Biomedical scientist

In NHSScotland, biomedical scientists normally work in laboratories, using computers and complex lab equipment. They conduct a range of tests to help doctors and other healthcare professionals diagnose, monitor and manage diseases. Generally, they would specialise in one of four areas:

  • infection sciences
  • blood sciences
  • cellular sciences
  • gene sciences

Operating theatres and A&E wouldn’t be able to function without the services provided by biomedical scientists. Their work is vital to the detection and investigation of medical conditions.

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To become a biomedical scientist, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Human Biology
  • Maths
  • Statistics

A Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare, or Scientific Technologies, taken in S5 or S6, could give you valuable work experience.

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.

College and university

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

At college, you could do an HNC or HND to set you on the right path. These include:

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Two SWAP programmes that could provide the qualifications needed for university entry into a biomedical science undergraduate degree are:

Successful completion of the course could lead to a degree in biomedical science at a university that participates in the SWAP partnership programme.

To become a biomedical scientist, you must complete an Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) accredited degree.

In Scotland, the following universities offer 4-year full-time undergraduate programmes in Biomedical Science:

  • Abertay University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of the West of Scotland

You must check with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to make sure clinical placement is integrated with the course. If not, you may have to continue training after graduation.

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

The role

You will work in laboratories to conduct complex tests to help diagnose, monitor and manage diseases. You’ll investigate medical conditions such as:

  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • meningitis
  • hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDS

Using automated testing machines, microscopes, computers and other hi-tech equipment, you will analyse and process to help diagnose. You’ll investigate samples taken during health tests, surgery and blood donation services. You must carefully record your experiment results while assisting doctors and healthcare science staff.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • analysing blood samples for disease or abnormalities
  • monitoring organ function
  • using specialist procedures, such as cell culture for cancer
  • screening
  • producing reports and updating computer systems with results
  • providing test results to clinicians
  • monitoring the effectiveness of treatment and medicines

You may be involved in carrying out new research or providing support to other healthcare science staff.

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • collaboration
  • decision-making
  • leadership
  • problem-solving
  • teamwork

Good technical and practical skills are necessary also.

Who you’ll work with

You could work with:

  • specialist nurses
  • doctors
  • healthcare science assistant practitioners
  • clinical scientists

Working environment

You could work in:

  • laboratories
  • A&E
  • wards
  • operating theatres

Useful information

To work as a biomedical scientist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

In the UK, healthcare laboratories are involved in over 70% of diagnoses in the NHS and handle over 150 million samples each year.

Learning and development

Once qualified and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), you would also join the Institute of Biomedical Science (IMBS).

As a biomedical scientist, you would be expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). This is in order to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. You must also do this to maintain your registration with the HCPC.

In the first two years after registering with the HCPC, you can continue your professional development by taking the IMBS Specialist Diploma. The Diploma is offered in a range of disciplines:

  • cellular pathology
  • medical microbiology
  • clinical biochemistry
  • haematology and transfusion science
  • biomedical science

You’ll need to provide evidence of training, specialist knowledge and practical skills via a portfolio.

With the right combination of experience and knowledge, you may be able to become a registered scientist (RSci) or chartered scientist (CSsi). This is achieved through the Science Council.

Career progression

Gaining qualifications will help your career prospects. As your career progresses, there are opportunities to take IBMS higher and expert qualifications. These are aimed at biomedical scientists looking to move into management and advanced practice. This could lead to a more senior or management role, including leading your own team or controlling a budget. You could also become a consultant biomedical scientist.

With the correct experience and knowledge, you may focus on more specialist areas such as:

  • clinical chemistry
  • haematology
  • histology
  • medical microbiology
  • immunology

There will be opportunities for you to teach or train current staff or the next generation of biomedical scientists. With an MSc or PhD in Biomedical Science or relevant subjects, you could move into teaching.

Some biomedical scientists also undertake clinical academic research.