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Healthcare scientist, genetics: Entry requirements

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In order to work as a healthcare scientist (also known as a clinical scientist) in genetics you need to successfully complete the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) . This makes you eligible to apply for a Certificate of Attainment from the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS), which allows you to register as a clinical scientist with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) .

The STP is a graduate-entry programme that leads to more senior scientist roles in the NHS. Successful candidates are employed by an NHS Trust as trainee healthcare scientists and join a salaried three-year, fixed-term training programme (blood/cellular sciences), which includes study for an approved and accredited Masters degree in your chosen science specialism (genetics).

Entry on to the STP is competitive and you will need a first or 2:1 degree, (typically genetics or a related subject with a genetics component such as molecular biology or cellular sciences), or a 2:2 with a relevant Masters or PhD.

Gaining good academic results and relevant work experience is helpful.

An MSc or a PhD in a relevant subject area may be advantageous when applying for trainee positions, but is not a requirement. However, in practise, many applicants have a research Masters or PhD. Additional skills and experience, such as involvement with research projects and publications, may be useful.

NHS organisations in England and Wales annually offer 250 to 300 training posts in life sciences, physiological sciences, physical sciences and informatics. Details of training posts have been advertised in the New Scientist, but candidates must apply through National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS): STP recruitment . Recruitment usually takes place in January but check the NSHCS website regularly for details.

There are separate scientist training schemes in:

Entry is also possible through obtaining a Certificate of Equivalence from the AHCS and in some instances via the Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS) .

For those without a degree, undergraduate training that leads to a BSc (Hons) Healthcare Science (Genetic Science) accredited by the National School of Healthcare Science, is provided by the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) .

Entry on to the degree course usually requires a good mix of GCSEs at A to C grade and a minimum of two A2/A-levels, including science subjects. These requirements may vary so check with individual institutions before applying. Courses are full time (usually three years) and include at least 50 weeks of workplace-based training in the NHS.

Applications are made via Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) . For a list of accredited courses see the NHS Careers Course Finder .

Graduates from the PTP can then apply to enter the NHS in a healthcare science practitioner role or they may choose to apply for the STP, which offers pay on a higher scale and more opportunities for career progression.

Candidates need to show evidence of the following:

  • laboratory skills and the ability to plan and do research;
  • strong problem-solving skills;
  • an analytical and investigative mind;
  • excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • the ability to manage a laboratory project and liaise with a wide variety of technical colleagues;
  • capability to work effectively as part of a team;
  • good IT skills, as most laboratories are highly computerised.

Entry on to training schemes is competitive and there are many more applicants than places. Laboratory experience and an insight into the workings of a hospital laboratory are important, so arrange a visit to a local hospital laboratory before you apply.

Investigate the possibility of short-term work experience in a genetics laboratory. It is worthwhile making speculative approaches. For a list of relevant laboratories, see the Association for Clinical Genetic Science (ACGS) .

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

Written by AGCAS editors
February 2015

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