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What is a Biomedical Sciences Degree?
The biomedical sciences discipline combines the fields of biology and medicine to focus on the health of both humans and animals. Biomedical scientists develop new treatments and therapies for illnesses, diseases, and disabilities. They research medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, anemia, stress, and aging.
Students pursuing a biomedical sciences degree begin their studies with an emphasis on courses in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. In advanced courses they explore the application of knowledge in these areas to conducting biomedical research and ultimately finding scientific solutions to health problems around the world.
Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Sciences – Four Year Duration
The primary learning outcome of a bachelor’s program in biomedical sciences is understanding of and ability to apply principles in health science to a career in the medical field. The curriculum typically provides students with opportunities to engage in internship and job shadowing experiences with chiropractors, physicians, physical therapists, veterinarians, and other professionals in hospital, pharmaceutical, and pathology laboratory settings.
Holders of this undergraduate degree who do not go on to further study generally qualify for jobs in pharmaceutical sales or as lab technicians or researchers in laboratory settings.
Core bachelor’s level courses in the major include:
- Biological Sciences I – principles of biology from a botanical perspective, focusing on structure, function, ecology, and the evolutionary diversity of the fungal and plant kingdoms
- Biological Sciences II – principles of biology from a zoological perspective, focusing on genetics, evolution, animal structure and function, development and diversity of the animal kingdom
- Cellular Biology – examination of the molecular and biochemical systems central to cellular structures and processes
- Genetics – genetic, cytogenetic, and biochemical aspects of inheritance
- Biomedical Sciences Seminar I – exploration of the wide range of career options available to a biomedical sciences major and the academic pathways for those careers; presentations of research / internship experiences; guest speakers working in the field
- Biomedical Sciences Seminar II – directed research in the biomedical sciences that impacts human health, with emphasis on the conception, design, and interpretation of results of research experiments
- General Chemistry I Lecture – atomic theory, structure, and chemical bonding; application of thermodynamic, structural, and kinetic considerations to inorganic systems; electrochemistry, quantitative analysis
- General Chemistry II Lecture – the chemical properties of gases, liquids, and solids; solutions; chemical equilibrium; atomic and molecular structure; thermodynamics; reaction kinetics; discussion of properties electrochemistry and nuclear chemistry; applying qualitative and quantitative chemical principles to questions in chemistry, biology, health, and related disciplines
- General Chemistry Laboratory – basic lab techniques in the general chemistry area; adapting lab techniques to new problems or situations; applying mathematical methods to solve experimental chemistry problems; communicating scientific questions, analyses, and interpretations in writing
- Organic Chemistry I Lecture – structure of organic compounds, stereochemistry, and an introduction to the reactions of organic compounds
- Organic Chemistry I Laboratory – introduction to organic chemistry lab techniques with emphasis on purification and identification of organic compounds; separating and purifying organic molecules from mixtures using common organic techniques such as distillation, recrystallization, aqueous extraction, and chromatography; assessing the purity of an organic compound experimentally
Additional, related courses may include:
- General Ecology
- Evolutionary Analysis
- Statistical Methods
- Principles of Physics
- Human Anatomy
- Epidemiology and Biostatistics
- Chronic and Communicable Diseases
- Introduction to Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Biotechnology and Human Aging
Master’s Degree in Biomedical Sciences – Two Year Duration
Master’s programs in biomedical sciences are founded in research. Many schools, in fact, have close ties to research institutes, allowing students to experience how research benefits patient health and wellbeing, which of course is the ultimate goal of the biomedical sciences field. A bachelor’s in biomedical sciences or a related discipline is generally a prerequisite to enter a biomedical master’s program. At this level, students choose a specialization. Some compulsory coursework, multiple internships, and a master’s thesis are the primary components of the curriculum. Some schools offer a non-thesis option.
Doctoral Degree in Biomedical Sciences – Five to Six Year Duration
The master’s program involves a lot of taught courses. It emphasizes the transition from pure subject learning to independent research. It is designed to deepen career-oriented knowledge and skills. On the other hand, the doctoral degree is like a very long dissertation project. Ph.D. students have a great deal of independence. They have the benefit of supervision from a faculty advisor and may complete some taught classes in preparation of taking a comprehensive doctoral exam, but their focus is on independent research, on contributing original – new – knowledge to the field of biomedical sciences.
Here are some sample specializations available to biomedical sciences graduate students:
- Clinical human movement sciences
- Drug safety and toxicology
- Health technology assessment
- Immunology and host defense
- Medical neuroscience
- Molecular medicine
- Virology and gene therapy
Degrees Similar to Biomedical Sciences
The focus of biochemistry is the chemical processes and reactions that occur in living matter. Biochemists apply principles of both biology and chemistry to issues in many different sectors, including the environment, medicine and health, industry and manufacturing, agriculture, biofuels, and marine science.
A general biology degree program may include subjects like animal biology, invertebrate biology, vertebrate biology, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, microbiology, and ecology.
Simply stated, biomedical engineering uses engineering to solve health and medical problems. For example, a biomedical engineer might look for chemical signals in the body that warn of a particular disease or condition.
Biophysics applies the theories and methods of physics to understand how biological systems like the brain, the circulatory system, and the immune system function. Coursework includes math, chemistry, physics, engineering, pharmacology, and materials science.
Majors in this field study engineering and the life sciences to create new products – such as vaccines, medicines, growth hormones for plants, and food additives – for the agricultural, industrial, and environmental industries. Among typical classes are biochemistry, general biology, cell biology, chemistry, and genetics.
Cytotechnology is the study of cells and cellular anomalies. Cytotechnologists use a microscope to examine slides of human cells to uncover evidence of abnormalities that may reveal inflammation, infection, or disease.
Epidemiology, a fundamental science of public health, is concerned with health and disease at the population level; that is to say, within groups or communities. Its focus is the frequency, pattern, causes, and risk factors of diseases and other health-related events within these specified populations, which range from neighborhoods and schools to cities, states, countries, and the world at large.
Epidemiologists – often referred to as disease detectives – are the scientists and investigators whose work begins with looking for clues by asking questions. Who is sick? What are their symptoms? When did they get sick? Where could they have been exposed? Using statistical analysis, epidemiologists study answers to these questions and produce data that lead them to identify how a particular health problem was introduced, how its spread can be controlled, and how it can be prevented.
Microbiology is the study of all living organisms that are too small to see with the naked eye. These ‘microbes’ include bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa, and algae.
The field of molecular biology is concerned with genetics, with the structure and the relationships between four molecules in the body: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, nucleic acids.
Neuroscientists study the structure and function of the human brain and nervous system and how they affect behavior. The field of neuroscience borrows principles from biology, biochemistry, physiology, psychology, immunology, physics, mathematics, and computer science. Degree programs in neuroscience, therefore, reflect this multidisciplinary nature.
At the graduate level, programs include the study of neurological disorders, the impact that injury has on the brain, and approaches to neurological therapy and rehabilitation.
Pathology is the science of the causes and effects of diseases. Pathologists are the medical doctors who analyze organs, tissues, blood, and body fluids to search for medical conditions and diagnose disease and illness. In other words, their job is to solve often complex medical mysteries.
Pathologists typically do not have direct contact with patients, but they work closely with primary care physicians and other medical specialists. This unique position in medical practice has earned them the moniker of the ‘doctor’s doctor.’
Pharmaceutical science is concerned with the discovery and development of new drugs and therapies. The main categories of the field are drug discovery and design, drug delivery, drug action, clinical sciences, drug analysis, cost effectiveness of medicines, and regulatory affairs.
There is no distinct pre-medicine degree. ‘Pre-medicine’ or ‘pre-med’ is merely a term that students planning to go to medical school use to describe their undergraduate studies. In fact, aspiring doctors enter med school having earned many different bachelor’s degrees.
A science program such as biology or chemistry is certainly a common choice, but it is not mandatory. In other words, a pre-med student can be a psychology major, a statistics major, or a Spanish major. The key for students is to incorporate into their studies the classes needed to apply to medical school.
We are all exposed to chemicals. Many of them benefit society. Some, however, may threaten our health. Pesticides in the food we eat, pollutants in the air we breathe, chemicals in the water we drink, adverse effects of drugs used to treat disease – these are the subjects of toxicology. These are the concerns of toxicologists, who seek to understand the effects of exposure to harmful substances, to improve the health and safety of humans and other living organisms, and to protect the environment in which we live.
Toxicology connects knowledge from biology, chemistry, medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacology, public health, and environmental science.
Skills You’ll Learn
Individuals who study and work in the field of biomedical sciences develop a set of skills that are transferable to a variety of careers. Among these skills are:
- Abstract reasoning
- Attention to detail
- Awareness of ethical issues
- Computer literacy
- Experiment design and troubleshooting
- Observation, investigative, and problem-solving skills
- Organization and time management
- Practical lab skills
- Presentation skills / ability to communicate information, ideas, problems, and solutions to both specialized and non-specialized audiences
- Report writing, record keeping, and documentation
- Research and data analysis
- Safety consciousness
- Teamwork and communication skills developed through the need to collaborate with professionals in the medical, scientific, and engineering fields
- Technical savvy / adaptability to using various kinds of equipment
- Understanding of the relationship between science and society
What Can You Do with a Biomedical Sciences Degree?
Prototypical biomedical scientists conduct scientific and laboratory research to advance the diagnosis and treatment of disease. They do not have medical training and do not have contact with patients. These are some of the roles that they most often occupy:
- Biomedical Scientist
- Clinical Scientist, Biochemistry
- Clinical Scientist, Genomics
- Clinical Scientist, Haematology
- Clinical Scientist, Immunology
- Forensic Scientist
- Medicinal Chemist
- Medical Research Scientist
Biomedical sciences, however, is a versatile major which serves as a solid foundation for many health careers. The list below is not exhaustive but it provides an overview of potential careers to which a biomedical sciences degree can lead. Regardless of which application of the science an individual chooses to pursue, an advanced degree in the field is typically required. In addition, some roles necessitate further education and/or experiential learning.
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Dental Hygienist
- Dental Assistant
- Dental Laboratory Technician
- Occupational Health Specialist
- Health Educator
- Environmental Scientist
- Health Services Manager
- Long Term Care Administrator
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Clinical Laboratory Careers
Science and Engineering
- Industrial Ecologist
- Food Science Technologist
- Biomedical Engineer
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Certified Nurse-Midwife
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Nurse Practitioner
Therapy and Rehabilitation
- Speech-Language Pathologist
- Special Education Teacher
- Occupational Therapist
- Physical Therapist
- Recreational Therapist
- Art Therapist
- Music Therapist
- Optometric Technician
- Ophthalmic Technician
- Ophthalmic Technologist
- Ophthalmic Assistant
- Massage Therapist
- Craniosacral Therapist
- Myofascial Therapist
Dietetics and Nutrition
Mental and Social Health
Dual Expertise Careers – careers requiring expertise and training in two different areas
- Health Sciences Librarian
- Health Information Manager
- Medical Illustrator
- Medical Science Technical Writer
- Orthotist and Prosthetist
- Biomedical Sciences Professor
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