By carrying out tests on samples collected by doctors and nurses, biomedical scientists help health professionals diagnose and prevent a broad range of medical conditions.
According to the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), biomedical scientists provide the ‘engine room’ of modern medicine. Without their contributions, some of the medical breakthroughs of recent years may not have happened.
In the UK, 70% of NHS diagnoses are based on pathology results provided by biomedical scientists working in laboratories. Globally, more than $240bn is spent on biomedical research and development each year. With the field providing job opportunities across various sectors in a range of locations, biomedical science offers an extremely rewarding career for practitioners.
To aid your job search, we’ve compiled this biomedical scientist job profile that explores the different elements of one of the most compelling professions in STEM.
What does a biomedical scientist do?
As a biomedical scientist, you’ll test patient samples, biopsies, and fluids to help doctors and other clinicians investigate and diagnose illnesses such as HIV, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, and meningitis, as well blood disorders such as anaemia.
Working as part of a laboratory team, you’ll play a key role in evaluating the effectiveness of treatments, develop social programs to improve public health outcomes, and provide evidence-based advice to medical professionals.
Most biomedical scientists specialise in one of four areas: infection sciences; blood sciences; cell sciences; or genetics and molecular pathology. You’ll also be expected to have an in-depth understanding of areas such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, mathematics and psychology.
Biomedical scientists spend the bulk of their time in a laboratory environment. That said, certain parts of the role may also be partially based in offices or, depending on the employer, onsite at large-scale medicine manufacturing plants.
As with other lab-based roles, you’ll be required to wear protective clothing such as lab coats, safety glasses and gloves.
Most biomedical scientists work 9-to-5 on a full-time basis. However, some employers may require you to work weekend shifts or be on-call, so a flexible approach to work is generally expected.
Roles and responsibilities
As a biomedical scientist, you’ll test, analyse and review patient fluids to support doctors in diagnosing and treating human disease.
Other responsibilities include:
What skills does a biomedical scientist need?
- An analytical mindset
- Good manual dexterity
- Time management
- The ability to prioritise tasks
- Advanced research skills
- Common sense
- Excellent verbal communication
- Teamworking skills
- IT skills
Industries and employers
Biomedical scientists are employed by both public- and private-sector organisations across a range of STEM sectors.
Major employers of biomedical scientists include:
- Hospitals and public health organisations
- Universities and colleges
- Specialist research organisations
- Government agencies
- Government-funded research institutions
- Scientific research & development agencies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Medicine manufacturing companies
Tip: Competition for biomedical scientist positions can be fierce, so we recommend submitting your application as early as possible when applying for a job. Doing so will increase your chances of having the hiring manager review your CV.
How much does a biomedical scientist earn?
Biomedical science is a well-paid role that offers competitive salaries for graduates and experienced professionals alike.
According to Prospects.ac.uk, the national average starting salary for a biomedical scientist salary in the UK ranges from around £23,000 to £30,000. In private-sector roles, starting salaries range between £18,000 and £22,000.
More experienced and specialist biomedical scientists can earn up to £50,000, while senior or consultant biomedical scientists are higher still. However, it’s worth noting that salaries can vary depending on factors such as the employer’s size, sector, and location.
In the US, the average biomedical scientist salary is just shy of $70,000. Salaries range from around $40,000 at the entry-level to three figures at the senior level.
How do you become a biomedical scientist?
To be a biomedical scientist in the UK, you’ll need an honours degree (BSc) in biomedical science from a university accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) and approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Aside from an honours degree, collecting a Master’s degree or PhD in biomedical science will significantly improve your chances of finding work.
In the US, the educational threshold for a biomedical scientist is significantly higher than that of a laboratory technician: to pursue a career as a biomedical scientist, you’ll need a PhD in the biological sciences.
Tip: Collecting laboratory experience during your time at university increases your employability. Such experience can be gained by doing a placement year in industry as part of your degree. Alternatively, you can apply for part-time laboratory work to supplement your studies.
With additional experience, you could progress to manage a team or department within a laboratory, or manage a particular area of service provision such as health and safety. You could also become a consultant biomedical scientist.