How to become a Medical Scientist

Medical scientists conduct medical laboratory tests to provide information for diagnosing, treating and preventing disease.

Personal requirements of a Medical Scientist

  • Able to make clear and precise observations
  • Able to work accurately with attention to detail
  • Good verbal and written communication skills
  • Able to identify and analyse problems and develop practical solutions
  • Able to perform under pressure
  • Able to organise and prioritise work

Education & Training for a Medical Scientist

To become a medical scientist you usually have to study medical or biomedical science at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics are normally required. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in medical or biomedical science. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Medical Scientist

Medical scientists may perform the following tasks:

  • study blood and its diseases, count blood cells and examine blood slides with a microscope
  • identify blood diseases such as anaemia and leukaemia
  • determine the suitability of blood for transfusion by cross-matching the blood with the patient and checking for the presence of diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS
  • test blood for blood group antibodies that may cause disease in newborn babies and check the compatibility of bone marrow, kidney and other organs for transplantation
  • determine the chemical composition of specimens such as blood and urine, which are important in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes
  • grow disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi that are taken from a variety of clinical specimens
  • prepare body tissues (taken from the body during surgery or post-mortem examinations) for microscopic examination
  • prepare body fluids for microscopic examination and diagnose abnormalities
  • isolate and examine genetic material (DNA and RNA) for alterations specific to genetic diseases and cancer, to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions
  • supervise the work of other scientists, technical officers and assistants
  • advise medical practitioners on the interpretation of tests.

Working conditions for a Medical Scientist

They work as part of a team with doctors, pathologists, scientists, technicians and laboratory assistants.

Employment Opportunities for a Medical Scientist

Most medical scientists work in the health industry, especially in hospitals. There are also employment opportunities in universities and research organisations and in the private sector. There is a relatively stable employment base. Factors that may affect employment include the number and type of tests required to research, diagnose and treat diseases, and the incidence of new diseases.

Additional Information
Graduates from accredited courses may be eligible for full professional membership of the Australian Institute of Medical Scientists (AIMS). Some employers require eligibility for professional membership of AIMS. Visit their website for a list of available accredited courses.
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