All over the world, at every minute of every day, real people are protecting us from killer viruses, monitoring how healthy our cities are, and diving into our genes to discover the secret of a next generation of medicines.
But the UK is at serious risk of falling behind, as massive skills shortages threaten some of the world’s most cutting-edge jobs. The ABPI has found four skilled roles that the UK desperately needs to stay ahead of the pack.
What do these scientists face day-to-day, what disasters do they avert, and what breakthroughs do they make? And, if we fancied the challenge, how do we land a job like theirs?
Genomic scientists are pioneers on the forefront of medical innovation, exploring the genetic code of patients to find abnormalities that cause disease specifically target illness-causing errors in our genes.
This is one of the most exciting and cutting-edge fields of medical research going at the moment. As a geneticist, you’ll be unlocking secrets about the human genome that no one has ever discovered before.
If you’ve got a good biology degree you can join the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP); trainee geneticists get lab experience and can expect to get paid in Band 6, at around £26,000.
After the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014, it was the job of disease immunologists to track where the disease appeared. As an immunologist, you could be at the forefront of fighting disease outbreaks around the world.
Diseases never sleep, so even when there aren’t outbreaks of deadly viruses, we still need disease immunologists to keep a constant eye on hot-spots in case another epidemic occurs.
Immunologists need science and/ or maths A-levels and an undergraduate degree in life sciences (e.g. biomedical sciences, biology, microbiology or biochemistry) before they can start a work-place based training programme or PhD.
Typical salaries start anywhere from £22,000 to £30,500, depending on whether you're working in the public or private sector.
With the medical advances made over the last 10 years we’ve got a huge amount of data to help us better treat diseases and find the next generation of cures.
As a bioinformatician, you’ll be in charge of designing new ways for us to understand complex information and find new medicines that might be right under our noses.
This role requires at least a Masters degree in bioinformatics with systems biology. To get a place on a course you’ll need an undergraduate degree and A-levels in relevant science subjects.
Salaries for qualified research scientists start at £25,000.
Ask the expert: Bioinformatition
Tony Wu is doing a PhD at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. His work involves skills in bioinformatics – the use of software tools to understand biological data. He says:
“My research involves analysing a variety of different datasets – genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic and proteomic – from mixed, bulk tumour samples. I’m trying to better understand how different cell types around the tumour promote the spread of cancer or resistance to therapy. I picked this position so I could develop my bioinformatic data analysis skills.
"I would highly encourage others to learn the computational side of research in addition to the more ‘traditional’ scientific skill sets. Knowing how to analyse and interpret data properly, if not already necessary, will be mandatory for a future career in biomedical research.”
Clinical pharmacologists provide expert insight into the effects of life-saving medicine and can advise doctors about how to treat patients that don’t respond to treatment in an expected way.
Their work spans hospital wards to high-tech laboratories, where they turn research into medicines.
It’s one of the most at-risk jobs for skills shortages in the UK. You’ll need A-levels in relevant subjects then an undergraduate degree in life sciences and postgraduate qualifications.
While studying for postgraduate qualifications you could earn about £14,000. Starting salaries increase to between £25,000 once graduated. Some people become clinical pharmacologists through other routes having had careers in undergraduate teaching, or research or in the pharmaceutical industry.
Ask the expert: Clinical pharmacologist
Helen Tomkinson is a Clinical Pharmacologist at AstraZeneca. We asked her: what is the best thing about your job?
“Clinical pharmacology is one of the most rewarding careers there is in life sciences. Whether it’s investigating new ways to treat cancer or finding out how different people respond to the same treatment, the work you do makes a real difference to people’s lives.
“After more 20 years in this field, I would thoroughly recommend clinical pharmacology to any young scientist considering which field to specialise in.”
The UK is at serious risk of falling behind, as massive skills shortages threaten some of the world’s most cutting-edge jobs. The ABPI has found four skilled roles that the UK desperately needs to stay ahead of the pack.
Andrew Croydon, Head of Education at the ABPI