We are now in 2020 and we all know that the job prospects of a biomedical Science graduate aren’t the greatest. There seems to be a lot of misinformation, claiming biomedical science graduates can get outlandish jobs if they play their cards right.
Whilst becoming a neuroscientist with a biomedical science degree isn’t technically impossible, it’s probably highly unlikely that the average bioscience student will get such a role.
I’ll be mainly focusing on more attainable, accessible, and reasonable roles, and how a biomedical science student may go about getting into that specific field.
Entry Salary: £18,000 – £22,000
Working Hours: 40 hours a week
Qualifications: BSc Biomedical science, IBMS Registration Portfolio
Work Experience: Medical Laboratory (haematology, Microbiology, Pathology, biochemistry, cancer laboratory)
Straight out of the gate, this is the obvious choice and probably the job role you hoped to fall back on.
The average salary of a biomedical science graduate in the NHS is around £22,000, putting you at around band 5.
To become a biomedical scientist, having an accredited Biomed degree isn’t quite enough.
How to register as a biomedical scientist?
You must first complete an IBMS registration portfolio which will show an employer you have the necessary skills to conduct certain analytical test and adhere to any outlined safety regulations.
The registration portfolio isn’t completed as part of a Biomed degree, but more as a placement in a laboratory that has IBMS registration training approval.
This is usually done after you have graduated.
The first step in completing a registration portfolio is filling in an IBMS training portfolio form which incurs a £132 fee.
The application is then submitted alongside your supporting documents such as passport scans and your degree certificate.
Once approved you’re assigned a laboratory, and a training officer, who is responsible for all your training, and the completion of your portfolio.
What happens after completing your IBMS registration portfolio?
After several weeks of hard time-consuming, and often mundane work, you will have completed your IBMS registration portfolio.
To complete the process, your portfolio must be verified by an IBMS verifier.
This likely will include talking about areas of your portfolio that will need improvements, or even being asked to give a tour of the lab just to test your familiarity with the laboratory equipment.
The verifier will then send in his report to the IBMS registration team, and once this is received, along with your training officer’s portfolio feedback form, IBMS will contact HCPC to confirm you have passed your training portfolio.
you are now eligible to become registered as a full biomedical scientist.
Expect to also receive your certificate of competence within the week!
Are there faster and easier ways of getting your IBMS registration?
In my university (University of Bradford), an identical program called Healthcare Science ran alongside the Biomedical Science program.
The only difference was students would complete their degree with a completed portfolio, since the degree was associated with placements and reduced university contact time.
The only issue is you will be essentially working for free, 9-5 during your placements, and you will spend very little time at university from year 2 onwards.
You might even start to miss lectures a little!
There are also very limited spaces on these Healthcare Sciences courses making them quite competitive.
To give an idea, 300 people were on my biomedical science course, but only 10 made it onto the healthcare science course, and even less ended up receiving their full accreditation.
So, in summary there is no easy way of receiving IBMS accreditation, but if you put in the work, you will eventually get it done!
Biomedical Science Lecturer
Entry Salary: £20,000 – £26,000
Working Hours: 35 hours a week
Qualifications: PhD in Sciences Subject
Work Experience: Undergraduate student supervision during PhD
No one wants to become a university lecturer right after spending 3 years probably hating their own!
Becoming a higher education lecturer may not be an exciting prospect, however if you enjoyed a certain aspect of your degree, and wouldn’t mind extending your knowledge to fresh university students, lecturing may be a good option.
There are a few ways of becoming a higher education lecturer, but the quickest I know of is a route one of my supervisors took which allowed her to begin lecturing at age 24.
Quickest Way to Become a Biomedical Science Lecturer:
This route starts off with you completing and achieving a first-class degree in biomedical science. This will show your dedication for the subject.
At the very least, you must have achieved a 2:1.
You must then enrol on a master’s program, usually an MRes in biological Sciences such as genomics or global infectious disease.
The goal is to begin getting specific and arming yourself with specialist knowledge, valuable to university departments.
In my experience universities are often in need of geneticists since the field is changing at such a rapid pace.
Straight after your master’s, you will continue your studies into a Ph.D. that will likely last another 3 years.
This is a small price to pay for the amount of knowledge and niche expertise you will gain, making you invaluable to any university department.
Whilst doing research, you can expect to actually begin taking on various teaching duties around the university.
This may include the supervision and coordination of groups of students to perform a range of laboratory techniques, assessing health and safety of students to ensure risk assessments are followed correctly, and marking and giving feedback on student exams.
This will help you gain experience whilst you work towards your postgraduate masters or PhD.
Your ability to time manage will be key as you will often have multiple priorities to uphold, but fear not, as this will demonstrate your competency in this future job role.
You will also begin to develop relationships with your home university that will allow the transition from PhD student, to PhD lecturer to be as seamless as possible.
If however you want a change of environment, your successful completion of a PhD will allow you freedom to apply to many other institutions, as there are always vacancies that need to be filled.
So long as you have conducted yourself with utmost professionalism, expect a glowing reference from your supervisor, and welcome the journey that academia may take you.
What are the benefits of being a science lecturer?
You can continue your research
You still get to conduct your favourite areas of research, and work on reports and publications.
You are seen as an expert in your field, and the university will capitalise on this as they benefit from getting the institutions name on as many research papers as possible.
You can design your lectures how you want
You can really take the teaching into your own hands as a university lecturer!
You don’t necessarily have to follow a strict teaching plan like a school teacher, as there is some level of autonomy associated with the course design and lecturing in general.
You can work from home
You also don’t have strict 9-5pm time slots to fill, which means some days, you may work from home, staying in touch with colleagues and students via emails and texts.
Good salary with growth opportunity
The entry level starting salary of a lecturer ranges from £20,000 to £25,000.
This is when you are fresh out of a PhD program, and are still employed technically as junior lecturers.
This begins to increase with experience, where senior lecturers will expect to make around £30,000 to £40,000+ depending on your roles and involvement with the university.
you may even partner with brands to conduct research on their behalf, getting lots of funding money in the process.
When you become more established as a senior lecturer, you may be involved in the design of new undergraduate degree programs, opening opportunities for an even higher wage to reflect your integral role within the faculty.
Biomedical Research Scientist
Entry Salary: £18,000 – £22,000
Working Hours: 35 hours a week
Qualifications: PhD in Sciences Subject
Work Experience: Postgraduate Research Projects
If you have successfully achieved a PhD but you don’t fancy following in the footsteps of your fellow academics and supervisors, you may instead consider carrying on with research and taking a more behind the scenes approach to academia.
A biomedical research scientist is a rather broad way to describe someone conducting research for a university or private commercial company.
What does a biomedical research scientist do?
You may work as an entry level researcher if you hold a BSc and are possibly working towards a masters.
This is more widely known as a research assistant, as you will likely be working under the supervision of a more senior PhD scientist.
While this may sound like you doing all the work and other people getting the credit, which it often is, this is where most scientists begin their careers and build their laboratory competence to a level where they soon can start designing and implementing their own experiments.
Benefits of being a research assistant
Being an entry level researcher isn’t all that bad;
You won’t have to write proposals for funding as this will be the job of your supervisor. You will likely be provided all the equipment, and simply given the task to run experiments and collect data.
Don’t however expect to be the first author on any publications just because you did the bulk of the work!
Skills needed to be a research assistant
The day to day of such a researcher involves being responsible for carrying out multiple experiments and assays in a timely manner.
You will also learn to implement laboratory techniques in a way that demonstrates accuracy and quality.
After all there is no point repeating an experiment if you accidentally did it slightly different than the first (even though there is a time and place for changing variables).
You will need to learn practical analytical techniques such as qPCR, SDS PAGE, western blotting, ELISA, HPLC etc.
An opportunity can arise even during your undergraduate studies where your supervisor may need a lab assistant to run experiments during the summer.
This can happen more often than you think, and you may even get paid for your work. I know this because it happened to me! I urge you to accept such opportunities
going commercial as a biomedical scientist
When you have received your PhD, and have some experience under your belt, you may be employed as a biomedical science researcher in another institution, or even for a commercial company if so you wish.
Companies such as Estée Lauder have laboratories where they run experiments on their cosmetic products, testing product safety and efficacy.
Taking this one step further, you can apply for roles in biotech companies that actively seek expertise of newly gained PhDs to push their companies to the forefront of their respective fields.
An example company you may look at is Oxford Biomedica, who specialise in making “genetic medicines” for diseases that have a high genetic component.
Their team is always in need of senior and principal scientists to work in close relationship with the R&D engineers, to meet the project needs of the company.
These more senior positions demand postgraduate degrees as you will need in depth experience delivering on such upstream projects.
You will be working essentially as a line manager for analytical scientists in this case.
You will ensure everyone working underneath you is well trained and contributing adequately to achieve the specified goals in a time constrained environment.
Definitely worth reading around this space, especially if you have interests in commercial team management.
Entry Salary: £15,000 – £25,000
Working Hours: Flexible
Qualifications: Master’s Degree
Work Experience: Writing Articles for Blogs and Newspapers
What is science journalism?
An often-overlooked profession, science journalism is all about reporting about science to the general public, who are mostly non-scientists.
The main three types of science journalism are writing for magazines and newspapers, writing for blogs, and writing for TV.
Writing for a blogs is probably the most well-known type of science journalism.
It often involves taking ground-breaking high-level research published in a scientific journal, and bringing that down to the level and understanding of the average person.
Why do we need science journalists?
It is a well-known fact that when researchers write their papers, they pack as much specialist jargon into their reports as humanely possible.
More-or-less as a way to validate their intelligence to their colleagues, but also to ensure their work can’t be misquoted due to unspecific terminology and loose writing.
The problem is the everyday person won’t understand the term “deoxyribonucleic acid” but will easily understand if you said “DNA”.
As a science writer, it would be your job to simplify an important scientific discovery and explain the importance of such a discovery.
The original paper about the double-helix nature of DNA written by Watson and crick would be absolutely impossible for someone to even read let alone understand.
However due to science journalists educating the public about the importance of DNA and it’s future implications, we now have technologies (e.g. 23andMe) and forensic tests widely used and accepted by the public.
How to get started in science journalism?
Just begin writing! Create a free blog, browse articles in Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet etc, and just write a quick profile of a new discovery, and how it could revolutionise the future.
The key here is generating a piece of writing that is easy to understand, but still technically accurate.
With the experience will come the ability to churn out written pieces at speed to meet the demands of whoever you write for.
How to actually land a job?
Once you have some experience writing for a blog, most likely your own, begin reaching out to other blogs, preferably bigger ones.
Offer to write pieces for them for free, and in return, they post your link at the end of the piece. This will get you exposure from people reading your piece, and boost your credibility as a writer.
If you aren’t very comfortable building a blogging career, you might instead look to find employment with a news or TV station.
News outlets such as IBtimes or even the journal nature themselves have vacancies for science writer specialists.
These roles will include producing accurate and interesting content for manuscripts, grants, reports, and presentations.
You will essentially be applying your biomedical knowledge to help describe complex data for both scientific and lay audiences.
You will also be involved in designing scientific illustrations to help in making your explanations more accessible to the wider public.
This is an ideal position for a biomedical science student with a knack for reading, writing and digesting complex material.
To be trusted with such a task, your employer will likely ask for the minimum degree to be a master’s degree in a related field such as biomedical science.
How to get started in TV science journalism?
For people interested in writing for TV and documentaries, your best bet is through your institution.
Universities often have close relationships with TV studios such as BBC and Nat Geo.
This is because academics are always required to proofread, write, and check scripts that a tv host might read.
This is more common in documentary series where lots of research has to be done, and may even need a team of undergraduate students to do the brunt of the research work.
If ever an opportunity like this comes where you can volunteer to help produce a show, however small the role, I urge you to go for it, as it may lead to much bigger things; who knows, you might even become a host!
What happens if you don’t get such internship opportunities?
Opportunities as mentioned above are rare, but they definitely do happen. If you haven’t found luck through your university, and no one is replying to your job ads,
send emails to small studios, networks and news outlets telling them you have interests in scientific writing.
List your skill sets and why you think you would genuinely be a valuable addition to their team.
Follow this up by asking if your skill may be of any use to their organisation.
Send 100 emails and I guarantee you at least 1 of them will have good news attached to them.
This strategy has helped me numerous times;
Life is a numbers game so you must leverage your ability to play the game endless amount of times while you still can!
Entry Salary: £25,000 – £36,000
Working Hours: 35 hours a week
Qualifications: BSc in Biomedical Engineering (4yrs), or MSc (1yr) straight after Biomedical Science
Work Experience: Biotech Intern
Most biomedical scientist don fancy themselves the most competent mathematician, physicist or engineer, but for the few that do, you may be able to get into biomedical engineering.
What does a Biomedical Engineer do?
You will use your engineering knowledge and understand of biomaterials to produce and modify healthcare technologies to the specification of your clients.
As a biomedical engineer, you will usually be working for biotechnology companies, developing products such as medical balloons, catheters or prosthetics for use by patients who suffer from illness.
You may work in a team involved in customizing these prosthetics or balloons to the specification of your client’s needs, making sure that the end product is compatible with the patient’s illness and health requirements.
Your IT competency is key here as you will often need to create mathematical 3D models of your designs with software like AutoCAD®.
This can be quite programming intensive, which is why if you don’t have that solid engineering foundation, doing a biomedical engineering BSc might be beneficial.
Can you do biomedical engineering after studying biomedical science?
Yes, but there’s a bit of work involved.
Depending on your education background, you may need to do an entirely new degree, namely a biomedical engineering BSc.
With this you might be able to find employment straight away in industry if you did a placement year, as not many people graduate with this degree.
Your background in biomedical science will put you in good stead for this second degree as a lot of the biology curriculum, you will have already studied.
The aspects of mechanical engineering will be what’s new to you, but this will give you a new foundation of engineering knowledge to prep you for a high paying career in STEM.
The extra 3 years you will spend in university is nothing compared to the payoff this extra degree will bring.
A biotech firm will see you as a beacon of biomedical knowledge since you have 2 relevant degrees!
one of them that making you acutely qualified to be involved in the development of new biomedical technologies.
Do I definitely have to do another undergraduate degree?
If you have some prior experience with maths and engineering in the form of As and A* in A-Level maths, further maths, or mechanics,
you might be able to transition straight into an MSc in Biomedical Engineering granted your institution allows this.
Going straight from Biomedical Science BSc to a medical engineering master’s program isn’t very common, but it isn’t unheard of either.
Entry requirements for a biomedical engineering masters include having a bachelors (2:1 Hons) in either engineering, science, mathematics, a medical degree, or allied subject.
these are loose entry requirements which some may say a biomedical science degree fulfils.
Why wont they let me study a master’s in Biomedical Engineering?
The reason a university won’t let you transition straight into an engineering masters without prior engineering education is you may lack basic foundational mathematics knowledge to even keep up with the course.
This is often true as biomedical science, and bioengineering are 2 completely different fields of STEM.
Most biomedical science courses won’t have close to the necessary core mathematics required to study biomedical engineering, which is why the transition may prove problematic.
Some universities explicitly say in their entry requirements that medicine, pharmacy and biology-based degrees won’t be considered without relevant employment experience.
By “employments experience” they are likely looking for people already in a commercial biomedical engineering role.
The onus is therefore on you to email university departments and query if your educational background is enough to get you into an MSc in biomedical engineering, without having to complete a biomedical engineering BSc.
I believe if you manage this, it will be well worth the efforts.
Biomedical science is one of those degrees without any real job prospects straight out of the gate, however with a tiny bit of creativity, you can land some decent job roles.
Use this article to find inspiration for what you want to do, and always aim for the clouds. Even if you miss, you might land somewhere pretty nice!
If you are still unsure about which courses to study, consider checking out my short course where I walk you through several life sciences courses and which ones to study in the future!