Higher Options career talks: bio and medical sciences

All school-leavers need to know about study options and job prospects — from the experts

Students considering a career in the bio and medical sciences can expect “almost endless” opportunities, says Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin.


”It’s amazing how many jobs there are in biomedical science from being a research scientist, to being an academic to being in industry. It’s a huge sector for Ireland too, nine of the top 10 drug companies in the world have plants here,” he says.

Similarly, Dr Linda Mulligan, chief state pathologist, is positive about future career opportunities for bio and medical science students.


“You’ll never be short of work. If you do a medical degree, you have so many options open to you,” she says.

Industry vs academia

In terms of career opportunities post-degree, Prof O’Neill highlights the differences between industry and academia.

“A science career is well remunerated, certainly in industry it is. Academia pays less but you have more freedom, so it’s a trade-off. If you want to get into business, it’s a fantastic route to take too. A science degree gives you a great grounding that will get you into many professions.

“You’re learning about data, analysis and all these other transferable skills, all things that are really great to have on your CV.”

For those considering a career in the sector, Prof O’Neill cautions that there is a lot of work involved, but it is extremely rewarding.

“It does take a fair bit of training to become a scientist and get into these careers. But there is a very clear route. My whole drive was to discover things, and I think it’s cool to make a brand new discovery that no one else has made,” he says.


Gianpiero Cavalleri, professor of human genetics at RCSI, says a key attribute for those seeking a career in the sector is resilience.

“You’ll be told no many times, and you have to be able to get back up and go again,” he says. “Hard work too, no one is born excellent. The ones who do well are the ones who work hard and that will lead you to success.”

Interview conducted in 2021