Study Biomedical Science

If you enjoy science and its practical application, particularly in health care or related research, a degree in Biomedical Sciences could be just what you want. You will study life processes to gain an understanding of health and the methods for diagnosing, analysing and treating disease. Subjects covered are broadly similar to the pre-clinical components of a medical degree, with the addition of molecular biology, the screening and evaluation of new drugs, and the relationship between the environment and health.

Study Biomedical Science

Strictly speaking, biomedical science (UCAS code B940) is the application of biology-based science to medical use, be it research, health monitoring or treatment. As 21st century medicine and healthcare becomes increasingly sophisticated, the demand grows for highly skilled biomedical scientists capable of performing and analysing a battery of technical procedures to screen, maintain and improve human health. Typically, the professional biomedical student works in a hospital laboratory, and may be called on to analyse metabolic disorders, perform HIV testing, blood typing or genetic tests, diagnose tumours or identify an infectious micro-organism. In doing so, the biomedical scientist requires an understanding of medical biochemistry, microbiology, clinical and medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, cell and molecular biology, anatomy, physiology, pathology and/or cytology. They must also be discreet, well-organised, meticulous and able to communicate their findings to medics delivering treatment.

What use is a Biomedical Science degree?

Biomedical Science is a continually changing, dynamic profession with long-term career prospects including management, research, education and specialised laboratory work. Most UK biomedical scientists work in hospital laboratories to support the work of clinicians and general practitioners, but some are employed in public health (water, foodstuffs), veterinary laboratories (disease monitoring), blood banks, forensics, pharmaceuticals development and, of course, basic medical research. Because of the expected level of numeracy and organisation in a successful biomedical science trainee, many skills are more widely transferable, and many also provide a stepping stone to further medical training.

In the UK and most other countries, a period of in-service training and further study to specialise personal skills is required of the hospital biomedical scientist. Sometimes a sandwich degree course goes some way to providing this experience, although biomedical scientists in the National Health Service (NHS) are required by UK law to submit a the Registration Raining Portfolio with validation from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS). 

Why study Biomedical Science in the UK?

English is the adopted language of science, and the UK has an unrivalled history of breakthroughs in medicine. The UK research infrastructure is at the forefront of new developments in medicine, and underpins much of the delivery of medical and related training at university level. Studying biomedical science in the UK offers international students the opportunity to increase their scientific knowledge, and learn how to put it into practical use within medicine or related professions. The skills and qualifications gained as a result are transferable throughout the UK, and can be recognised worldwide. All this is in addition to experiencing the unique culture, history, scenery and social interactions that the UK has to offer.

Am I qualified to study Biomedical Science?

Taking it as read that you have an interest in, and enthusiasm for, understanding medical issues, biomedical science also requires ability in biology and chemistry, as they relate to human health, plus competent mathematical and organisational skills. Usual entrance requirements include demonstrated proficiency in spoken and written English, plus appropriate performance in examinations such as UK 'A' or 'AS' levels (in science subjects), GCSE mathematics or equivalents such as the international baccalaureate. Prospectuses usually specify these requirements clearly, and they can also be obtained direct from admissions offices or departmental admissions offices. These will also guide you through the application procedure; further general information about applying to British universities can be obtained from UCAS (www.ucas.ac.uk).

How do I choose?

In the final analysis, your choice of university may be based on a variety of factors, but all of them specified by you, the customer. You may be solely interested in the employment records of the university or course - or the most important factor might be the location: a big city with vibrant night life and outside attractions, versus calm, green campuses away from it all. You can be close to the continent, or as far away as possible; Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish or English culture. You may be guided by league tables (but be careful here!), entrance requirements, or teaching quality as assessed by the TQA system.

Lastly, you should realise that no degree course will be precisely the same as another: emphasis changes from one university to the next for a variety of reason, not least the breadth, expertise, interests and background of the teaching staff. Some may prefer a degree course at an institution teaching medical students, others a degree with particularly strong practical training, and others one that emphasises particular applications of biomedical science. Still more students may be interested in a degree based in a strong research culture which addresses the latest-breaking developments.

However and wherever you choose, though, you can be assured that national standards are in place to ensure that your chosen biomedical science degree course within the UK will be internationally competitive and rigorous, and furnish you with training useful for a valuable future.

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