Bioscience Officer

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through direct entry.

Job description

Bioscience Officers reduce and prevent health threats to Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and improve their operational performance. They develop practical procedures, standards, equipment and strategies that protect CAF members and resources, respect the environment, and increase effectiveness. 

Bioscience Officers are specialists in the human dimension of military operations, environmental processes and occupational health and safety, as well as the roles, capabilities and needs of Forces members. Their purpose is to optimize human interaction with military systems through the interpretation and application of current scientific standards and practices in the following fields: 

Applied research and development, which includes:

  • Study of human response to environmental stress
  • Development, testing and evaluation of protective clothing and equipment
  • Analysis of the human-machine interface and system design
  • Human-factors analysis of accidents
  • Exploitation of technology to improve health, safety and human capability
  • Occupational hygiene support, which involves health-hazard and risk assessments of CAF workplaces and equipment

High-risk training for CAF members so they can function effectively and safely when faced with environmental, occupational and operational health threats, which involves:

  • Threat-specific countermeasures
  • Use of protective equipment
  • Operational medical training

Bioscience Officer

DENNIS: In the Canadian Forces, Bioscience Officers are the interface between the scientific and operational community. We apply scientific research and development to protect and enhance the operational health of Forces personnel.

We’re scientists… but don’t expect to see us wearing white lab coats.

JOHNSON: Our role is so unique and varied that it’s hard to predict exactly what we’ll be doing six months down the road. It could be anything from researching new ballistic eye protection… to testing air quality in a hangar… or modifying vehicles to be more ergonomic.

DENNIS: We’re applied human scientists, whose ultimate goal is to make it easier and safer for the men and women of the Canadian Forces to do their jobs.

I am Captain Monica Dennis from Prince Edward Island. I wanted to become a Bioscience Officer because I love science and I wanted to instruct Canadian Forces aircrew about aeromedical training. I also wanted to be a member of the Air Force, and the military gave me a scholarship to do both.

JOHNSON: And I am Captain Gary Johnson from Victoria, British Columbia. The task and the roles of a Bioscience Officer are not something that you commonly see in the civilian sector. Whether it be aerospace physiology or occupational health and safety, we do it in an environment and in situations that most people never get to see or do.

A big part of our job is to ensure that the tools, the equipment, the machinery – it all works optimally for the people that are in the field. It can be simple as setting up a routine sample for dust, or something more complex, like going into an

abandoned compound and building a sampling plan for asbestos and silica and other environmental compounds.

DENNIS: An ongoing focus for us is Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE… because personnel from all elements - Air Force, Army, and Navy - depend on their PPE every day.

A few years ago, the Forces did some research on a fragmentation vest. It was found that when a soldier was lying in the field trying to shoot their rifle, that the vest actually pushed their helmet down over their eyes. As Bioscience Officers, we made adjustments to this vest, to ensure that this type of problem wouldn’t happen again.

JOHNSON: We helped develop the life support equipment used by the Air Force… as well as the new Army uniforms specific for the climate in Afghanistan. In fact, Bioscience Officers were instrumental in the Clothe the Soldier project, designing protective clothing for every part of a soldier’s body for whatever environment they might encounter in the course of their duties.

DENNIS: No matter what the project, we interpret the problem and apply current and proven scientific methods to solve it. We’re also involved in training CF members to function safely under the most extreme circumstances and in the most hostile environments.

JOHNSON: When Bioscience Officers are deployed with the troops, we go outside the wire to test air and water quality and assess other potential health hazards.

DENNIS: Bioscience Officer candidates are expected to be physically fit, ready for the unexpected… adaptable and capable of providing leadership in a variety of environments.

JOHNSON: Preference is given to applicants who have degrees in the human sciences, although other degrees may be considered, if the applicant has specific or unique work experience. Competition is high. A Master’s degree helps, but it’s not the only criteria looked at for selection - your attitude and your character really count.

DENNIS: Successful candidates will attend the Basic Officer Training Course, or BOTC, at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur- Richelieu, Quebec. Here you’ll learn the principles of leadership, regulations, and customs of the service.

JOHNSON: If you’re not already bilingual, you’ll also be expected to take second language training.

DENNIS: Upon completion of BOTC and linguistic training, you’ll spend eighteen months under the supervision of a senior Bioscience Officer, gaining valuable work experience and competing a variety of military and civilian courses. This mentorship program is designed to fast-track you towards working independently.

We work independent of other Bioscience Officer teams. That’s because our jobs are so specialized… but when you’re working on a project, you’ll be part of a multidisciplinary team.

I love the independence. With every new assignment, I get to work with new people, share ideas, try new things… and I’ve been part of some really great teams.

JOHNSON: As a Bioscience Officer, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to expand your professional knowledge through continuing education and training. After gaining experience as a Bioscience Officer, I was selected to attend Post-Graduate Training. I went to the University of Toronto for two years and completed a Masters of Health Sciences and Occupational and Environmental Health. While I was going to school, the military paid for my salary, my books and tuitions. All in all, it was a great experience.

DENNIS: It’s rewarding to know I’m helping to ensure the health and safety of my military family.

JOHNSON: I could be on a submarine one week, or at a conference the next. I’ve recently been to Afghanistan. I could be called upon to work on the C-17 project to do noise sampling, or I could be teaching in a class on biohazards.

DENNIS: If you’re interested in applying scientific solutions to improve the quality of life, well-being and working conditions of your fellow Canadians… then you should seriously consider becoming a Bioscience Officer.


Working environment

Bioscience Officers typically work in a laboratory or office. They may be assigned to a Health Hazard Assessment Team or the Canadian Forces School of Survival and Aeromedical Training. They may be posted to support the operations of the Army, Royal Canadian Navy or Royal Canadian Air Force, in Canada or around the world.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Bioscience Officer is $49,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Once promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Navy) or Captain, their salary is approximately $79,000 per year.

Bioscience Officers are expected to maintain and expand professional knowledge, skills and potential through continuing education and training, including in-service instruction, specialist courses, and applicable university programs at the graduate level.

Related civilian occupations

  • Industrial Hygienist
  • Ergonomist
  • Medical Intelligence Analyst
  • Human Factors Specialist
  • Science Manager

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Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the Forces, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Professional training

Bioscience Officers work for up to 24 months under the supervision of a senior Bioscience Officer in a preceptor program. This program includes a variety of military and civilian courses, as well as work experience to bring the Bioscience Officer to an operational and independent level of performance as quickly as possible.

Specialty training

Bioscience Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses, professional conferences, and on-the-job training, including:

  • Military Leadership
  • Instructional Techniques
  • Project Management and Administration

Advanced training

As they progress in their career, Bioscience Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Graduate studies in Occupational Health
  • Graduate studies in Human Factors
  • Aerospace Physiology

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Entry plans

Now hiring: we are now accepting applications for this job through direct entry.

Direct entry

The required education for this position is a bachelor’s degree with honours from an accredited university in Canada. Applicants must also meet minimum requirements for acceptance into a graduate program in Human Factors, Physiology or Industrial Hygiene. The CAF will decide if your academic program matches the training criteria for this job and may place you directly into the any required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military occupation training are required before being assigned.

Preference is given to applicants with degrees in the human sciences, such as human biology, human factors engineering, ergonomics, occupational hygiene, human physiology, biochemistry. The CAF may also consider applicants who have completed suitable courses in the human sciences if they also hold an engineering degree in a relevant discipline, such as Industrial, Environmental or Chemical Engineering, or Engineering Management.

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