What is a biomedical scientist? Everything you need to know about working in biomedical science

What is a biomedical scientist?

A Biomedical Scientist’s primary focus is the biology of human health and disease and ranges from the analysis of biomedical sciences and human biology. It’s underpinned by relevant basic sciences including anatomy and physiology, cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology, genetics and molecular biology, immunology, mathematics and statistics.

As a biomedical scientist, you’ll carry out tests on samples, which are taken by doctors and nurses, to diagnose a range of diseases and illnesses.

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Responsibilities of a biomedical scientist

  • Performing routine and specialist testing on a range of samples
  • Passing on test results to hospital staff, who use the information to diagnose and treat illnesses
  • Processing patient samples in good time and make sure that turnaround times for reporting results are achieved
  • Maintaining and running specialist lab equipment
  • Maintaining and ordering stocks of materials
  • Answering telephone enquiries about test results and other general lab issues
  • Accurately recording data onto the laboratory’s computer system
  • Supporting the lab’s quality management system and observe all relevant health and safety regulations
  • Supervising and supporting trainee biomedical scientists and other support staff, along with supporting the quality manager to make sure health and safety regulations are adhered to
  • Keeping your professional knowledge up to date and take responsibility for your continuing professional development (CPD)

What are the various disciplines of a biomedical scientist?

  • Biochemistry – studies the chemical composition of cells, and in serum/plasma, and the chemistry behind biological processes
  • Cytopathology – studies cells obtained from humans using a microscope and recent technologies to evaluate morphology, molecular pathology changes by molecular diagnostics; cytopathology also involves cancer screening such as cervical, breast, colon and prostate cancers
  • Blood transfusion – studies of transfusion science (although frequently linked to haematology, it is a specialist discipline in its own right)
  • Immunology – studies the immune system
  • Microbiology – studies characteristics of microorganisms such as bacteria
  • Histology/histopathology – studies tissues for disease diagnosis, using histological histochemical, immunohistochemical analysis or molecular genetic techniques for diagnostics
  • Virology– studies of viruses and viral diseases
  • Haematology – studies of the blood, such as blood cells, and mechanisms of coagulation

Biomedical scientists with training and experience of working in various disciplines such as haematology, biochemistry and transfusion can be said to be multidiscipline biomedical scientists.

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Where can biomedical scientists work?

Biomedical scientists along with scientists in other related medical disciplines seek out to understand human anatomy, genetics, immunology, physiology and behaviour at all levels. They work in a variety of organisations including hospitals, forensic and medical research institutes, local and central government health authorities and academic institutions.

What qualifications does a biomedical scientist need?

To practise as a registered biomedical scientist in the UK, you’ll need to have acquired an initial bachelor’s degree (BSc Biomedical Science). The course must be accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), followed by a minimum of 12 months of laboratory training in one of the pathology disciplines.

Trainees are required to complete a certificate of competence training portfolio, which requires gathering extensive amounts of evidence to demonstrate professional competence. At the end of this period, the trainees’ portfolio and overall competence are assessed. If successful, a certificate of competence is awarded, which can be used to apply for registration with the HCPC.

As well as qualifications, you must have certain skills and traits to become a biomedical scientist. These include:

  • Analytical approach
  • Attention to detail
  • Sound research skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team

What is a biomedical scientist’s salary?

  • Band 5: £28,407 to £34,581
  • Band 6: £35,392 to £42,618
  • Band 7: £43,742 to £50,056

For a biomedical scientist to work at band 5 and above they need to be registered with The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Please note that dietitians working in and around London may qualify for Higher Cost Area Supplements (HCAS) rates. You can find HCAS pay scales on NHS Employers.    

Working as a locum biomedical scientist

There are certain benefits that come from working as a locum biomedical scientist compared to a full-time role. These include:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Opportunity to relocate for work opportunities across the UK and overseas
  • Financially rewarding with premium hourly rates of pay
  • No lengthy notice periods – one week’s notice period is required for all locum contracts.
  • Opportunity to work in different laboratories and meet new people in your field

Locum biomedical scientist pay rates

As a locum biomedical scientist, you’re paid an hourly rate which varies from contract to contract. Here are some estimates for different bands:

  • Band 5: £18-20 per hour
  • Band 6: £21-26 per hour
  • Band 7: £25-30 per hour

Pay rates for locum biomedical scientists are subject to locations, as certain locations offer higher pay than others.

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