Biomedicine, sometimes Biomedical Science (or “BioMed”), is an academic field dedicated to the advancement of human medicine. It is a very diverse discipline - offering students an opportunity to explore the biological sciences and to work towards a career that can make a real difference in the world.
Biomedical Science (Biomedicine) is the field of study that focuses on the areas of biology and chemistry that are relevant to healthcare. The discipline is very wide-ranging, and there are three general areas of specialty – life sciences, physiological sciences, and bioengineering. Careers in Biomedical Science are mostly research- and lab-based, with the aim to improve and advance medical knowledge.
The broadness of this discipline gives graduates many opportunities to specialise already during their studies, and thus offers many career options. It is a very ‘real-world’ discipline. Biomedical scientists regularly make headlines with advances in their fields, with results that you can see first-hand. As a biomedical scientist, you might be growing embryos for IVF, 3D-printing a heart, or finding a new medicine to fight cancer. Biomedicine is the field where biology, chemistry, and changing the world meet.
Biomedical Science is a very popular degree, and it is widely available across Europe. Note that some universities call it “Biomedicine”, which is the same discipline.
“Biomedicine” and “Biomedical Sciences” usually refer to the same thing. Degree programmes might be named one or the other, but this is mostly driven by how a university wants to present their curriculum to students like you. To be sure about the course content, check a programme’s list of mandatory and elective modules.
An undergraduate course in Biomedicine covers an extremely diverse range of topics, making it an excellent choice for those who are yet unsure of where they would like to specialise.
As you advance through your degree, you will be offered many elective courses to choose from. It is a good idea to not specialise too early in your degree, as this will limit your options later on. You can expect to study subjects such as (but not limited to):
A standard degree in Biomedical Sciences is three years long and will result in a Bachelors of Science (BSc). Some universities alternatively offer four-year programmes that result in an “honours” degree, BSc (Hons). This will make it easier to pursue a Masters or PhD later on.
Entry requirements for Bachelor programmes in Biomedicine will differ depending on the university, but you can expect to need good grades in Mathematics, Biology, and Chemistry.
It is at the Master’s level that most Biomedicine students choose a speciality, although a broad qualification is also an option. Your choices for postgraduate study will usually align with what courses you chose at undergraduate level. For example, a Master’s programme that is based heavily on genetics will be a good choice if you have covered genetics in detail during your Bachelor’s, but would be difficult if your focus previously lay elsewhere.
The Masters that you choose will have a significant impact on your career path, so this is a good time to really think about where you want your career to go. Likewise, if you want to do a PhD, you need to ensure that your MSc aligns with the career or research field that you want to go into. Therefore, pay attention to the course content laid out in the curriculum when you decide which Masters to apply to.
Postgraduate courses are usually one or two years long and, as in undergrad, will be a mix of classroom-based and lab-based learning. You will usually need to have achieved a good final mark in your BSc degree to qualify for an MSc. In the UK, that often means an upper second-class Bachelor’s (or “2.1”); in other countries, criteria can differ.
If you want to become an expert in your area of Biomedical Sciences, then pursuing a PhD is for you. Like other STEM subjects, a Biomedicine PhD usually takes a minimum of three years. Anything less than this is considered too short a time to have achieved anything significant enough to deserve a doctorate. Most PhD programmes are three or four years long, but they can last several years, depending on your project and the available funding.
It is possible to go straight from a BSc into a PhD programme, but you will need to have achieved very good marks. The application process for an PhD will usually include an interview and you will need to provide references from your lecturers and/or advisors.
PhD students will work closely with an advisor, who will guide and support them through their project. PhD projects involve a lot of research, experimental work, and data processing. At the end of the PhD programme, if you are successful in contributing something new to your field of science, you will earn the title of Doctor.
Teaching and research standards in Europe are high and you can expect to get high-quality education. If you are looking to get your Biomedicine degree from a top university, rankings can serve as one indication.
There is no ranking specifically for Biomedicine. But what comes close is the “Life Sciences” ranking by Times Higher Education. Here are the top universities in 2020 in a selection of European countries:
Biomedicine is a very popular course, and most universities that offer it are well-practiced at delivering a valuable curriculum. Some universities (especially in the UK) offer degree programmes with industrial placements. If you think you want to work in the private industry, then a course that includes a work placement will be a great choice. If no placement is embedded in the curriculum, you can always use semester breaks for internships.
Also, look for a university in a city where there are nearby pharmaceutical companies or large hospitals. They will always be interested in hiring graduates as they finish university, or hiring students as interns.
If you think you are going to be more interested in staying in academia, check out what research facilities the university has. Explore their website, try to find out what their lecturers specialise in, and try to learn more about the research projects that current PhD students are doing. It will give you an idea of the research areas that the university invests in.
Some universities accept Biomedical Science as an alternative entry into studying Medicine, i.e. to become a medical doctor. However, do not consider Biomedicine merely a feeder course! Most universities offer a very limited number of transfer places – many offer less than ten each year – and competition for those places is very high. So, while it is possible to use Biomedicine as a path into Medicine, it is not a recommended tactic.
Different universities have different criteria for transferring. Some universities will allow high-performing Biomedicine students to transfer into medicine after year one or two of their BioMed degree. Others will ask you to complete your degree in BioMed first.
Criteria for a transfer usually include that
Transfers between courses are usually internal, meaning you cannot transfer to a different university. However, if you have finished your undergraduate degree, you can then apply to Medicine somewhere else.
If you are considering trying to use Biomedicine as a way to transfer into medicine, contact the university directly and discuss your options with them first.
Biomedical Science and Biotechnology (“BioTech”) or Bioengineering overlap in many places, but they differ in their ultimate goal. In Biomedicine, everything is aimed at medical applications, ranging from diagnostics to research. In Biotechnology or Bioengineering, the end goal may be more open, and your methods may be different. As a Biotechnologist, your work can be aimed at agriculture, green energy, technology, food science, or the environmental industry.
Choosing your course is a big decision and there is a lot of information to take in. Here, put simply, are the three main reasons that make studying Biomedicine a great choice:
The careers available to you as a Biomedicine graduate are as wide ranging as the subjects you can study during your degree programme. Biomedical career paths are usually focused on research, analysis, or development. You can choose to stay in academia and pursue a PhD, researching and developing new diagnostic or medical treatments. Or you can go out into the world and start an exciting career in the private sector. The sky's the limit!
Examples of careers you can have with a qualification in Biomedical Sciences include:
Remember that this is just a small sample of the careers you can pursue with a qualification in Biomedical Science.
Learn good lab skills! Learning to be confident and competent at basic laboratory tasks such as micro-pipetting, titrations, preparing microscope slides, balancing a centrifuge, etc. will make a huge difference to your biomedical career.
When applying for jobs – especially at the beginning of your career – laboratories will prefer candidates with strong lab skills. It means they can trust you to perform tasks, and that saves them time and money. Experience and skills in laboratory work are highly desired and transferable across all areas of science.
Biomedicine is a cross-disciplinary subject that not only combines Biology, Chemistry, and Medicine, but also incorporates aspects of many other subjects. Some of these may suit you better, depending on your personal preferences:
Still eager to study Biomedicine? Check out Biomedicine programmes in Europe183 Biomedicine Programmes in Europe