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biomedical scientist

Biomedical scientists analyse body fluids and tissue samples to aid doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. They typically work in hospital laboratories, specialising in one of the following areas:

  • chemical pathology (biochemistry) - analysing blood and other biological materials to diagnose disease and test organ function. This work is highly automated
  • transfusion science - identifying blood groups and testing for compatibility of donor and recipient blood, and preparing blood transfusions and plasma fractions for administration to patients
  • haematology - identifying blood cell abnormalities and calculating haemoglobin levels
  • cellular pathology - analysing tissue samples to establish causes of illness and disease
  • medical microbiology - isolating and identifying micro-organisms and testing their susceptibility to antibiotics
  • virology - identification of viral infections, and conducting screening of those at risk
  • cytology - analysing samples of cellular material collected from patients to seek abnormalities
  • immunology - development of tests and treatments that manipulate the immune system to treat diseases such as AIDS, allergies and leukaemia. This work includes tissue typing for tissue grafts and organ transplants.
Biomedical scientists in each area of work may have the opportunity to become involved in research work.

Work outside the NHS could include carrying out routine tests on food, water, animal or forensic samples, depending on the type of laboratory.

Hours and Environment

Biomedical scientists in the NHS usually work 37.5 hours a week which may involve shift work, on-call, and evening or weekend work to provide continuous cover. Requirements vary between laboratories.

Clean and sometimes sterile working conditions are a requirement. Protective clothing is worn. The work can involve sitting or standing at a bench or piece of specialist equipment for long periods.

Skills and Interests

As a biomedical scientist, you will need:

  • a high level of ability and interest in science and computing
  • an interest in medicine and in the development of new methods of patient care and treatment
  • to be able to concentrate for long periods, and have a high level of attention to detail
  • high ethical standards and the ability to take responsibility for making decisions
  • an enquiring mind and good problem solving skills to lead a research and development team
  • excellent oral and written communication skills
  • to be able to reassure nervous patients if working in branches where contact is likely.

Entry

To become a biomedical scientist, you must achieve each of the following:

  • an Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) accredited honours degree in biomedical science, or another IBMS approved degree which has an acceptable component of biomedical science
  • a minimum of one year's in-service training in an approved laboratory (often incorporated into sandwich degree courses and, increasingly, co-terminus degrees)
  • a Certificate of Competence Registration Portfolio
  • a final assessment – success at this stage leads to the IBMS Certificate of Competence which must be submitted to the Health Professions Council (HPC) with an application for registration. You are now able to use the title of biomedical scientist.

The entry requirements for a biomedical science degree usually consist of five GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3), including maths and English, plus three A level/H grades, preferably including biology and chemistry.

An Access to Higher Education qualification may also be accepted for entry to certain courses. Please check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

Once qualified, biomedical scientists can then go on to specialise in one of the fields outlined in the Work section.

For more details on each stage of pre-registration training contact the IBMS, see Further Information.

Training

There are four grades of biomedical scientist; BMS1 to 4, plus an advanced practitioner level. Some biomedical scientists specialise and continue to study beyond degree level which may provide the opportunity for career progression within the clinical and scientific sector.

As a graduate and registered biomedical scientist, you can undertake advanced IBMS accredited courses and qualifications specific to the field of biomedical science. They include:

  • a Specialist Diploma - this provides evidence of specific skills and knowledge relevant to a certain discipline
  • MSc degree courses - leads to fellowship status within the Institute
  • a Higher Specialist Diploma - tests your competence to practise at a high level within your chosen discipline
  • an Advanced Specialist Diploma - demonstrates expertise within the field, closely associated to Professional Doctorates
  • Professional Doctorates - professionally orientated counterpart to a research doctorate.
Qualified biomedical scientists are encouraged by the HPC and IBMS to maintain, develop and enhance their knowledge and skills by undertaking Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The IBMS run a CPD scheme, which is free to members of the Institute.

Contact the IBMS for more details on CPD and accredited courses; see Further Information section for details.

Opportunities

Biomedical scientists can move into research, training and education, advanced and specialised roles, product development and commerce.

Most biomedical scientists work in hospital laboratories in the NHS, where there are four grades of qualified biomedical scientist. Progression is dependent on experience, for example, in supervising staff, or in carrying out complex work. Gaining higher qualifications, such as an MSc or Fellowship of the Institute of Biomedical Science may also be beneficial.

Opportunities may exist for biomedical scientists in private hospitals, the Public Health Laboratory Service, the National Blood Service, the pharmaceutical industry, various independent and academic research laboratories, and with government agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive.

There are opportunities with voluntary and overseas organisations, such as the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

Annual Income

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Experienced and well-qualified biomedical scientists can earn between £18,500 and £32,000.
Advanced practitioners can earn up to £48,000.

Additional payments may be made for overtime, on-call duties, and to those living in London. Salaries in the private sector may be higher than those within the NHS.

 

 

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The information contained in our Career Profiles Database was correct at time of publishing, but since publication certain details may have changed so please use this section as a research tool and in some cases further research may be required.

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