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OCCUPATIONAL PROFILE

Biomedical scientist (MLSO)
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Job Description
A biomedical scientist carries out laboratory tests on human samples to help clinicians diagnose illness and evaluate the effectiveness of the necessary treatment. The work is vital to the wellbeing of patients as doctors treat their patients based on the results of these tests. Following basic training, most biomedical scientists will specialise in one aspect of medical laboratory science. The main areas are: medical microbiology (identification of micro-organisms causing disease and their antibiotic treatment, eg meningitis); clinical chemistry (the chemical analysis of body fluids); transfusion science (determination of donor unit compatibility and investigations into group antigens and antibodies); haematology; histopathology; cytology; immunology; and virology.

Typical Work Activities
Some of the medical conditions biomedical scientists can investigate include cancer, AIDS, hepatitis and diabetes. They also investigate blood transfusions and screen cervical smears. Clinical chemistry, haematology and blood transfusion are usually equipped with high levels of automation, but most laboratories are extensively computerised. Typical work activities include:

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testing human samples, such as blood, tissue, urine, cerebrospinal and faecal material, for various chemical constituents; analysing cultures grown from samples and identifying blood groups; assisting in ensuring the necessary turnaround times for the reporting of results are achieved wherever possible; communicating the results of tests to medical staff, who will then use the information to diagnose and treat the patient’s illness; monitoring the effects of medication and other programmes of treatment by carrying out further tests; keeping accurate records and writing reports; responding to and redirecting professional enquiries; assisting in the production of laboratory documentation, particularly relating to policies and standard operating procedures; developing new methods of investigation and keeping up to date with new developments; implementing quality control procedures (both internal and external) to maintain accurate results; maintaining and updating professional knowledge and taking responsibility for continuing professional development (CPD).

Although much of the analytical work tends to be of a routine nature, some of the tests are challenging and demanding modern pathology and biomedical work entails complex investigations. The application of information technology is of rapidly growing importance.

Work Conditions
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Salary ranges are based on the The National Health Service (NHS) (www.nhs.uk)'s Agenda for Change (www.nhsemployers.org/pay-conditions) pay bands, which were brought in during 2005. Although there is some regional variation, the range of typical starting salaries for a trainee is: £12,741- £14,275. Following state registration, biomedical scientists start at Band 5: £18,698 - £24,198(salary data collected May 06). The range of typical salaries at senior level/with experience, eg for a senior manager or advanced practitioner (Bands 7 - 8c), is: £26,498 - £59,395 (salary data collected May 06). Pay can be substantially increased by additional allowances for night and weekend cover. Private sector salaries are similar to those in the NHS, however benefits are generally better. The type of work carried out in private sector laboratories is also similar but is likely to be more customer driven. In some posts, there is a requirement to take a share of emergency overnight on-call cover and out-of-hours work. Some opportunities exist for part-time work or job sharing, but self-employment is unlikely as it is rarely possible to set up an independent laboratory. Gender balance within the profession favours females, but there are slightly fewer women than men in senior positions at present. Vacancies are available across the UK, but numbers vary across the different regions. The profession is governed by a strict code of ethics, which includes patient confidentiality. Biomedical scientists must not offer clinical advice. In some cases, there is a strict 'no contact with the public' policy. However, in some roles there may be near-patient testing (eg, 'bedside'). Biomedical scientists are not generally required to travel during the working day. Absence from home at night is occasionally needed. Overseas work is uncommon, although opportunities do exist for scientists to use their skills in healthcare projects abroad, including voluntary work with organisations such as Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) (www.vso.org.uk).

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Biomedical scientist (MLSO)

Entry Requirements
Relevant degree subject areas include physical/mathematical/applied science and life and medical science. In particular, the following subjects may increase your chances:

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biomedical science, biochemistry; microbiology; medical laboratory science; biology, chemistry, physics; physiology; zoology.

The complex investigations involved in biomedical science require a sound scientific education. Ideally, applicants should have a degree in biomedical science approved by the Health Professions Council (HPC) (www.hpc-uk.org). For these applicants, the minimum length of in-service training required to qualify for state registration is one year. If your degree is a four-year sandwich course, you can prepare for state registration during the placement year, and can apply to sit the examination for state registration once you have obtained your degree certificate. Applicants with degrees in related sciences or specifically approved postgraduate diplomas may qualify for state registration after successful completion of an accredited postgraduate certificate or diploma and at least two years' in-service training. The Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) (www.ibms.org), the professional body for biomedical scientists in the UK and Ireland, produces a list of HPC-accredited degree courses acceptable for state registration purposes. To determine whether your degree would be acceptable you should write to the IBMS with a copy of your degree certificate and a summary (title of modules) of each year of your degree course. Entry without a degree or with HND only is less common. Assuming suitable A-levels (or equivalent) and/or other necessary qualifications, it is possible to do a four-year, part-time BSc in Biomedical Sciences whilst employed as a trainee biomedical scientist. The examination for HPC state registration could then be taken as soon as the degree certificate is obtained. This route is dependent on finding an employer willing to provide the financial support and flexibility required for your part-time study. A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed, although an MSc in a clinical or medical subject can be useful. Pre-entry experience is not essential, although a sandwich placement or other work experience in a laboratory and evidence of medical interest is beneficial, as is arranging a visit to a local hospital pathology laboratory before you apply. Potential candidates will need to show evidence of the following:

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good practical laboratory skills and manual dexterity; patience and the ability to work accurately and efficiently; the ability to prioritise tasks; a willingness to accept responsibility and employ common sense; good communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team; the ability to maintain client confidentiality.

Recruitment is ongoing throughout the year and there are a reasonable number of vacancies all year round. Competition varies geographically, but is generally less intense in London. From 1 October 2006 it will be illegal to discriminate against candidates on age grounds but, in practice, age may continue to be used in selection criteria by some employers. For more information on equality and diversity in the job market and how to handle discrimination, see the AGCAS publication Handling Discrimination (www.prospects.ac.uk/links/discrimination).

Training
As a graduate with no previous experience, you would enter as a trainee biomedical scientist. Training is on the job and you would be expected to successfully complete a period of training in an approved laboratory. This normally lasts one or two years, but it can take longer, depending on the training undertaken. You must complete a logbook and pass the Health Professions Council (HPC) (www.hpc-uk.org) national examination to gain state registration. Those with an HPC-approved degree may qualify for state registration after a minimum of one year. Student membership of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) (www.ibms.org) can be applied for on gaining employment in a medical laboratory or starting a course. Following a year’s professional training, students with accredited degrees are eligible for associateship whilst others are considered on their individual merit. Fellowship status, one of the highest qualifications in the field, can be gained through higher degree or thesis. Fellowship is a usual requirement for promotion to senior posts in The National Health Service (NHS) (www.nhs.uk) and is highly regarded elsewhere. For those that achieve fellowship status and have attained postgraduate qualifications and sufficient continuing professional development (CPD), it is possible to work towards chartered scientist status. The IBMS has a CPD programme of short courses and workshops that offer in-service training and can lead to the CPD Diploma. An extensive range of training is available, covering quality control, pathophysiology of disease, clinical governance, expert practice, research and development, service planning, health and safety procedures, transfusion science, immunocytochemistry and histopathological dissection. Courses can be undertaken via traditional routes or as distance learning or e-training packages.
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Biomedical scientist (MLSO)

Career Development
The field of biomedical science is continually changing as new laboratory techniques and treatments come into practice. It is a dynamic profession with long-term career prospects that include management, research, education and specialised laboratory work. The promotion opportunities for biomedical scientists are dependent on your qualifications, performance and experience. For promotion to senior positions, a higher degree (MSc) or management qualification, for example an MBA or fellowship of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) (www.ibms.org), is normally required. The need to continue to develop professionally is strongly recognised in the profession, with the opportunity to undertake the Specialist, Higher Specialist and Advanced Specialist Diplomas, or a research or professional doctorate. Within The National Health Service (NHS) (www.nhs.uk), the profession has an established grading structure and, in regions where recruitment is more difficult, it is often possible to progress at a faster rate. For reasons such as this, promotion opportunities can be improved by mobility. For more information on the grading structure, see the NHS Careers (www.nhscareers.nhs.uk) website. Career progression for many biomedical scientists usually involves taking charge of a section within the laboratory or taking over the management responsibilities for a particular department. You may also become involved in advanced specialist scientific work, research or training and education. Opportunities can exist for movement into product development in a commercial setting.

Typical Employers
Health authorities are the main employers of biomedical scientists. This includes both hospitals in The National Health Service (NHS) (www.nhs.uk), where you would generally work in the clinical pathology laboratory, and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) (www.hpa.org.uk), which has taken over the remit of the former Public Health Laboratory Service. Increasing numbers of biomedical scientists are working in pathology and research laboratories in the private sector. Other employers include:

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National Blood Service (NBS) (www.blood.co.uk); Medical Research Council (MRC) (www.mrc.ac.uk); The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (www.hse.gov.uk); private hospitals; veterinary services; universities; some manufacturing firms (especially those producing pharmaceutical products); forensic laboratories; government departments; the armed forces.

Biomedical scientists can also find work in healthcare posts or projects worldwide with international voluntary organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) (www.who.int) or Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) (www.vso.org.uk).

Sources of Vacancies
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New Scientist (www.newscientist.com); Nature (www.nature.com/nature/index.html); Biomedical Scientist; The Health and Social Care Yearbook; Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) (www.ibms.org) careers literature; local and national press.

The addresses of hospitals, blood transfusion centres and regional sites of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) (www.hpa.org.uk) can be found in your local telephone directory. You should also contact the laboratory managers or personnel departments at local hospitals to enquire about vacancies. Vacancies are sometimes handled by recruitment agencies on a temporary basis.

Related Occupations
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Audiological scientist Biomedical engineer Clinical biochemist Clinical cytogeneticist Clinical molecular geneticist Haematologist Microbiologist Occupational hygienist Scientific laboratory technician Toxicologist
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Biomedical scientist (MLSO)

Information Sources
Bibliography
AGCAS and Graduate Prospects products are available from higher education careers services.

AGCAS Publications
Handling Discrimination, AGCAS Information Booklet Health Sector, AGCAS Sector Briefing Options with Biomedical Sciences, AGCAS Options Series Options with Microbiology, AGCAS Options Series Science Sector, AGCAS Sector Briefing

Other Publications
Biomedical Scientist, Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), Monthly A Career in Biomedical Science: Science in the Service of Life, Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), 2004 The Health and Social Care Yearbook, Beechwood House Publishing, Annual Nature, Nature Publishing Group (NPG), Weekly New Scientist, Reed Business Information, Weekly

Websites
Agenda for Change, www.nhsemployers.org/pay-conditions Careerscene, www.careerscene.com National Blood Service (NBS), www.blood.co.uk The National Health Service (NHS), www.nhs.uk NHS Careers, www.nhscareers.nhs.uk Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), www.vso.org.uk

Addresses
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Headquarters, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS Tel: 0845 345 0055 URL: www.hse.gov.uk Health Professions Council (HPC), Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU Tel: 020 7582 0866 URL: www.hpc-uk.org Health Protection Agency (HPA), 7th Floor Holborn Gate, 330 High Holborn, London WC1V 7PP Tel: 020 7759 2700 URL: www.hpa.org.uk Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), 12 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL Tel: 020 7713 0214 URL: www.ibms.org Medical Research Council (MRC), 20 Park Crescent, London W1B 1AL Tel: 020 7636 5422 URL: www.mrc.ac.uk Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene, 28 Portland Place, London W1N 1DE Tel: 020 7580 2731 URL: www.riphh.org.uk World Health Organisation (WHO), Avenue Appia 20, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland Tel: 00 41 22 791 21 11 URL: www.who.int

© Content copyright of or licensed to AGCAS (www.agcas.org.uk) Written by Paul Charman, University of Lincoln, 22/06/2006 The work of writers, editors and other contributors is gratefully acknowledged - full details on www.prospects.ac.uk/links/occupations To view the terms and conditions for the material provided in this publication, please see www.prospects.ac.uk/links/disclaimer Page 4 of 4 Visit www.prospects.ac.uk/links/occupations to see case studies of graduates in this role