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Surprising careers in biomedical science

Your career path is packed with unexpected opportunities when you study biomedical science. So much more than a stepping stone to a profession in research or medicine, biomedical science can surprise you with the choice of careers available. Genetic counsellor, occupational therapist and patent lawyer are just a few options you might not have even thought of.

While quite a few students start biomedical science on a path to medicine, many have a change of heart as they progress through the degree. It’s not unusual for students to harness the analytical skills they gained in studying biomedicine to explore career opportunities in logistics, auditing, or even analytics in business, marketing, or intelligence.

Hands-on lab work could even spark your interest in researching chronic disease or you could pursue an alternative career in something like speech pathology. An overseas placement, on the other hand, could spark your interest in public health.

Calling all analytical minds

The skills and knowledge you learn in biomedical science are transferable to almost any industry.

Dr Lambert Brau is the Associate Head of School (Development and International) at Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences. He explains that in addition to good communication skills and an eye for detail, utilising analytical thinking skills also helps to lay the perfect foundation for further study in masters programs. According to Dr Brau, analytical thinking involves exploring questions such as ‘Where is the evidence? How good is that evidence? Is this a good argument? Is it biased? Is it verifiable? What are the alternative explanations?’

‘Many biomed graduates go on to masters programs in the allied health sector,’ Dr Brau adds.

Dr Bernhard Dichtl, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, reiterates the value of the critical thinking skills developed throughout a biomedical science degree.

To highlight their desirability across many industries, Dr Dichtl uses this example:

‘Finding possible explanations for the specific performance of an economic market requires analytical and problem solving skills, similar to skills required to figure out the molecular basis of a disease. Certainly, the context of the two given problems is very different but the approach is comparable.’

Honing critical thinking skills through a biomedicine degree has the potential to make you a stand-out candidate outside the realm of biomedical science.

‘Accounting agencies, for example, are keen on employing STEM students,’ Dr Dichtl explains.

‘The underlying rationale is that it is usually no problem to teach a graduate what they need to know about accounting, but an accounting firm cannot teach a student how to “think critically”.’

The importance of STEM skills for the future of work

STEM skills developed through a biomedicine degree will be important for the future of work because they have transferable qualities, according to Dr Dichtl. Regardless of how work changes in the future, having STEM skills will make you more employable.

‘Students studying STEM disciplines are accustomed to solving complex and complicated problems,’ Dr Dichtl says. ‘Beyond pure content knowledge it is essential to develop sound strategies in order to be able to confidently tackle complicated things.

‘Often such approaches include aspects of the scientific approach, which aims at generating new insights starting from the current knowledge base.

‘Students need to think analytically, break down a problem into manageable bits, integrate the impact of various parameters and formulate a meaningful solution,’ Dr Dichtl explains.

STEM, critical thinking and complex problem solving are all key skills that aren’t becoming obsolete.

Ignited by the unexpected

Dr Brau explains how diverse career options open up for students in their final year through placements, lab work and university-led career guidance.

The bulk of graduates discover careers outside a path in medicine and instead move into roles and sectors such as:

  • Medical research
  • Biotechnology
  • Laboratory medical scientist
  • Healthcare technician
  • Regulatory affairs
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Biomedical sales
  • Pharmaceutical sales
  • Science writer
  • Physiotherapy
  • Dietetics
  • Public health
  • Health promotion
  • Chiropractic
  • Veterinary science
  • Genetic counselling
  • Patent law.

Dr Dichtl says that biomedicine graduates could pursue career paths in vastly different fields too. These roles could be as consultants, market researchers or even sales executives, working for:

  • Consulting agencies
  • Accountants
  • Insurances
  • Banks.
'Increasing numbers of students are taking the opportunity to undertake overseas placements... This then ignites their interest to pursue unexpected career paths.'

Dr Lambert Brau,
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Here’s a spotlight on just a few of the surprising careers in allied health, from the springboard of biomedical science:

Occupational therapy

Biomedical science lays the foundation for masters study and a future in allied health, where working closely with patients is key.

You can make a lasting impact on the lives of patients in the client-centred career of occupational therapy. Use your passion for people to work one-on-one with children, young adults or the elderly to help them recover from life-changing physical or mental illness.

As an occupational therapist you’ll ‘help clients with activities they want to do but may struggle with, due to disability, illness or injury,’ Dr Brau explains. These activities could range from helping people to do their grocery shopping to supporting them to return to work.

Genetic counsellor

Picture yourself in a quiet consulting room of a hospital in your hometown. You’re about to deliver the good news to a young woman sitting nervously before you that, unlike her mother, she doesn’t carry the BRCA1 gene mutation. As a genetic counsellor you’ll combine empathy and communication skills with the latest genetics research to help families identify and manage inherited disorders.

Dr Brau says you’ll work with patients and their relatives to understand ‘the consequences and nature of the disorder and the probability of developing or transmitting it, as well as the options open to them in management and family planning.’

Speech pathologist

Passionate about working with kids? Channel your energy as a speech pathologist. You can choose to specialise in early childhood and focus on intervention programs. Set kids on a better path for learning by diagnosing and treating developmental delay and difficulties with language and literacy.

Dr Brau says speech pathology work can vary ‘from babies struggling with breastfeeding to people who need to re-learn how to speak after suffering a head injury or stroke.’

this. featured experts
Dr Lambert Brau
Dr Lambert Brau

Associate Head of School (Development and International), School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

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Dr Bernhard Dichtl
Dr Bernhard Dichtl

Senior Lecturer, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

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