Clinical scientists working in haematology are involved in diagnosing and managing disorders of the blood and bone marrow
You'll prepare, carry out and analyse tests on patients with blood-based abnormalities such as:
- leukaemia and other blood related cancers
- sickle cell disease
- other bleeding and clotting problems.
You'll interpret test results and report them to requesting clinicians, advising on further testing where necessary.
You'll usually work in specialist departments of hospitals where you may also be involved in blood transfusion science, for example, determining blood group status. You will usually work as part of a team with other healthcare science staff and haematology doctors.
Types of work
There are three main areas of haematology:
- diagnostic haematology
You'll typically work in:
- laboratories in biomedical roles
- blood transfusion centres
- clinical roles where you'll have direct contact with patients.
Doctors can also specialise in haematology but this is a very different career route. See hospital doctor for more information.
As a clinical scientist working in haematology, you'll need to:
- receive and prepare blood samples for analysis
- analyse blood samples using computer-aided and manual techniques
- review initial data that reveals, for example, white or red blood cell abnormalities
- interpret, verify and validate results and report findings to the requesting clinician
- make decisions on further haematological analysis and recommend additional tests where appropriate to help with the diagnostic process
- liaise with doctors and other medical professionals to discuss patient tests and treatment plans
- advise on specific types of treatment for individual patients
- cross-match blood for use in transfusions
- investigate the biochemistry of blood clotting
- produce quantitative data in the form of reports and provide key information to medical staff about a patient's condition
- help colleagues to interpret test results
- select appropriate techniques for different types of haematological analysis
- undertake research in order to better understand blood-related diseases
- keep accurate and detailed records.
At more senior levels you may need to:
- teach or train medical students and other hospital staff, e.g. nursing and portering staff
- apply for and manage departmental and/or laboratory finances and resources
- take responsibility for working towards targets
- liaise with haematology colleagues on a regional or national basis.
- Jobs in the NHS are usually covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) Pay Rates consisting of nine pay bands. Salaries for trainee clinical scientists typically start at around £31,365, depending on your employer and location (Band 6).
- Once qualified, you're likely to be employed on a salary of £38,890 to £44,503 (Band 7).
- With experience and further qualifications, your salary can range from £45,753 up to £104,927 for the most senior posts (Bands 8 and 9).
Those working in London and the surrounding areas may receive a high-cost area supplement of between 5% and 20% of their basic salary.
Salary levels for clinical scientists working for private companies, universities, government bodies and other organisations may vary.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You'll usually work a 37.5 hour week and may work a shift pattern as laboratory services operate on a 24/7 basis.
It's possible to work part time following successful completion of training.
Career breaks may be possible but you must keep up to date with any technical developments and you'll need to retrain on your return to work in order to meet Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration requirements.
What to expect
- It's becoming increasingly common to work in a blood science laboratory with other related staff.
- If you're working in a laboratory-based role, you'll liaise closely with medical and other hospital staff. However, in a clinical role you'll have more direct contact with patients and their families, as well as with other clinical professionals.
- There are opportunities to work in private practice, undertaking outpatient consultations.
- Jobs are available throughout the UK, although you may need to relocate to progress your career.
- Travel during the working day is uncommon, although you may visit other hospitals/clinics.
Training to become a clinical scientist working in haematology is done via the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), a three-year, full-time, workplace-based training programme that also includes academic study at Masters level.
To apply to the programme you'll need either a first or 2:1 undergraduate degree or an integrated Masters degree in life sciences. Relevant subjects include:
- biomedical sciences
You can also apply if you have a 2:2 undergraduate degree in any subject and have a higher degree in a relevant subject.
Evidence of research experience through a relevant Masters or PhD is also desirable. For all applicants, getting good academic results and relevant work experience is helpful.
Applications to the STP are made via Oriel, the online application portal for postgraduate training programmes in medicine, dentistry and public health. Recruitment usually takes place in January, but check the Oriel website for details. You must pass all stages of the recruitment process, which includes an online application, aptitude tests and interviews.
If you already work for the NHS, you can apply to the STP as an internal candidate.
If successful, you'll be employed by an NHS Trust as a trainee clinical scientist on a fixed-term contract for the duration of the programme and paid a salary. The first year of training is spent on rotation in a range of settings before specialising in years two and three. Training includes fully funded part-time study for an approved and accredited Masters degree in blood sciences.
On successful completion of the STP you're eligible to apply for a Certificate of Attainment from the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS), which allows registration as a clinical scientist with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).
For full details on the STP, advice on how to apply and information on competition ratios for each specialism, see the NSHCS website.
It's also possible for biomedical scientists to work as clinical scientists specialising in haematology. See biomedical scientist for further details.
For information on STP training in Wales, see Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW). There are separate scientist training schemes in:
- Scotland - NHS Education for Scotland - Clinical Scientists
- Northern Ireland - NI Direct Healthcare Scientist
If you don't already have a degree, you can apply for the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP), which provides undergraduate training leading to a BSc Hons Healthcare Science (Blood Sciences). Courses are full time (usually three years) and include at least 50 weeks of workplace-based training in the NHS. The PTP is also available as a Level 6 apprenticeship.
After graduating, you're eligible to apply for voluntary AHCS registration as a healthcare science practitioner or statutory registration with the HCPC as a biomedical scientist. If you have a 2:1 or above you could also apply to the STP.
In addition to your scientific and laboratory skills, you'll need to have:
- excellent communication and interpersonal skills, to pass on findings and give advice on diagnosis to other staff as well as to give formal presentations to colleagues
- the ability to organise and carry out research
- an analytical and investigative mind in order to assess scientific, technical and medical literature
- effective problem-solving skills and the ability to use your initiative and work independently
- strong team work skills as you'll be working as part of a multidisciplinary team, including doctors and other healthcare staff
- meticulous documentation and record keeping skills
- active listening skills and a supportive and emotionally robust approach to working with patients
- attention to detail and the ability to work with speed and accuracy
- the ability to work under pressure and to plan and prioritise your work load
- a high level of self-motivation, emotional resilience, reliability and good self-awareness
- a flexible approach to work with the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, new technologies and techniques
- the ability to make judgements that impact on patients' lives
- the skills to lead and motivate others
- project management skills
- IT skills, as most laboratories are highly computerised
- a commitment to lifelong learning.
Competition for entry on to the STP is keen. Familiarity with hospitals and clinics is important, so try to arrange a visit to a local hospital haematology department before applying and see if you can work shadow a clinical scientist working in haematology.
Related experience is useful, so investigate the possibility of short-term laboratory work experience in a haematology department. Contact the consultant or principal clinical scientist in haematology in your local NHS Trust hospital to discuss the career and opportunities for experience.
If the chance arises, attend an open day for your specialism to gain a better insight into the role and STP programme. Additional experience, such as involvement with research projects and publications, is also useful.
The main employer of haematology staff in the UK is the NHS. As a trainee clinical scientist, you're usually employed by an NHS teaching hospital and are seconded to suitable training bases at local hospitals. Once qualified, you may be taken on by the hospital in which you trained (although there is no guarantee).
You could also work for:
- NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)
- Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service
- Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service
- Welsh Blood Service
Opportunities may also exist with:
- independent and academic laboratories within the pharmaceutical industry
- government agencies such as Public Health England
- the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
- overseas organisations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
Look for job vacancies at:
Continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential part of continuing registration with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). You must keep up to date with the ongoing developments in your area of expertise, as well as building on your laboratory and management skills.
CPD activities can be anything from which you learn and develop and may include:
- work-based learning, such as in service training, expanding your role
- professional activities, e.g. being involved in a professional body
- self-directed learning, such as reading articles and published papers
- attending conferences, workshops and lectures
- publication in peer-reviewed journals
- presenting research and papers at conferences
- undertaking work exchanges abroad
- undertaking research at PhD level
- applying for research grants.
Membership of the British Society for Haematology (BSH) is important as it provides access to networking and career development opportunities, as well as support and advice.
Once you've got experience (usually at least one year post-registration), you may apply to train to become a consultant clinical scientist via the Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) programme. This bespoke five-year, workplace-based training programme includes study at doctoral level at a standard similar to medical speciality training. You'll also need to obtain FRCPath by passing examinations set by The Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath). Successful completion of the HSST programme leads to the award of Certificate of Completion of Higher Specialist Scientist Training (CCHSST) issued by the NSHCS.
There is a structured career path within the NHS. Once qualified, you can progress through the grades by gaining experience and completing further training, study and research. Promotion is based on merit and you may need to move to other hospitals to make the most of available opportunities.
Once you've got experience, it's possible to apply for jobs in specialist areas such as:
- paediatric haematology
- transfusion medicine
- genetic disorders
As your career develops, you're likely to take on a more supervisory role with responsibility for the work of your department. Progression to consultant involves further training via the HSST programme. Promotion to deputy head or head of department is likely to involve the management of a large department or major departmental section. It's possible to gain a senior position by making a significant contribution in your area of expertise.
There are opportunities to move into clinical research or to get involved in training and registration assessments. You can also develop your career by getting involved with professional bodies, taking on external professional roles or moving into advisory roles.