The decision of what degree to pursue can be difficult.
For those interested in pursuing a career in the medical field, there is often some crossover between medicine and biomedical science degrees.
Both degrees allow for specialization in a particular area of medicine, but there are some differences that may help you decide which degree is right for you.
What is medicine?
Medicine is all about health and healing.
Nurses, physicians, and a range of experts are included, however, doctors are primarily the ones who practice medicine.
Their role involves medical research, disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, among many other facets of health.
to become a doctor, aspiring students must first successfully enrol on a medical program.
Medical degrees are long and rigorous, requiring five years of dedicated study in undergraduate school. The first two years are spent in classrooms, learning about human anatomy, cell biology, and the various systems of the body.
In the final three years, students move into clinical settings, working with patients and learning how to diagnose and treat illnesses. There is a lot of lecture work in medical school, but students also get plenty of hands-on experience in labs and hospitals.
what is biomedical science?
Biomedical science combines the study of biology and medicine in order to understand both human and animal health.
There are numerous different disciplines in the field of biomedical science.
These include biochemistry, cell and tissue biology, immunology, microbiology, and pharmacology.
Each of these disciplines has its own area of focus and specialisations.
For example, biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes that occur in living organisms.
Cell and tissue biology is the study of the structure and function of cells and tissues.
Immunology is the study of how the body defends itself against infection and disease.
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, and Pharmacology is the study of how drugs work in the body.
Each of these disciplines is essential for understanding how the body works and how diseases are caused and treated.
studying a biomedical science degree
A biomedical science degree is a three-year undergraduate program that culminates in a research project during the final year.
This research project is usually a set of experiments and a dissertation writeup at the end, but can also be a portfolio or register of work, depending on the institution and program.
Upon graduation, students will receive their degrees and be able to enter the workforce or pursue further studies.
Students who have already completed a portfolio are potentially eligible to register as biomedical scientists soon after graduation.
Medicine vs biomedical science, which is better?
Job prospects for biomedical science vs medicine
There are many different career paths that a person with a degree in biomedical science or medicine can take.
Some of which are similar, and others that are only unique to doctors or biomedical science graduates.
Being a doctor is one of the most common careers for someone with a medical degree. They can work in a hospital, clinic, or private practice.
this is unique to doctors alone, and biomedical science graduates wishing to become doctors can only do so by having gone through medical school.
Likewise, the role of a biomedical scientist is unique to biomedical science graduates who have attended an accredited biomedical science program and achieved a working portfolio signed off by an accredited laboratory.
Lab assistants are another common career for someone with a biomedical science degree.
They help scientists conduct research and develop new treatments and medicines.
Health researchers are another important part of the medical field and are an example of a role that can be done by both doctors and biomedical science graduates.
Ease of job search
Regarding the ease of job searches, doctors have a post-graduation employment rate of 99% while biomedical science graduates are at 91% according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
this clearly means doctors are guaranteed work almost 100% of the time after graduation whereas up to 9% of biomedical science graduates struggle to find work after graduating.
Degree difficulty for biomedical science vs medicine
There is some crossover between biomedical science and medicine, but the two degrees are not the same.
This is why comparing difficulty in degrees is somewhat hard since they both have different educational goals and aims.
For instance, medical degrees are extremely focused on patient interaction and giving students confidence around this, while biomedical science graduates have very little to no patient contact.
We may however be able to compare overall difficulty in the topics that have crossover.
Looking at both medicine and biomedical science as a whole, both degrees offer challenging curriculums, and an argument can be made in either direction for which is a more demanding degree.
In terms of pure volume, while biomedical science students may have a better depth of knowledge than medical students in things like biochemistry, protein structure etc, medical students are required to have a very large breadth of knowledge across different disciplines which makes their degree slightly more challenging.
By the same token, the depth of knowledge required of a biomedical science student in topics like cell and tissue biology, pathology, histology, and biochemistry is deeper than what is required to be a doctor, and as such makes learning biomed harder in that respect.
They both require some level of dedication, and contrary to popular belief the verdict may go either way.
As part of the 2022 Student Academic Experience Survey (SAES), 10,142 undergraduate students were asked amongst other things, to reveal their workload.
Subjects based on education and teaching reported having the highest contact hours.
Medicine and Dentistry also placed highly, reporting having 14.5 contact hours a week, 15 hours of independent study, and 9 hours of work outside the course per week.
On the other hand, biological and sport science-related degrees reported contact hours of 11.2 per week, 15.2 of independent study, and only 3.1 hours of work outside of course per week.
Breaking this down, it seemed that medical students were required to do a lot more work outside course hours which suggests it has a heavier workload and therefore might be a harder degree.
It could also suggest that biomedical science students find material to be more digestible during course time, and therefore aren’t required to do any extra-curricular reading. There is no evidence for this, however.
Time and money spent undertaking a degree in biomedical science vs medicine
A medical degree and an undergraduate biomedical science degree cost around £9,250 per year in the UK.
This means that on average, a biomedical science degree lasting three years will cost around £27,750 in total, while a medicine degree will cost around £46,250.
When a student maintenance loan is factored into the price at the average amount of £5600 annually, the total cost of a medical degree comes to £74,250, while a biomedical science degree will cost on average £44,550.
Below is a table showing the average annual running total of medical school vs biomedical science.
As seen, medicine looks to cost nearly double that of a biomedical science degree.
Is the extra fee worth it?
The extra fee that medical students incur during their studies when compared to biomedical science students may be worth it since during their degree, they have the option to intercalate a number of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications including biomedical science.
In this token, a medical student may potentially gain multiple degrees during their time at university, while a biomedical science student only gains one qualification.
If intercalation is something you are interested in, bear in mind that this may increase your time spent at university by one or two years, meaning the average cost of the degree will be even greater.
Student satisfaction for biomedical science vs medicine
Student satisfaction at university on a degree-by-degree basis is hard to quantify as the data isn’t widely published.
The 2022 SAES survey aimed to collate student opinions in a number of different topic areas including satisfaction with life, level of anxiousness, and degree of value achieved from studying a particular subject.
10,142 undergraduate students were questions in total.
The degrees weren’t reported individually but in broad categories to limit identifiability.
Value for money
When students were asked about value for money on their present course, 31% of medicine and dentistry students said their course had good value for money, while 29% of biological and sports science students said the same.
19% of medicine and dentistry students said that their degree provided poor value for money, whereas 23% of biology and sports science students said their degree was poor value for money.
Satisfaction with life
Students were also asked how satisfied with life they were.
9% of medicine and dentistry students reported being the most satisfied with life (10/10) while 4% of biological and sports science students reported 10/10 for satisfaction in this area.
The most placed answer for biological and sports science students for life satisfaction was 7/10 (25%), while for medicine and dentistry students, this was 8/10 (26%).
Level of anxiety
Level of anxiety was reported among degrees.
4% of medicine and dentistry students reported being completely anxious the day prior (10/10), while 2% of biological and sports science students reported the same score.
The most placed answer for biological and sports science students for the level of anxiety was 7/10 (15%), and for medicine and dentistry students, 2/10 (14%).
This indicated that while extreme anxiety may be more prevalent in medical students, biological and sports science students potentially feel more anxious day-to-day.
On the whole, students studying medicine seem to report higher satisfaction levels than those studying biomedical science, however, they may also be more prone to suffering workload stresses and high levels of anxiety.
it is unclear if the differences observed are statistically significant.
Lifetime earning for biomedical science vs medicine
The average salary of a biomedical scientist in the UK is £51,993, which means assuming a 30-year average duration of working life, biomedical scientists can expect to make £1,555,790 over the course of their employment.
On the other hand, the average salary of doctors in the UK is £74,949, which means assuming the same 30-year average duration of working life, doctors can expect to make £2,248,470 over the course of their employment.
This is over £690,000 difference in lifetime earnings of a doctors salary vs a biomedical scientist’s salary.
This doesn’t take into account investments, inflation, changes in employment or taxes changes.
In reality, this difference would be much bigger due to investments and inflation.
It is also important to note that mean salaries, while accurate for providing an average measure of earning, are highly susceptible to skew.
meaning if a select few doctors are disproportionately earning much higher, the mean would be higher, and therefore not representative of the vast majority of doctors.
As a result, most average measures including the ones stated above are likely to be much higher than what a new doctor or biomedical scientist should expect to earn.
Those earnings are more indicative of individuals working in their respective fields for 5 to 10+ years.
In conclusion, both biomedical science and medicine degrees offer students the opportunity to learn about the medical sciences and the human body.
However, in order to become a doctor, you would need to pursue an additional degree after completing a biomedical science degree.
Whereas a doctor is able to utilise their medical degree to go into pathology, laboratory research, and pharmaceuticals.
Ultimately, the choice between these two degrees comes down to what you hope to achieve with your education.
If you are interested in becoming a doctor, then medical school is the right choice for you.
If you are not sure yet, would like to keep your options open, and wouldn’t mind attending medical school at a later date and as a second degree, then biomedical science is a good choice.
There are many industries you can work in with a biomedical science degree, so long as you are able to market yourself appropriately.