Biomedical science is taught in about 90 UK universities. It focuses on giving students experience in a lab whilst still providing background knowledge of the biology behind the inner workings of the human body.
This includes learning in detail about the cause of human disease, how underlying mechanisms of disease produce symptoms, and overall how the disease affects normal functioning of cells and tissue.
A typical biomedical science student can expect to spend 3 years at university, gaining detailed knowledge of medical topics even beyond what is required of a junior doctor.
This makes biomedical science a tough course for even the best biology students and future medical school hopefuls.
Biomedical science is a unique course that has its own set of benefits which may or may not be useful to you.
What to expect in a biomedical science degree?
In the first year of a biomedical sciences degree, most students will find the content relatively familiar and reminiscent of A level biology and chemistry.
This year is intended to put all the students on the same level as there are always students and adult learners who have gained access to Uni via alternative courses rather than the usual sixth form A-levels route.
The first year will be broken into 2 semesters. In each semester, you will study 3 modules and write exams in January (for semester 1) and may (for semester 2).
This is usually the examination model that most biomedical science universities take.
Common first year modules include cell and tissue biology which is the study of cells under a microscope to examine organelles and other structures that allow them to carry out their specific function.
Human physiology and genetics are also usually studied in the first year to give students a better understanding of the human body.
In the first year some newer topics are introduced to students; These include biochemistry and microbiology.
Biochemistry is the study of chemical processes within living thing organisms, and microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms and how they may cause disease or be of use to us.
These topics are often only introductory but give students a good base understanding to build upon.
So far first year probably sounds great, and to top it all off, most if not all of the exams are straight forward multiple-choice questions. So, what is so wrong about studying biomedical sciences?
Misconceptions about studying biomedical science
There are numerous misconceptions that lead students to study biomedical sciences for the wrong reason. They will all be debunked once and for all in this article.
1.You are Guaranteed a job once you finish
A biomedical science degree by no means guarantees you a job when you finish. It’s just the first step to getting one.
It seems many students enroll on the course purely because they are hoping to bank a job as a biomedical scientist right away.
Students often pursue it as their way of still contributing to the healthcare profession without having to undertake the many years in medical school.
This is not a very feasible plan as most UK universities offer a biomedical directed course but only a handful are accredited by the Institute of Biomedical science (IBMS).
Not to mention, the supply of biomedical scientist by far exceeds the demand, making it a hard industry to even find job openings.
This is not to say you cannot gain employment after studying biomedical science.
To give yourself the best chance you will need to attend an IBMS accredited university and go down the route of full IBMS certification.
This will often involve completing a portfolio beside your studies and undertaking a placement in your third year alongside your studies.
2. It is easier to get into medicine this way
many students use biomedical science as a route into medicine if for example they fell short of the entry requirements at an earlier stage.
This is a feasible plan as many universities reserve places for graduate on their course to study alongside undergraduates, and universities such as Warwick offer a graduate only degree.
The misconception comes when students believe it is easier to gain access into medical school because of their knowledge of medicine. This is however not the case.
On medical courses universities prioritize A level students and only leave a small amount of spaces for graduates.
Last year for example, from a total cohort of 701, Leicester university admitted only 148 graduates onto their undergraduate course.
If your plan was to apply to the graduates alternative for medicine, your job is 10 times harder. The average ratio of total applicant to successful applicants is about 10:1 for undergraduate medicine.
It is 100:1 for graduate entry.
This means out of 100 people that apply, only 1 will be successful. Graduate Entry is especially competitive because of the limited places available and because of the higher level of competition.
Graduates are often competing against people with direct experience in healthcare, possibly as a nurse, or health care assistant.
This makes them of more value to the university than people who only hold degrees as they already have experience in a healthcare environment
It is therefore much easier to gain access to medical school when medicine is your first degree as opposed to your second.
3. It’s like doing medicine, only easier
Even I was under the impression that biomedical science would be an easy degree.
I was seriously mistaken about the level of difficulty, and after talking with friends who studied medicine, found they were 2 completely different studying experience.
Biomedical science students study the usual modules in medical school such as hematology, human physiology, pathology and microbiology, however topics such as biochemistry are studied in far more depth than a medic would have to know.
The extra knowledge that a biomedical science course demands often makes it difficult to endure.
Not to mention, most biomedical science lecturers are researchers who possibly have research projects that they run alongside lecturing. This makes them good researchers but doesn’t necessarily mean they are good lecturers.
Lectures delivered by researchers as opposed to professors always seem to be given in a rush with little attention payed to organizing the lecture slides coherently
Over the course of the degree, you will be asked to do presentation and write scientific papers on cutting edge topics that often require you to read and understand 100s of research papers.
This is very time-consuming work and requires plenty of interest and dedication for the topic.
This is why studying something because you think it will be easy is a sure-fire way of failing.
4. It leaves the door open to many routes
If you play your cards right you can certainly use biomedical science as stepping stone into many things but on its own, the degree has poor job prospects.
You can potentially become a biomedical scientist, but the supply is much higher than the demand and you need to complete an IBMS certification portfolio to be even qualified enough for hire.
You can study medicine, but the competition is higher and is roughly 10x harder to gain admittance as a graduate.
Conventional routes for jobs are often hyper-competitive which leaves you with the prospect of changing fields and hoping your skills were transferable enough for an unrelated graduate job.
Therefore, people advice you to study something you are interested in; it’s to avoid the prospect of being stuck with a degree you weren’t 100% keen on, just so you can end up doing a graduate job with no relevancy to your degree.
5. I genuinely like studying about the human body but don’t have good enough grades for medicine
If you were considering medicine, you will most likely have knowledge in biology and chemistry. Have you ever considered studying biochemistry?
This is a much more valuable degree as your knowledge isn’t scattered around the different topics in biology, but more focused on chemical processes and their relevance in biology.
Job prospects are much broader and there is a lower chance of being stuck with a “useless” degree.
In summary, A biomedical science degree doesn’t guarantee you free entry into a medical degree nor does it give you priority over A level students.
When picking a university degree to study, think less about job security because nowadays, if you aren’t studying medicine (which comes with its own issues too), no degree you pick guarantees you a job after graduation. Think more about what you will excel in. Anything can be monetized as long as you’re good at it.
If you are still unsure about which courses to study, consider checking out my blog post about which job biomedical science students can study!
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