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How do I become a biomedical scientist?

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To work as a biomedical scientist in the UK you are legally required to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

To register as a biomedical scientist with the HCPC, you must meet their Standards of Education and Training . This requires you to complete an IBMS Accredited biomedical science degree or apprenticeship (or HCPC approved Healthcare Science/Life Sciences degree) and successfully complete the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio in an IBMS approved training laboratory.

Choose which stage you are at:

I am at the start of my journey and want to find out more about biomedical science

What is biomedical science?

Biomedical science degrees focus on human biology and disease. Students build scientific knowledge and learn how to investigate, diagnose, monitor and treat different human diseases, alongside developing practical laboratory skills.

What do biomedical scientists do? 

Working in healthcare laboratories, biomedical scientists conduct over 1 billion diagnostic tests in the UK each year. Their results provide the basis of over 75% of diagnoses in the NHS.  

What do you study on a biomedical science degree?
IBMS Accredited biomedical science degree courses include all the key clinical laboratory specialities: medical microbiology (including virology), clinical biochemistry, haematology and transfusion science, clinical immunology, cellular pathology / histopathology and clinical genetics.

Where can I study a biomedical science degree? 

In the UK, there are 56 universities that currently have IBMS Accredited biomedical science BSc degrees. Studying an IBMS Accredited BSc biomedical science degree with a placement in a healthcare laboratory offers the quickest route to register and work as a biomedical scientist.

What qualifications will help me to apply for an IBMS Accredited biomedical science degree course? 

For most IBMS Accredited biomedical science degrees in the UK, applicants will need grade 4 or above in GCSE English, maths and double award science. Most IBMS Accredited biomedical science degree courses do not ask for triple award GCSE science.

For A levels, the minimum requirements are likely to be grade B in biology and at least C in chemistry plus another subject. It is important that applicants check the admissions criteria for their chosen IBMS Accredited biomedical science course, as some require A level chemistry and some do not and the UCAS points required may differ.

For Scottish Highers, the standard entry requirement is BBBB in two science subjects (such as biology/human biology, chemistry, health and food technology, physics, maths, psychology) and one essay-based subject such as English, history or modern studies plus National 5 biology or human biology, maths, English and chemistry at B.

Some IBMS Accredited biomedical science degree courses also accept BTEC qualifications for admission. However, the level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Applied Science is the only programme which adequately covers the required depth and breadth in the relevant subject areas within one award title.

In addition to the mandatory BTEC units, any three units from option block A are appropriate (particularly unit 20 – biomedical science). From option block B, good unit choices are units 14 (applications of organic chemistry) and 19 (practical chemical analysis), and, from option block C, unit 13 (applications of inorganic chemistry).

 

Why choose IBMS Accredited?

If you want to become a biomedical scientist, IBMS Accredited degrees are the quickest way to get HCPC registration and join the profession.

IBMS Accredited degrees support you to study the required academic content to meet the HCPC’s Standards of Education and Training and register as a biomedical scientist.

Through a combination of academic qualifications and clinical laboratory training, you will receive a wide-ranging, research informed scientific education and develop practical skills and experience that employers require.

 

Some full-time courses have an integrated placement in a clinical pathology laboratory which will enable you to apply academic theory from your degree and develop your professional skills. A placement/period of training in an IBMS approved training laboratory where the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio is undertaken and successfully verified (either during the degree or post-graduation) provides the quickest route to registration after graduation.

Part-time courses are also available, allowing you to combine your studies with other commitments. If you are employed by the NHS already, a degree apprenticeship course allows you to work as a trainee or medical laboratory assistant in a hospital laboratory some days per week with 20% of your time studying at university.


Types of undergraduate degree courses available

There are four types of IBMS Accredited undergraduate degree courses in biomedical science:  

BSc Degree

You can choose to study a three-year IBMS Accredited degree programme without a placement but will need to then secure a clinical laboratory role after graduation if you later wish to register as a biomedical scientist. This could be as a medical laboratory assistant or trainee biomedical scientist and you will have to wait for the opportunity to undertake the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio alongside your normal role.

Sandwich BSc degree

If you choose an IBMS Accredited Sandwich placement degree programme, you will have the opportunity to undertake a laboratory placement during your degree. The placements offered may be in a clinical pathology laboratory or an industry laboratory and may not include the opportunity to complete an IBMS Registration Training Portfolio.

Integrated BSc degree  

If you choose an IBMS Accredited degree with an integrated placement, you will be able to complete an IBMS Registration Training Portfolio during your clinical laboratory placement as part of the programme. The programmes are usually called “BSc Applied Biomedical Science” or “BSc Healthcare Science”.

 

On successfully completing your degree and the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio, you will be awarded the IBMS Certificate of Competence and be eligible to apply for HCPC registration as a biomedical scientist.  

Apprenticeship degree
IBMS Accredited apprenticeship degrees provide the means to train colleagues already in employment by developing their skills through education and training to become biomedical scientists. Importantly, apprentices work and study at the same time (IE: earn while they learn).

The Level 6 Healthcare Science Practitioner apprenticeship standard was approved in 2017 and mirrors an integrated IBMS accredited biomedical science degree programme in academic content and the integration of the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio completion.

 

I have an IBMS Accredited biomedical science degree but have not completed the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio

As a graduate with an IBMS Accredited degree you have an advantage over those with non-accredited degrees because your degree was designed to meet the necessary academic criteria set out in the HCPC Standards of Education and Training.

However, in order to register as biomedical scientist with the HCPC you must also successfully complete the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio in an approved IBMS training laboratory.

Trainee biomedical scientist positions are rare and highly competitive – so when you find one you will have to prove that you are an exceptional candidate who deserves the training time and resources of the laboratory. This means an exemplary application and research into the laboratory’s services before the interview.

Sometimes laboratories may recruit graduates from IBMS accredited degree programmes at Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) or Assistant Practitioner (AP) level and gradually train them for biomedical scientist roles. However, do note that your new employer may also need MLAs and APs in the long term and there is no guarantee that you will be able to undertake training unless formally agreed with your employer.

If you are unable to get work experience in a healthcare laboratory or in an industry laboratory, take the opportunity to gain some experience of other kinds of work. It will show potential employers that you have a strong work ethic and have gained transferable skills that would be valuable in a laboratory. 

You can use work experience to highlight your communication, organisational and problem-solving skills, as well as your ability to use your initiative and work in a team.

I have a degree that is not IBMS Accredited and I have not completed the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio

For non-accredited IBMS degree courses
IBMS Accredited BSc biomedical science degree courses have specific curricula that are aligned with the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement

Anyone who has not completed an IBMS Accredited biomedical science degree or apprenticeship (or HCPC approved Healthcare Science (Life Sciences) degree) will need to request an IBMS degree assessment for their non-accredited degree. This will identify if you need to undertake additional education (sometimes called top-up modules) to meet the HCPC Standards of Education and Training. You will also be required to successfully complete the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio and be awarded the IBMS Certificate of Competence which will then enable you to register with the HCPC as a biomedical scientist.

If your degree is not IBMS Accredited and you later want to become a HCPC registered biomedical scientist in the UK, it is likely that you will have to undertake additional learning to acquire the level of relevant subject knowledge required to register to practice. This normally involves “top-up” modules that you will have to study and pay for – usually at the same time as undertaking your laboratory training.

The IBMS assesses non-accredited degree awards to determine whether a candidate needs to undertake supplementary education/top-up modules. These additional modules are required to provide the specific subject knowledge and understanding needed to meet the HCPC Standards of Education and Training for biomedical scientists. 

The exact requirement of supplementary education will depend on the content of the non-accredited degree programme that you studied.

First, you will need to contact registration@ibms.org to request an IBMS degree assessment. You will be required to provide an authenticated transcript of all module marks, so you cannot apply for your degree to be assessed until you have completed all modules and formally received all module marks. You will also have to provide copies of all module descriptors for modules completed during your degree and a copy of your final year research project report (dissertation).

To be able to register with the HCPC as a biomedical scientist, you must have successfully completed:



Postgraduate courses
It is important to note that IBMS Accredited postgraduate degree courses (MSc programmes) do not supersede a non-accredited BSc degree programme. An IBMS Accredited MSc programme will not automatically allow you to apply for HCPC registration. You will be required to have both your BSc programme and MSc programme contents reviewed via a single degree assessment to identify any gaps in the clinical pathology disciplines.

You may still be required to undertake top-up modules from an IBMS Accredited BSc programme following your IBMS Accredited MSc, if you have not completed all required clinical pathology content in sufficient depth and breadth.

 

 

How IBMS degree assessment works
The IBMS uses a team of experienced academic colleagues to assess non-accredited qualifications against and the detailed curriculum in the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement that underpins the HCPC Standards of Education and Training. This assessment will determine whether you need to undertake supplementary education/top-up modules to meet the HCPC Standards of Education and Training for biomedical scientists.

Once all  required documentation has been submitted correctly (including an official degree transcript, all module descriptors and a copy of the research project report), the documents will be assessed and a decision made about any required supplementary education. It is important that you read the guidance documents carefully and follow the instructions on what is required to avoid delays in processing your application.

Once your degree has been assessed, you will receive an outcome letter that will indicate what (if any) supplementary education (top-up) modules you are required to undertake. You can choose to study these at a local university that has an IBMS accredited BSc programme or through some universities that offer modules online.

 

INTERNATIONAL PRACTITIONERS

Those who have completed their education and professional training and practiced in clinical laboratories outside the UK, and haven't been registered with the HCPC before, may be eligible to register via the HCPC’s International Application Route.

If the HCPC reject your application you can contact registration@ibms.org to request an IBMS degree assessment.

You can contact the HCPC to apply for registration once you have completed:

To be able to register with the HCPC as a biomedical scientist, you must have successfully completed:

I have an IBMS Accredited degree and have successfully completed the Registration Training Portfolio

Congratulations! You have done everything required to be able to register with the HCPC as a biomedical scientist. If you have received your degree certificate and your IBMS Certificate of Competence then you are eligible to register with the HCPC as a biomedical scientist.

If you have completed a degree with an integrated placement (or completed a degree apprenticeship) your university will send a pass list of all graduates from your course to the IBMS to issue your Certificate of Competence. The IBMS will then send your details to the HCPC to allow your registration as a biomedical scientist. Alternatively, if your degree programme is directly HCPC approved, your university may send the pass list directly to the HCPC themselves.

If you have completed a sandwich placement, you will need to send a copy of your degree certificate or an official transcript of your completed degree programme to the IBMS. The IBMS will then issue your Certificate of Competence to you and inform the HCPC that you have completed an IBMS accredited degree programme and have been issued your Certificate of Competence.

You can then apply directly to the HCPC for registration as a biomedical scientist. You must cite the IBMS as the education provider on your application form rather than your university if you completed a sandwich placement.


Please visit the HCPC website to find the application for registration.

If you have applied for registration and are waiting for confirmation from the HCPC, you can check the HCPC register.

I am working at the level of a biomedical scientist but I am not HCPC registered

Equivalence route

If you are working at the level of a HCPC registered biomedical scientist but are not HCPC registered you can apply to complete the IBMS Certificate of Competence by Equivalence

The process involves an initial assessment of your experiential learning, acquired from a combination of academic qualifications and professional practice. If you are successful in being admitted to this route, you will complete the IBMS Certificate of Competence by Equivalence portfolio. The portfolio evidence will be assessed by a panel of three assessors: a lay person, academic and professional (practitioner). The panel will agree if your portfolio has met the requirements to pass and if you can proceed to the final assessment (a viva voce). The viva (oral exam) will be conducted by the professional assessor and can be online or face to face.

Experiential route

The IBMS Clinical Scientist Certificate of Attainment is available if you are working in the UK in healthcare science with an MSc degree, or equivalent-level qualification, and can demonstrate through a combination of your education, training and professional experience that you meet the minimum level of practice required for registration as a clinical scientist with the HCPC. 


Who are the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS)?

We are a professional body, established in 1912, that represents the interests of biomedical science professionals in the UK and internationally. Our mission is to support, progress and promote our members’ careers and their profession, and to ensure recognition for the important role that biomedical science plays in society.

The IBMS has more than 21,000 members, ranging from students studying IBMS Accredited degrees, laboratory trainees completing the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio, biomedical scientists with IBMS Specialist Diplomas, and advanced laboratory practitioners with higher and expert IBMS qualifications.

The IBMS oversees the route to HCPC registration as a biomedical scientist in the UK and provides professional standards and supports members in their practice by setting quality standards through training, education, assessments, examinations and continuous professional development.

 

IBMS Accredited degree programmes

In the UK, there are approximately 56 universities that currently have IBMS Accredited BSc Biomedical Science programmes. Studying an IBMS Accredited BSc Biomedical Science degree programme (or IBMS Accredited level 6 degree apprenticeship) with a clinical placement offers the quickest route to registration as a biomedical scientist.

Any university programme that holds IBMS Accreditation will use the IBMS logo (insert here or refer to it) on their promotional material. If they do not have the IBMS logo, ask if the programme is IBMS Accredited or check on the IBMS website.


Who are the HCPC?

The HCPC are a regulator of 16 health and care professions in the UK, including biomedical scientists.

The role of the HCPC is to:

  • set standards for biomedical scientists’ education, training and practice
  • approve programmes which biomedical scientists must complete to register with them
  • keep a register of biomedical scientists, who meet their defined standards to practice