Biomedical Scientist

Biomedical Scientists conduct a range of complex laboratory tests to help Doctors and other healthcare professionals to diagnose, monitor and manage diseases, through the analysis of tissue samples and body fluids. They investigate a range of medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes, meningitis, hepatitis and AIDS.

In NHSScotland, Biomedical Scientists normally work in laboratories, using computers and hi-tech automated lab equipment. They test and analyse biological samples, including blood and urine. Biomedical Scientists work as part of a team, including other Healthcare Science staff, Doctors and Nurses. Most hospital departments, such as operating theatres, wards and A&E wouldn’t be able to function without the services provided by Biomedical Scientists and others in the laboratory service.

As a Biomedical Scientist, you could carry out tests for diseases such as Legionnaires disease, HIV and hepatitis. You could also process and analyse tissue samples from operations and post mortems to help diagnose cancer or other pathology.

You would specialise in one of three areas:

  • Infection Sciences - you’ll study the culture and identification of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that cause infection and disease, including infectious diseases
  • Blood Sciences – you’ll work in a hospital pathology laboratory and carry out tests on blood to diagnose illness or match blood from donors, so it can be given to patients who require a blood transfusion
  • Cellular Sciences – you’ll analyse tissue cells to look for and identify abnormalities to make a diagnosis

Depending on your chosen specialist area, your work activities could 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 or computer systems with data and test results
  • providing test results to clinicians, so they can diagnose and treat patients
  • monitoring the effectiveness of treatment programmes and medicines
  • adhering to quality control procedures to ensure accurate results

You may also be involved in carrying out new research or providing support to other Healthcare Science staff.

To work as a Biomedical Scientist, useful skills will include:

  • technical and practical skills
  • a high level of accuracy and excellent attention to detail
  • strong communication skills
  • teamworking skills
  • committed to the wellbeing of patients
  • professional with an excellent work ethic
  • good problem-solving skills 

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to work on your own initiative and take responsibility for making decisions
  • empathy and understanding when working directly with patients
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods

To become a Biomedical Scientist in the UK, you must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). To register, you successfully complete an Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) accredited degree.

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

However, you should check with the HCPC to find out if the course offered is integrated with clinical placement, i.e. accredited for state registration, otherwise, you may have to continue some form of training after graduation.

The minimum academic entry requirements for these degree courses vary, but most universities in Scotland require SQA Higher AABB grades, including Biology and Chemistry. A pass in National 5 grade A – C in English and Maths is also required. Some universities may also accept an SQA HNC Applied Sciences (SCQF Level 7) for entry into year 1.

Students with SQA HND Biomedical Science (SCQF Level 8) or HND Applied Biological Science (SCQF Level 8) may be allowed advanced entry to year 2.

Entry requirements for biomedical science undergraduate programmes vary depending on the university, college or provider. You are advised to contact each individual provider to find out its specific entry requirements.

Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each university website. To apply for a biomedical science programme you must use the UCAS application process.

You can visit the HCPC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and biomedical science programmes across the UK.

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) – Access to Health & Life Sciences (SCQF Level 6) or Access to Medical Studies (SCQF Level 6) 

These programmes are for adults returning to education, perhaps changing career or seeking to gain the equivalent university entry qualifications needed for a biomedical science undergraduate programme.

There are no formal entry qualifications, but applicants should have a good standard of general education and have been away from formal education for a minimum of 2 – 3 years.

Successful completion of the course could lead to: 

  • A degree in biomedical science by applying to universities that participate in the SWAP partnership programme
  • Entry to an HNC Applied Sciences course (SCQF level 7) offered by several further education colleges in Scotland

Please visit the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) website for more information or you can view the following videos:

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

Continuing professional development (CPD)

As a qualified Biomedical Scientist, you would be expected to undertake CPD activities in order to:

  • keep your knowledge and skills up to date
  • maintain your registration with the HCPC

The HCPC provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.

With experience, there are opportunities to progress to more senior roles.

During your career as a Biomedical Scientist, you can undertake advanced IBMS accredited courses and qualifications, such as:

  • Specialist, Higher Specialist, and Advanced Specialist Diplomas
  • MSc degree courses
  • professional doctorates

These qualifications will help your career prospects, leading to more senior roles or providing the opportunity to specialise in areas of biomedicine, such as blood sciences, cellular sciences, infection sciences and microbiology.

Find out more information from these professional and regulatory bodies: 

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The HCPC is an independent, UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for health, psychological, and in England; social work professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the HCPC website to find out more.

Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS)

The IBMS is the professional body for biomedical scientists in the UK. It sets standards of practice to protect patients, funds research and promotes public awareness of biomedical science. Find out more on the IBMS website

The Academy for Healthcare Science

The Academy for Healthcare Science is an umbrella organisation covering training and policy issues for a range of healthcare science professions, including Biomedical Scientists. Find out more at: