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Biomedical Scientist

Education and Training: Ph.D. in a biological science
Average Salary: $75,000
Job Outlook: Very good

A biomedical scientist is responsible for carrying out laboratory tests on human samples, and has a vital role to play in helping clinicians diagnose illnesses, as well as helping them evaluate the effectiveness of treatments. It is an extremely responsible job, as doctors are dependent on receiving accurate results in order to be able to prescribe the correct treatment for patients.

The majority of biomedical scientists have chosen to specialize in one particular field. This could be medical microbiology, which is the study of microorganisms which can cause disease, or it could be clinical chemistry which involves the clinical analysis of body fluids. Haematology involves the examination of blood, and transfusion science involves determining the compatibility of donors and recipients. Biomedical scientists who specialize in immunology, work on understanding the immune system, while those who study virology work on the identification of viruses.

Biomedical scientists help investigate a wide variety of major diseases, including AIDS, cancer, meningitis and diabetes. Much of the work is time sensitive, as the results are often required as soon as possible. It’s essential that biomedical scientists are comfortable working with computers and other sophisticated high-tech laboratory equipment. They must be able to record results accurately and good attention to detail is essential. Although a lot of the work may be routine, some of the tests are extremely challenging to perform. In addition, biomedical scientists may be involved in devising new experiments and tests.

Education and Training Requirements

Anyone wishing to become a biomedical scientist will need to first obtain a bachelor’s degree in a biological science, before going on to pursue a Ph.D. Some biomedical scientists have a medical degree instead of a Ph.D., and have chosen to become biomedical scientists because they prefer research to clinical practice.

Getting the Job

Once prospective biomedical students have completed their undergraduate studies they can either choose to enroll in a Ph.D. program in biological sciences, which takes around six years of study and allows them to specialize in their chosen field, or they can choose to enroll in a medical doctor program at medical college, which takes around 7 to 8 years of study. The majority will then spend some time in a postdoctoral position before applying for permanent jobs which will give them valuable laboratory experience, and in some cases these postdoctoral positions may lead to a permanent position.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Job prospects for biomedical scientists are good, and this particular field of science is continually changing as new laboratory techniques and treatments are introduced. Promotions for biomedical scientists largely depend on qualifications, experience, and performance. Although there is considerable scope for advancement into management positions, and research and education positions, these may require management or other qualifications. Continuing professional development is necessary for biomedical scientists to stay current. A typical career progression may involve taking charge of a section within the laboratory, or eventually taking over the management responsibilities for a department. Some biomedical scientists choose to go onto product development which is far more commercially oriented.

Working Conditions and Environment

The majority of the work is carried out in a laboratory environment, although some patient contact may sometimes been necessary. This may occur if biomedical scientists are required to work with individual patients or groups during clinical trials of drugs. Laboratories are likely to be clean and comfortable due to the nature of the work, and the working conditions are generally very good with regular office hours.

Salary and Benefits

Biomedical scientists who work in private laboratories receive similar salaries to those working in hospitals, or those who have tenures with universities, although there is room to increase pay by providing night and weekend cover. Some positions may actually require that everyone take a share out of work hours and on-call cover. Benefits within this job are likely to be reasonable and include decent health cover insurance and paid vacations. While the average salary is around $75,000, some 50% of biomedical scientists will earn between $50,000 and $100,000, while 10% will earn less than $40,000, and another 10% will earn more than $140,000.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
2107 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 700
Arlington, VA 22201
(301) 634-7060

Association of American Medical Colleges
2450 N St., NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 828-0400

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 634-7000

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