Healthcare scientists (also known as clinical scientists) working in audiology assess, diagnose and manage patients who have hearing, balance and tinnitus problems. They work as part of a multidisciplinary team with patients of all ages.
Work involves identifying and assessing hearing and balance functions through administering and interpreting diagnostic tests, and recommending and providing appropriate treatment.
Types of healthcare scientist, audiology
Healthcare scientists working in audiology have a direct clinical role working with patients, who are often very young children or elderly people. The job combines patient care and academic training with research activity. The main areas of work are:
- adult assessment and rehabilitation;
- special needs groups, e.g. patients with multi-sensory impairment;
- research and development;
Audiology is a rapidly developing field and healthcare scientists in this area are in demand both in the UK and worldwide.
Tasks vary depending on your level of experience. Those with more experience generally carry out the non-routine aspects of audiology, involving complex hearing and balance investigations that require a high level of responsibility and competence.
However, duties typically involve:
- administering auditory tests for babies, children and adults;
- interpreting and reporting on test results;
- developing and improving test techniques;
- recommending individual patient care management plans;
- advising on the selection, fitting and evaluation of hearing aids;
- researching new advances in hearing aid technology, such as digital hearing aids;
- testing and maintaining implanted devices, such as cochlear implants;
- operating audiometric equipment;
- conducting research into disorders affecting hearing and balance;
- counselling patients and assisting with their rehabilitation;
- teaching and training other healthcare professionals;
- working as part of a multidisciplinary team of specialists, which may include: ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeons and other hospital specialists, such as neurologists; speech and language therapists; physiotherapists; paediatricians; and teachers of hearing impaired people;
- managing audiology services, including monitoring and improving the quality of service provided.
- Jobs in the National Health Service (NHS) consist of nine pay bands.
- Salaries for trainee healthcare scientists typically range from £25,783 to £34,530 (Band 6).
- Salaries for those with experience (Band 7) range from £30,764 to £40,558.
- Salaries for principal scientists and consultant scientists, the highest grade at which healthcare scientists work, range from £39,239 (Band 8) to £98,453 (Band 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.
Income data from Agenda for Change (AfC) Pay Rates. Figures are intended as a guide only
Working hours are mainly 9am to 5pm, with some extra hours. Some departments employ 'extended working', operating on a four-day working week to cover demand for their services. Part-time and flexible work may be possible.
Career breaks may be an option but healthcare scientists must keep up to date with any technical developments and need to retrain on their return to work in order to meet Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration requirements.
What to expect
- Most healthcare scientists work in hospitals, although some work in universities in a research or teaching role. Work usually takes place in a hospital consultation room.
- Jobs are available in hospitals throughout the UK.
- Working with people of all ages who may be distressed or have disabilities can be challenging but also rewarding.
- Travel during the working day is uncommon although visits to other hospitals/clinics may occur.
In order to work as a healthcare scientist in audiology you need to successfully complete the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).
This leads to eligibility 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).
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, which includes study for an approved and accredited Masters degree specialising in neurosensory sciences.
Entry on to the STP is competitive and you will need a first or 2:1 in a relevant science-degree subject or a 2:2 with a relevant Masters or PhD.
Gaining good academic results and relevant work experience is helpful. Contact your local hospital to find out what voluntary opportunities are available and try to get direct experience of working with patients.
An MSc or a PhD in a relevant subject area may be advantageous when applying for trainee positions, but is not a requirement. Additional skills and experience, such as involvement with research projects and publications, may also 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 the 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 Scotland and Northern Ireland:
It is also possible to achieve registered clinical scientist status by completing an MSc in audiological science accredited by the British Academy of Audiology (BAA), followed by completion of the BAA Higher Training Scheme (HTS). This route is running concurrently with the STP. Contact the BAA for further information.
For those without a degree undergraduate training that leads to a BSc (Hons) Healthcare Science (Audiology), accredited by the National School for 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, including English, maths and science, and a minimum of two, (usually three), A2/A-levels, including science subjects.
Courses are three years full-time and include at least 50 weeks of workplace-based training in the NHS. Applications are made via Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Entry requirements vary so check with individual institutions before applying.
For a list of accredited courses see the Health 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.
Graduates of the BSc Healthcare Science (Audiology) can apply to register with the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP).
You will need to have:
- good interpersonal skills;
- ability to communicate well and interact with patients of all ages;
- technical abilities;
- manual dexterity;
- time management skills;
- patience and empathy;
- problem-solving ability;
- a scientific background and an interest in audiology.
The National Health Service (NHS) is the main employer of healthcare scientists working in audiology. You would usually work in ear, nose and throat clinics or audiology departments in hospitals.
There are opportunities to work in private hospitals in the independent sector.
Some choose to work in universities, primarily in a teaching and research role. Research posts may also be available with the Medical Research Council (MRC).
There are limited openings in industry, for example working with companies who develop and manufacture hearing technology.
Look for job vacancies at:
It is sometimes worth approaching audiology departments on a speculative basis.
Vacancies for temporary, permanent and contract work are advertised on specialist recruitment agencies such as:
Trainee healthcare scientists undertake three years of training accredited by the National School for Healthcare Science (NSHCS) on the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP). The first year of training is spent on rotation in a range of settings before specialising in years two and three.
The training takes place in various laboratories and is overseen by a regional tutor. Trainees follow a period of structured part-time study alongside practical training. For those wanting to work in audiology this leads to an MSc in neurosensory sciences.
On successful completion of the STP you are 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).
Once qualified, healthcare scientists working in audiology must keep their skills up to date and follow the ongoing developments in research and analysis techniques.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential part of continuing registration with the HCPC, which needs to be renewed every two years, and can include:
- attending conferences workshops and lectures;
- writing for journals;
- and presenting research and papers at conferences.
It is possible to undertake research at PhD level.
You can join the Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST) programme, a five-year workplace-based training programme and, where appropriate, study for Royal College qualifications.
Healthcare scientists working in audiology are expected to take responsibility for their own continuing professional development (CPD) and to conduct ongoing research. A programme of CPD, including events and conferences, is offered by the British Academy of Audiology (BAA).
Career progression comes with the range, depth and diversity of clinical experience and research and audit experience.
Advancement within the professional grade is based on merit and can be encouraged through the completion of relevant specialised postgraduate research and publication in peer-reviewed journals.
Networking at all levels is important for successful career development. Maintaining a professional profile by presenting research at local, national and international meetings, undertaking work exchanges abroad and applying for research grants is recommended.
It's usual to specialise in a particular area of audiology such as:
- auditory rehabilitation;
- cochlear implants;
- or bone anchored hearing devices.
It is possible to apply for principal scientist or consultant scientist roles after several years' experience at a professional grade. The role of a senior scientist position is likely to involve the management of a large department or major departmental section, and advanced budgeting and administration skills are often required.