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Careers and Education

Clinical Scientists - in Biochemistry, Immunology and Microbiology

This section of the website contains some useful pointers for those considering a career in clinical science. For careers outside of the health service, please see the links in the box on the left.

Clinical Scientist is the generic term for healthcare workers involved in Clinical Biochemistry, Clinical Immunology and Clinical Microbiology as well as other Life Sciences and those in the Physiological Sciences (Audiology and Clinical Physiology) and the Physical Sciences (Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering). They have a similar set of requirements to enter the careers since they all become registered as "fit to work" through the Health & Care Professions Council UK (HCPC).  The HCPC provides security of patient safety in a similar manner as the General Medical Council (GMC) does for the medical profession.  Read below or follow the links on the left hand menu for an insight into the career path of a clinical biochemist, clinical immunologist or clinical microbiologist. If you would like to read some real life career stories of key healthcare scientists, please browse this NHS publication Extraordinary You.

In 2011, under the Modernising Scientific Careers initiative, the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) was established to support the implementation and delivery of the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).

Becoming a Clinical Scientist - overview

In the UK there are two branches of healthcare science in hospitals - clinical science and biomedical science (BMS). There is a strict and formal post graduate training programme for both careers followed by statutory registration for each with the Health & Care Professions Council UK (HCPC), for the safety and assurance of the customers - the patients. They are two similar but distinct careers with parallel but different training paths and different entry requirements.  

Clinical Scientist training involves enrolment of graduates (1st or 2nd class honours degree or better is essential due to the high competition for limited training places) into an extensive 3-year training scheme leading to certification and eventual registration before starting the higher career structure. The basic qualification for becoming a Clinical Biochemist, Clinical Immunologist or Clinical Microbiologist is a good Honours degree in an appropriate subject: for Clinical Biochemistry, that subject might be Biochemistry or Chemistry (or another life science subject which contains a substantial Biochemistry component); for Clinical Immunology, that subject might be any life science degree with an immunology component; for Clinical Microbiology that subject might be any life science degree with a microbiology component.

Other science degrees may be suitable for certain posts and, for instance, Membership or Graduate Membership of the Royal Society of Chemistry or Membership of the Institute of Biologists by examination may also acceptable.

Trainee Clinical Scientist posts are advertised nationally, usually between November and February on the Clinical Scientists Recruitment webpages where application forms may be obtained and electronic submission of applications can be made. Advertisements may also appear announcing the availability of training places electronically at NHS Careers recruitment and in the New Scientist, the national press or the ACB News . These posts are for the approved Pre-registration Training Programme, designed to prepare entrants for higher professional qualifications and eventual Consultant responsibility. 

Although not essential, some candidates will apply with higher degrees in an to attempt to improve their chances of selection for training and several universities currently offer MSc courses in Clinical Biochemistry, Immunology and Microbiology which have been approved by the ACB. Full time and 'sandwich' courses are available, and further information may be obtained from individual programmes, although the level of financial support provided varies, and should be clarified at interview.  Some entrants to the profession will already have obtained a PhD, and the training and research experience that this provides is invaluable to the work of the Clinical Biochemist. In larger Departments, there may be opportunities to study for a research degree after entering the profession and acquiring registration, but since this has to be fitted in with other responsibilities, it may take some years to complete.  It should be clearly understood that the major role of the profession is patient care and that research, management and all the other aspects will come as side issues and not be the predominating factor in the career path.



Follow the link to the National School of Healthcare Science - this body coordinates the recruitment of clinical scientists in England and Wales and collates applications.

Pre-registration training posts for clinical scientists in Scotland are advertised in New Scientist early each year (Jan/Feb) with more information obtainable from the NHS Education for Scotland website.

Also take a look at the section on the NHS Careers Website for other information on Clinical Biochemists, Clinical Immunologists and Clinical Microbiologists

The training of Biomedical Scientists is dealt with on its own page.

The training of Medical Graduates wishing to specialise in clinical biochemistry, immunology and microbiology is coordinated through the Royal College of Pathologists with some information on the appropriate pages on this website

(This page is maintained by the ACB Education Committee)

Updated 23rd September 2016

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