. Candidates must be able to demonstrate high levels of competency in the laboratory environment, as well as familiarity with technical and analytical processes and systems.
Training & progression
The IBMS, the approved professional body for granting professional certifications, also provides extensive on-the-job experience. The Certificate of Competence bestows scientists with Licentiate status, after which it is possible to undertake an IBMS Specialist Diploma and progress from Licentiate status to Member status.
Progression to Member status involves a two-year period of work experience as a Licentiate, the passing of relevant examinations and the completion of advanced biomedical science degrees.
Career growth in the private sector is driven by performance and specialist expertise, while professionals employed in the NHS and other public sector authorities are governed by the respective service’s rules and regulations.