What can you do with a medical science degree?

Interested in studying med but not quite sure where you want to go career-wise? A medical science degree will give you a solid foundation.

A medical scientist seated at a workstation in a busy laboratory operating a microscope


Always been intrigued by the human body and how it works? Keen to help people live long and healthy lives? Medical science could be the perfect field for you. It’s an area in which you’ll always be learning more and have a strong sense of purpose, whether you’re working directly with patients or in a more behind-the-scenes research role.

You may have always dreamed of being a doctor since you were little but it’s worth remembering that if you don’t end up going down that specific (and long!) study pathway, there are many more roles out there in the medical science field.

So, what kind of jobs might be waiting for you when you graduate? Read on.

What is a medical science degree?

Medical science is the foundation of the practice of medicine. It’s a degree that opens pathways into both medicine and research.

An undergraduate course, such as a Bachelor of Medical Science, will set you up with strong foundational knowledge. You can also opt for a postgraduate course that introduces you to the field, such as a Graduate Certificate in Medical Sciences.

Within your medical science degree, you’ll likely cover topics including:

  • Anatomy and how our bodies function
  • Disease and how it’s treated 
  • Microbiology
  • Genetics  
  • Biostatistics and data 
  • Legal and ethical principles in healthcare

Health science vs medical science

You may have also come across courses in ‘health science’. So, what’s the difference between the health and medical sciences?

Essentially, health science tends to be geared to careers working with patients in healthcare settings (such as nutrition, physiotherapy, and health education) whereas medical science is based around investigating the behaviour and treatment of disease.

Some degrees combine both as a Bachelor of Health and Medical Science, giving you a taster of a wide range of areas, before you narrow your field of interest.

Medical science careers

After putting in the hard yards and completing your medical science degree, you’ll have a pretty diverse range of career options available to you.

Here’s a quick list of just some of the pathways you could pursue as a medical science graduate.

Microbiologist

As a microbiologist, you’ll study teeny tiny life forms, such as bacteria, fungi, algae and viruses. You’ll examine the different characteristics of these microorganisms, such as how they grow and respond to treatment.

Microbiologists are found in a surprisingly large range of sectors and, depending on where you end up, your work may help keep our food safe and more secure, treat disease in people, animals or plants, or even contribute to research on climate change.

Pharmacologist

Pharmacologists develop and test drugs and investigate how they interact with our bodies. In this role, your work may involve researching new medicines and making sure they are safe for us to use.

You may work in a lab, testing tissue and cell samples, or in a clinical setting, working with patients. Outside of the healthcare industry, you may also find a role as a pharmacologist working with other kinds of chemicals, such as pesticides or cosmetics.

Histology technician

As a histology technician, you’ll work in a medical lab, conducting research on diseases. Working closely with pathologists, you’ll help convert tissue samples into slides for examination and diagnosis; you’ll also assist with admin work in the lab.

This is important work that helps catch cancer and other diseases—potentially saving lives.

Medical research assistant

As a medical researcher or assistant, you’ll be working at the forefront of knowledge in your field. You may help design and conduct clinical trials that investigate different diseases and publish research papers documenting your team’s findings.

Science communicator

If you find yourself fascinated by the field but don’t want to spend your life in a lab, you may enjoy a job as a science communicator. Whether working as a health journalist, running workshops for schoolkids, or working in communications for a government or non-government organisation, you could put your medical science knowledge to good use and inspire those around you.

What if you want to become a doctor?

If you have your heart set on becoming a doctor, you’ll need to commit to a specific study pathway.

You may very well have already done your research on this but, as a refresher, to become a doctor in Australia you need to:

  • Complete an undergraduate degree, such as a Bachelor of Medical Science
  • Sit the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)
  • Complete a Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Complete an intern year
  • Gain general registration through the Medical Board of Australia.

A medical science degree can be a great first step in this pathway, but you’ll still need to sign up for a fair bit more study after that.

How to start your medical science career

So, how can you choose the best medical science course for you? Have a think about what kind of role you want to take on after graduating.

You may know you’re keen to work with patients in a clinical setting or you might be more interested in research. Check the subjects that each course offers, to make sure they line up with your goals.

It’s also totally fine if you don’t have any idea of your future direction at this stage—the beauty of a medical science degree is that it gives you a solid foundation and range of knowledge, before you potentially go on to further, more specialised study.

Whatever you choose, you’ll find that medical science is a truly fascinating field and one that gives you the chance to have a genuine impact on the world through your work.

Still scratching your head? Our student advisors are always happy to chat through any questions you may have about which course could suit you best.


Compare the medical science degrees that are available with leading universities through Open Universities Australia. Or book a call with an advisor at the link below.


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