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Key Points in Contemplating a Career in the Clinical Sciences to Work in the UK NHS

This work is purely about caring for patients and using your skills and training to identify and utilise diagnostic tests and treatments to overcome illnesses and disease conditions of your fellow man.  It requires people passionate about technology or science, and about helping others, and a career in healthcare science in the NHS offers a wide range of opportunities. Healthcare scientists play a vital role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a huge number of medical conditions, as well as in rehabilitation. Along with doctors, nurses and other professions, healthcare scientists are essential members of today's healthcare team. Modern pathology and biomedical laboratory work involves complex and diverse investigations requiring an in-depth scientific knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology.

There are two branches of healthcare science in hospitals - clinical science and biomedical science. They are two similar but distinct careers with parallel but different training paths and different entry requirements.    If you are interested in Biomedical Science as a career then see the link on the left box for more information and you are advised also to consult the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) for fuller information on that career. This rest of this discussion here deals with Clinical Scientist careers.

Although your clinical science training may be specifically in biochemistry or in immunology or in microbiology, in which specialty you will be assessed by the Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS), once successfully certificated by the ACS you will eventually register with the HCPC as a Clinical Scientist.  

Biochemists, immunologists and microbiologists work in many other locations such as in the diagnostic and pharmaceutical industries, public health, food as well as in academia. None of these requires the stringent training and registration requirements for working in the health service - which are required for patient safety. Only these health service roles are discussed here. You should look elsewhere for guidance in careers for graduate scientists in those other fields employing biochemists, immunologists and microbiologists.  

The two branches of healthcare scientists registered by HCPC are the Biomedical Scientists (about 22000) and Clinical Scientists (about 5000) and unlike all other HCPC-registered professions, these two have post-graduate qualifications which must be met to allow registration.

There is a strict and formal training programme for both careers as well as state registration with the Health Professions Council (HCPC) for both, to ensure the safety and assurance of the customers - the patients.

The Institute of Biomedical Scientists (IBMS) and the ACS act as respective validation organisations to assess and certificate their respective applicants so allowing subsequent direct registration with HPC.

"Clinical Scientist", just as "Biomedical Scientist", is a protected title under the law (there is a £5000 fine for transgressors who fraudulently use the title without being registered). The HPC can strike people off the register for malpractice in just the same way as for doctors with the General Medical Council (GMC.).

You ARE allowed to use the terms with a suitable adjectival caveat – pre-registration clinical scientist, trainee Clinical Scientist, etc. Alternatively you can use the professional title you are working towards – e.g. “Pre-Registration Clinical Scientist”, or preferably "Trainee Clinical Biochemist", "Clinical Immunologist in Training" or simply “Clinical Microbiologist” which is also perfectly acceptable since it is not implying the protected "Clinical Scientist" title of fully qualified and registered practitiioners. But ensure “Clinical Scientist” is not used as your job title or on contracts until you are registered.

More information on these requirements, the official bodies and the pathways on the career can be found by following the links in the left hand box on this website.



(This page is maintained by the ACB Education Committee)

Updated 2nd July 2013

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