If you have a degree in life sciences and want a career in a senior role, consider taking further professional training to become a healthcare scientist working in haematology

As a healthcare scientist (also known as a clinical scientist) working in haematology, you'll be involved in the study of blood, blood-forming tissues and blood-related disorders. Working in a team with other healthcare science staff and haematologists (doctors), you'll diagnose and monitor patients with blood-based abnormalities such as anaemia, sickle cell disease, leukaemia and haemophilia.

Work is usually carried out in specialist departments of hospitals where you may also be involved in blood transfusion science, for example, determining blood group status.

Types of work

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.

Responsibilities

As a healthcare 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;
  • make decisions on further haematological analysis;
  • liaise with other medical professionals to discuss patient treatment plans;
  • prescribe 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;
  • 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.

Salary

  • Jobs in the NHS are usually covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) Pay Rates consisting of nine pay bands. Salaries for trainee healthcare scientists typically start at around £25,000, depending on your employer and location (Band 6).
  • Once qualified, you're likely to be employed on Band 7 (£31,383 to £41,373).
  • With experience and further qualifications, your salary can rise to between £40,028 and £99,437 (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.

Income data from the NHS. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

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

  • 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 relocation may be necessary for career progression.
  • Travel during the working day is uncommon although visits to other hospitals/clinics may occur.

Qualifications

As a graduate with a degree in life sciences, for example, biomedical sciences, biology, microbiology, genetics or biochemistry, you can apply for a place on the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP). Entry on to the STP is competitive and you'll need a first or 2:1 degree, or a 2:2 with a relevant Masters or PhD. For all applicants, getting good academic results and relevant work experience is helpful, as is evidence of research experience (for example through a relevant Masters or PhD).

The STP is a three-year, full-time, workplace-based training programme and during this time you'll be employed by an NHS Trust as a trainee healthcare scientist. The first year of training is spent on rotation in a range of settings before specialising in years two and three. Training includes study for an approved and accredited Masters degree in blood sciences.

If you already work for the NHS, you can apply to the STP as an internal candidate. See the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) website for programme details for both external and internal applicants.

Details of training posts may be advertised in the New Scientist, but candidates must apply through the online application portal Oriel. Recruitment usually takes place in January but check the NSHCS website regularly for details.

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 HCPC. See the NSHCS website for full details on how to apply.

For information on STP training in Wales, see the Workforce, Education and Development Services (WEDS). There are separate scientist training schemes in:

It's also possible for biomedical scientists to work as healthcare scientists specialising in haematology. See biomedical scientist for further details.

If you don’t already have a degree, you can apply for the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP), which provides undergraduate training that leads 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. After graduation you can apply to enter the NHS in a healthcare science practitioner role or choose to apply for the STP, which offers pay on a higher scale and more opportunities for career progression.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • good communication skills to pass on findings and give advice on diagnosis to other staff;
  • the ability to organise and carry out research;
  • the ability to use your initiative;
  • strong team work skills;
  • meticulous documentation and record-keeping;
  • a patient, supportive and emotionally robust approach to working with patients;
  • an approach to work that prioritises accuracy, organisation and efficiency;
  • a commitment to lifelong learning;
  • effective leadership skills for healthcare scientist and consultant scientist level posts;
  • confidence in using complex technology and systems.

Work experience

Although not essential, it can be useful to have some experience in a healthcare setting as it gives you an insight into working in a hospital environment and shows your commitment to the role when applying for a place on the STP. Contact your local hospital to see if you can shadow a healthcare scientist working in haematology.

Additional experience, such as involvement with research projects and publications, is also useful.

Employers

The main employer of haematology staff in the UK is the National Health Service (NHS). As a trainee healthcare 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:

Opportunities may also exist with:

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

Once qualified, you must keep your 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 and can include:

  • attending conferences workshops and lectures;
  • publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • presenting research and papers at conferences;
  • undertaking work exchanges abroad;
  • applying for research grants.

You'll be expected to take further study and training, including professional qualifications, with a relevant professional body such as the British Society for Haematology (BSH) or study for a PhD. Networking is also important to keep up to date with developments and latest technologies.

Once you're qualified and have some experience, you can train to become a consultant healthcare scientist via the Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST) programme. This five-year, workplace-based training programme includes study at doctorate level and, where appropriate, study for Medical Royal College qualifications such as fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists. See the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) website for full details.

Career prospects

Once qualified, you can further your career through gaining experience, taking additional training, for example through relevant specialised postgraduate research, or a mixture of both. You may need to move to other hospitals or to related agencies to make the most of opportunities.

Once you've got experience, it's possible to apply for jobs in specialist areas such as:

  • immunohaematology;
  • paediatric haematology;
  • transfusion medicine;
  • genetic disorders;
  • haemato-oncology.

With several years' experience you can apply for principal scientist or consultant scientist roles, which are likely to involve the management of a large department or major departmental section. Once in a more senior role you're likely to perform additional teaching activities as a training officer and may work in university departments in both research and teaching capacities.