CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 22, 2014
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How to Become a Clinical Scientist in the UK

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Are you fascinated by science and medicine? Are you excited by the idea of coming up with new and better ways to treat patients? If so, a career as a clinical scientist could be just what you’re looking for.

What Do clinical scientists Do?

Clinical scientists work in the healthcare industry. Some work directly with patients, while others focus primarily on research. Daily tasks can vary depending on the area of focus but may include:

  • Developing new ways of treating and diagnosing diseases
  • Interpreting test results and suggesting treatment plans to doctors
  • Consulting with doctors planning to purchase new equipment
  • Researching the cause and progression of a particular disease
  • Making sure diagnostic and treatment equipment is set up correctly and functioning as designed
  • Designing new tools for diagnosis and treatment
  • Working with patients

Where and when do clinical scientists work?

  • Many clinical scientists work in a lab or research facility.
  • Others work in a hospital or clinic.
  • Many clinical scientists work for the NHS, while others work for private employers.
  • A typical workweek is around 37.5 hours. Regular shifts may include nights and weekends, particularly for clinical scientists working directly in patient care.
  • Regular duties may include contact with radiation and/or other hazardous materials

What do clinical scientists earn?

NHS salaries (as listed below) are part of the Agenda for Change, and clinical scientists typically start on Band 6. Private employers may base their pay scales on NHS salaries, but they may pay more.

 

Low end

Mid-range

High end

Salary

£25,000

£30,000

£35,000 +

What skills do clinical scientists need?

  • A thorough understanding of the physical sciences
  • An interest in science, technology, and medicine
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Willingness to make sound decisions and take responsibility for them
  • Persistence
  • Attention to detail
  • Curiosity and initiative
  • Excellent people skills
  • Patience and empathy (if involved in patient care)
  • Willingness to keep up with the latest developments in science and medicine

What education and training are required?

Most clinical scientists get their education through the NHS Healthcare Scientist Training Programme.

  • For entry into the three-year programme, you will need a first or upper-second class honours degree in a subject related to your area of interest. Common choices include life sciences, physics, engineering, biomedical science, medical physics, and biotechnology. Most science degree courses require five GCSEs (A-C) including English language, maths and at least two sciences, plus three A levels, including maths and physics.
  • When you complete the programme, you’ll have a master’s degree and will receive your Academy for Healthcare Science (ACHS) Certificate of Attainment or the ACHS Certificate of Equivalence. At that time, you’ll be able to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and to apply for jobs as a clinical scientist.

If you don’t have a science degree, you can enter the NHS training program on a practitioner basis. The NHS Practitioner Training Programme includes both an undergraduate degree course and on-the-job training. The entry requirements for that are:

  • Five GCSEs (A-C) including English language, maths, and a science subject
  • At least two A levels including maths or a science

What are the professional development opportunities?

As with all health sciences, it will be important to keep up with new developments. You’ll also need to renew your HCPC registration every two years. The best way to accomplish both of those goals is to join a professional organization relevant to your chosen specialty. Those include:

What are the job prospects?

According to Prospects, the need for highly trained professionals in this sector is growing. It’s estimated that an additional 490,000 jobs will be added between now and 2020. Most of those will be for positions that require training to the first degree or higher.

If you like helping people, enjoy solving problems, and have an affinity for maths and science, you could have an exciting career as a clinical scientist.

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