Clinical technologists ensure that the technology and equipment used to diagnose and treat patients in hospitals and other medical settings is safe, accurate, well-maintained and monitored to a high standard
As a clinical technologist you'll use your knowledge of physics or engineering to operate, maintain and monitor hospital equipment and clinical materials. This is a practical role, and your work ensures that every patient receives accurate, safe and efficient diagnosis and treatment.
You'll perform tests on a range of medical equipment to ensure it's working properly and will fix any problems. Once you've carried out the necessary checks, you'll record the results.
You'll typically work as part of a multidisciplinary team that can include clinical scientists, radiologists and radiographers. Depending on your area of work, you may also have some contact with patients.
Clinical technologists are sometimes referred to by alternative job titles such as medical technologist, medical engineer or healthcare science practitioner.
Types of work
Clinical technologists can work in one of the following physics or engineering clinical technology areas, in which they build specialist expertise through their work:
- radiation physics - monitoring the health and safety of hospital staff, patients and the public who come into contact with ionising and non-ionising radiation during medical diagnosis and treatment
- radiotherapy physics - maintaining specialist devices, treatment planning, dosimetry calculations and monitoring equipment used in radiotherapy treatment
- nuclear medicine - preparing radioactive substances used in therapy or diagnosis (radiopharmaceuticals), communicating directly with patients, taking readings and measurements (for example, using gamma cameras), and disposing of waste safely
- medical engineering - testing, maintaining, repairing and calibrating medical devices in a wide range of clinical areas using electronic or mechanical engineering skills
- radiation engineering - using your engineering skills to repair and service radiotherapy equipment such as x-ray, ultrasound and MRI machines
- rehabilitation engineering - maintaining, designing, fitting, adjusting, servicing and repairing equipment used to support patient recovery (usually working closely with patients, therapists, technicians and other staff)
- renal technology - ensuring the safe and effective working of dialysis equipment, both in hospital and where patients use dialysis equipment at home.
Activities vary depending on the area of clinical technology you work in. However, as a clinical technologist, you'll typically need to:
- monitor and test medical devices and equipment
- calibrate devices, take measurements and readings
- ensure that equipment and devices are safe to use
- repair and maintain a range of specialist, and often complex, equipment and/or materials
- maintain accurate and concise records about the condition of specialist medical devices and any safety checks, repairs and tests that have taken place
- contribute to technical problem solving so that any device/equipment issues can be quickly resolved
- in some roles, such as nuclear medicine, provide training on the safe use of specialist medical devices to staff and, in some cases, patients and carers
- work closely with other professionals (e.g. technologists, radiographers, radiologists, nurses and clinical scientists)
- communicate clearly and accurately (mainly to colleagues, but in some areas of work to patients) to ensure that equipment and materials are used safely and processes are understood.
Job descriptions for clinical technologists can vary significantly and it's a good idea to look at the job description closely to identify the nature of the role available.
- Most clinical technologist roles are in the NHS and are usually linked to an NHS pay band. Salaries for trainee clinical technologists are typically on Band 4 (£22,549 to £24,882) or Band 5 (£25,655 to £31,534).
- Once you've completed training and are a registered clinical technologist, you can expect to be employed on Band 5 or occasionally Band 6 (£32,306 to £39,027). Experienced clinical technologists are typically employed on Band 6.
- There are a small number of very senior posts, for example deputy chief or chief clinical technologist, that can attract salaries of in excess of £50,000.
Salaries can vary significantly depending on a range of factors including your experience and area of specialism, as well as where in the UK you work.
Salaries for degree apprenticeship roles, which usually offer very similar training, are typically lower. For more information, see GOV.UK - Become an apprentice.
Income data from NHS Agenda for change pay rates. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Full-time clinical technologists usually work 37.5 hours a week. In some areas jobs may follow a rota or shift pattern, whereas in others there are core office hours (for example 9am to 5pm) with some occasional work outside of these.
Some jobs offer opportunities for flexible working, part-time hours, short-term contracts and job sharing.
What to expect
- You'll usually be based in a hospital medical physics department, although you could work in practically any part of the hospital, for example on wards and clinics or in treatment or scanning departments. In some roles you could also visit patients in their homes.
- The skills you use and the level of contact you have with patients varies depending on your area of work and whether you're working in a laboratory, travelling around a hospital to work or visiting other sites and patient homes.
- As a trainee clinical technologist, you'll complete professional training at the same time as working. Usually you'll get some time off, but you should expect to use some of your free time to support your studies.
- As the vast majority of roles are within the NHS, job security, pay and benefits are generally stable. Staff are represented by a trade union and a set of core NHS values governs the work.
- You may need to travel during the day to visit patients, other sites and external customers. A full driving licence may be required.
The most common route to qualifying as a clinical technologist is to apply for a trainee clinical technologist job in the NHS and then complete a training scheme on the job. Entry requirements for these roles vary but you'll often need:
- an A-level in physics or engineering
- a degree or HND in physics or engineering (or a degree with a large component of these subject areas).
One you're working as a trainee clinical technologist, you'll follow either the IPEM Clinical Technologist Training Scheme or The Association of Renal Technologists Training Scheme, which provide structured clinical workplace experience.
An alternative route to qualification is to complete the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP), which provides undergraduate training that leads to a BSc (Hons) Healthcare Science. Training lasts three years, full time and includes work-based and academic learning. You will undertake broad scientific training in the first two-years, before focusing on your chosen specialism in year three. Applications are made via UCAS.
It's also possible to qualify by taking a degree apprenticeship. You'll need to start by applying for an apprentice clinical technologist job in the NHS. Entry requirements vary but usually include A-level physics and evidence of study at GCSE level, typically with grades C or B (4 or 5) in English, maths and science. You can still apply if you already have a degree.
Once you have successfully completed one of these training routes, you should be eligible to join the Register of Clinical Technologists, a register accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.
You'll need to have:
- verbal and written communication skills in order to provide clear instructions
- the ability to concentrate for long periods on complex work, as well as to handle interruptions and setbacks
- a flexible approach to work and the ability to adapt your knowledge to changing situations
- interpersonal and teamworking skills, as well as the ability to work alone
- manual dexterity
- attention to detail
- the ability to manage and prioritise your own work
- the ability to use your own initiative within your area of expertise
- self-awareness and the confidence to recognise when you need to ask for help as your work can directly affect patient health
- reliability and high standards, as your work keeps patients safe
- the ability to manage unpredictable workloads
- IT skills and the ability to handle data using a range of software packages.
A driving licence is sometimes required for travel between hospital sites.
You don't usually need previous work experience in clinical technology. However, any experience of work, regardless of whether it's in a clinical setting, is useful as it can demonstrate your broader professional skills, such as communication, reliability and attention to detail.
It may be possible to spend some time work shadowing a clinical technologist or doing work experience with a clinical technology team to get a feel for the role. Contact your local hospital to find out about opportunities.
Some hospital websites will list work experience opportunities and others will have contact details to request informal experience. Look for opportunities with the medical physics, medical engineering or rehabilitation engineering department. Make sure that you've read about the different areas and that you're clear about where you'd like to gain work experience.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
The vast majority of clinical technologists work for the NHS. Each NHS trust advertises for trainee clinical technologists at different times of the year, and with slightly different job descriptions (even within the same area of work).
A small number of jobs (usually for trained and registered clinical technologists) are advertised outside of the NHS in private companies - usually either private healthcare providers or makers of medical technology.
Look for vacancies at:
- The Association of Renal Technologists - for renal technologist opportunities
- EBME - for medical engineering opportunities
- Jobs in HSC - for roles in Northern Ireland
- New Scientist Jobs
- NHS Jobs and NHS Scotland Recruitment
Jobs may be advertised under a range of titles, including clinical technologist, medical technologist or healthcare science practitioner.
After you've completed your training and become a registered clinical technologist, you'll continue to develop professionally by completing the continuous professional development (CPD) requirements of the RCT. CPD activities can include:
- researching new devices
- carrying out reflective practice
- taking a secondment to a different team
- receiving training on new techniques or equipment
- developing new skills which expand your role
- undertaking further study at postgraduate level in a specialist area, for example nuclear medicine.
Professional bodies that support clinical technologists include:
- Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)
- The Association of Renal Technologists (ART)
Membership can provide you with access to professional journals, conferences and events, as well as other CPD opportunities through meetings, research and awards.
The first three years in the role are generally concerned with completing your training. Following this, you'll typically be employed as a registered clinical technologist on Band 5 of the NHS pay scale.
As you continue to develop your skills and experience, you can apply for a Band 6 role. How quickly you progress depends on when roles become available and what skills and experience these roles require. However, it's reasonable to expect that you can move into a Band 6 role within five years of registration.
With experience you could take on responsibility for the day-to-day supervision of junior and student clinical technologists and other technical staff, including technical supervision, mentoring and training.
There are a small number of roles (at deputy chief and chief clinical technologist level) available at higher bands, where clinical technologists take on responsibility for managing a team or training area. You will need specialist skills, as well as leadership, supervisory, teaching and training experience, for these types of role.