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Sector LMI - Biosciences

Bioscience is a scientific based area of work that covers a range of disciplines, such as biochemistry, haematology, virology, microbiology etc. This research and development work may take place in a variety of scientific-based organisation, university departments or research based industries. Bioscientists: produce innovative medicines, therapeutics and devices; research, develop and distribute medication; and process and produce chemicals and energy. Bioscience is sometimes referred to as life sciences.

The UK science sector is in a strong position. The sector is relatively new and is developing all the time, so there are numerous opportunities emerging particularly it the South East where it is an expanding sector.

Bioscience-related companies tend to be located in clusters, the most significant are around: Cambridge, Oxford and London; Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow in Scotland triangle; and in the North West of England. In Wales and Northern Ireland, organisational clusters are around the universities.

Key facts

  • The UK is Europe’s top location for investment in pharmaceutical and biotechnology R&D.
  • Biopharmaceuticals account for over 30% of research and development spend (over £5 billion) in the UK.
  • The value of biological medicines in development in the UK is worth around £24 billion.
  • The Bioscience sector provides highly skilled employment. There an estimated 55,000 people working in the biosciences sector.
  • Recruitment to the sector is generally at graduate level and degrees with an industrial placement at first or upper second class are preferred.

Biosciences workforce

  • 42% of the workforce is female.
  • 30% of organisations employ a majority of women in their workforce.
  • While women account for 59% of laboratory technicians and 52% of laboratory scientists, they only account for 36% of senior researchers and 27% of science managers.
  • 56% of the workforce is aged 25-44 years, 13% is under 25 years, 22% are aged 45-54 years, and 8% is over 55 years.
  • 17% of employers reported that retirement of crucial scientific staff was causing a problem and this is an issue across a range of occupations.

Education and training

  • 71% of bioscience organisations recruit BSc graduates
  • 60% recruit PhD graduates
  • 36% recruit MSc/MChem graduates
  • 26% recruited overseas graduates
  • 15% of sites have a formal graduate trainee scheme

However, the number of universities offering Bioscience-related subjects is declining and the number of first degrees gained in Bioscience has declined by 27% in Biological Sciences and 23% in Chemistry. Only a small minority of the graduates in these relevant subjects enter the Bioscience industry or go onto higher degrees in the subject. The take up of Foundations Degrees, HNC/Ds and BTEC National Certificates is low and there may be opportunities to expand capacity in this area to increase the number of technicians coming into the industry by this route. Currently, there are not enough students taking technical courses, making it difficult for industry to recruit good quality technicians

Salary levels

Pay scales in this industry are variable and are very dependent on qualifications, skills and knowledge. The following provides an indication of some full-time positions:

  • Biomedical scientist: salaries range from at least £21,200 a year for a newly-qualified biomedical scientist, to between £33,500 and £40,200 a year for specialists and professional managers.
  • Laboratory Technician: starting salaries may be around £13,500 a year rising to between £20,000 and £25,000 with some experience, whilst highly skilled technical staff or those with managerial responsibilities may earn £30,000 to £40,000 a year.
  • Clinical scientist: earn between £21,200 and £34,200 a year in the NHS, consultants can earn up to £81,000.
  • Biologist: starting salaries for can be around £20,000 a year, University lecturers can earn around £40,000 and Professors may earn up to £60,000.

Future prospects

The UK has a strong heritage and global presence in bioscience research and development, so it is likely to attract new businesses and investments. The bioscience sector is growing and has a high level of recruitment activity. However, it is under threat from a widening skills gap, a lack of skilled candidates and few people interested in the sector. Many bioscience organisations expect that there will be a general expansion in the sector and a growth in staff numbers. Additionally, new products, services and research areas will develop in the future. There is a need, therefore, to recruit new staff and train existing staff, upskill and, where relevant, achieve appropriate qualifications in order to meet future developments. The North West has clusters of bioscience employers and providers of education and training. Expanding and developing these networks is thought to be the key to the future success of the sector.


  • NGRF - LMI Future Trends
  • National Careers Service - job profiles
  • Graduate Prospects
  • Insitute of Biomedical Sciences
  • EngineeringUK 2012

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