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Biomedical Sciences: Job Options, Duties and Requirements

Degrees in biomedical science include many areas that apply science to medicine. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth, and salary information for biomedical science graduates.

The biomedical sciences require degrees for the vast majority of work in this field. Careers in this field are growing and pay well as the outlook looks good for the future. Jobs can include lab technologist, biomedical scientist and epidemiologist.

Essential Information

Individuals who aspire to pursue a career in the biomedical sciences have many different career options. Some of these careers include immunologist, dental assistant, endocrinologist, medical doctor, physiologist, nurse and research assistant. Careers in this field are often either research-oriented or lab-focused. Three common career options in the biomedical sciences that include both research and lab work include clinical laboratory technologist and technician, biomedical scientist and epidemiologist.

Career Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technicians Biomedical Scientist Epidemiologist
Education Requirements Associate's degree; bachelor's degree for advancement Doctorate; medical degree may be required Master's degree; doctorate for advancement
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for technologists; 18% for technicians* 8%* 6%*
Median Salary (2015) $60,520 for technologists; $38,970 for technicians* $82,240* $69,450*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technicians

Duties

While these two job options in the biomedical sciences field may sound alike, the responsibilities of each are different. A clinical laboratory technologist is typically tasked with performing complex laboratory tests. Some of these tests may involve searching for bacteria and other microorganisms that are present in body fluid sample. They may also test the levels of drugs, make cultures of tissue samples and measure the level of compounds, such as cholesterol or glucose, in a patient's blood sample.

In contrast, a clinical laboratory technician performs less complex tests and procedures. Some of the duties may involve the preparation of specimens, working with automated analyzers and performing manual tests while following instructions. Many clinical laboratory technicians work under the supervision of a laboratory manager or a clinical laboratory technologist.

Requirements

The minimum amount of education needed to enter into the biomedical sciences field is an associate's degree. Graduates of an associate's degree program in clinical laboratory science have the opportunity to pursue a career in the biomedical sciences as a clinical laboratory technician. However, in order to become a clinical laboratory technologist, a bachelor's degree in laboratory science is needed.

Licensure may also be required in some states before a person can work as a clinical laboratory technologist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the requirements for licensure can vary from state-to-state, but typically include possessing a degree and passing an exam (www.bls.gov).

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS predicts that clinical laboratory technologists can expect job growth of 14% from 2014-2024, while clinical laboratory technicians can expect job growth of 18% during that same decade; the expected average increase across all occupations is 16%. The median annual salary for clinical laboratory technologists was $60,520 in 2015, per the BLS; clinical laboratory technicians earned a median annual salary of $38,970 that same year.

Biomedical Scientist

Duties

The primary responsibility of a biomedical scientist is to develop new treatments, vaccines and drugs for human illnesses and diseases. The biomedical research needed to create new forms of treatment is generally conducted at a hospital, university or government laboratory. In addition to laboratory-based research projects, a biomedical scientist may also be involved in clinical drug trials that require them to monitor patients' reactions to different drug dosages, as well as make observations and conclusions about the results and the efficacy of certain drugs. In some instances, they may also perform invasive procedures on patients, such as drawing blood or excising tissue samples.

Requirements

The educational threshold to become a biomedical scientist is much higher than of a clinical laboratory technologist or technician. In order to pursue a career as a biomedical scientist, one must complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in the biological sciences. In some instances, biomedical scientists hold both a Ph.D. and a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). This is especially true of persons who plan to oversee clinical drug trials, since states require that medical scientists who draw blood from patients and administer drugs also be licensed physicians.

Many medical colleges offer combined Ph.D. and M.D. programs for prospective biomedical scientists. These degree programs are especially rigorous and may switch back and forth between medical and biological components. Once a Ph.D. or a combined Ph.D.-M.D. program is completed, a graduate typically applies for a postdoctoral position. Only after some time has been spent as a postdoctoral fellow can one pursue a permanent job in the field.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, biomedical scientists can look forward to job growth of 8% from 2014-2024, due in part to an increasingly aged population, greater use of pharmaceuticals and a mobile population that could facilitate the transmission of already-known and new diseases requiring new treatments. Medical scientists earned a median salary of $82,240 in 2015 (this does not include epidemiologists, per the BLS).

Epidemiologist

Duties

Epidemiologists study the frequency and distribution pf diseases within human populations. They may also deal with potential outbreaks and development of diseases by working with public health organizations to develop preventative practices and methods of control. Like biomedical scientists, much of the work done by an epidemiologist is conducted in a laboratory. An epidemiologist may be employed by a university, government agency, private corporation or international organization dedicated to the study of public health. Potential government employers include the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.

Requirements

At minimum, an epidemiologist should hold a master's degree in biomedical science or a related field, such as public health; however, aspiring epidemiologists who plan to focus entirely on laboratory-based research are required to hold a Ph.D. High school students who are interested in this career option are encouraged to have a strong background in science and mathematics with a particular emphasis on chemistry, biology, statistics and advanced mathematics courses. Epidemiology Ph.D. programs are research-focused and students typically must complete a dissertation before the degree can be awarded.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS reported that the number of jobs for epidemiologists is expected to increase 6% from 2014-2024 because of the analytical work they are able to do with regard to public health issues and tracking the incidence and spread of illnesses. The agency reported that epidemiologists earned a median annual salary of $69,450 in 2015.

A career in the biomedical sciences encompasses a variety of occupations, and degree requirements vary, depending on the profession. Job outlook is projected to be good for many types of biomedical science occupations.

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