Healthcare scientist

There are many opportunities in Health and Social Care for people who have a science background (particularly graduates). The healthcare sciences workforce helps to make sure that science and technology are used well in both diagnosis and treatment.

Opportunities in healthcare sciences

Healthcare sciences can be divided into the three areas outlined in the table below:

Life sciences Physiological Sciences Physical Sciences and Engineering
Anatomical pathology Audiology Biomechanical engineering
Blood transfusion / transplantation Autonomic neurovascular function Clinical measurement
Clinical biochemistry including paediatric metabolic biochemistry Cardiac physiology Equipment management and clinical engineering
Clinical cytogenetics Clinical perfusion Medical electronics and instrumentation
Clinical embryology and andrology Critical care technology Medical engineering design
Clinical immunology Gastrointestinal physiology Rehabilitation engineering
Cytopathology including cervical cytology Neurophysiology Diagnostic radiology and MR physics
Electron microscopy Ophthalmic science Nuclear medicine
External quality assurance Respiratory physiology Radiopharmacy
Haematology and Haemostasis and Thrombosis Sleep physiology Radiation protection and monitoring
Histocompatibility& Immunogenetics Urodynamics and urological measurements Radiotherapy physics
Histopathology Vascular technology Renal dialysis technology
Molecular genetics Vision science Ultrasound and non-ionising radiation
Microbiology   Medical illustration and clinical photography
Phlebotomy   Maxillofacial prosthetics and reconstruction
Tissue banking    
Toxicology    

Skills required

Anyone working in a healthcare sciences environment should have an interest in and an enthusiasm for understanding scientific and medical issues.

To work in this area, you should also have:

  • a responsible and mature approach to work
  • good practical laboratory skills
  • manual dexterity (be good with your hands)
  • have technical and analytical abilities
  • be accurate in your work with good attention to detail
  • an ability to concentrate for long periods
  • an ability to reassure and put people at their ease
  • good communication and organisational skills

To advance your career you will need a high level of scientific achievement, high ethical standards and the ability to lead a team.

Training programme

For those entering the health and social care sector as trainees with GCSEs, training is mostly on-the-job. Trainees then move on to specialised individual training and will have the opportunity to work towards an NVQ Level 2.

There are many degree programmes which will meet the entry requirements for a HCS career. Most commonly acceptable are degrees in life sciences disciplines or in Physics or Engineering.

To achieve the most senior healthcare sciences career grades, a primary degree would be followed by a training period during which a postgraduate qualification such as a Masters and/ or PhD would also be gained. 

Some of the degree programmes run by local universities that are relevant to healthcare sciences are listed below. It is important to check with each university for details of the entry requirements and professional body recognition of each programme. 

Degree course College / University Course details
Foundation Degree Applied Medical Sciences North West Regional College
Southern Regional College
Belfast Metropolitan College
Two and a half year undergraduate part-time programme
BSc Hons Applied Biosciences Ulster University Undergraduate part-time distance learning two year top-up programme (for holders of qualifications below Honours level)
BEng Hons Bioengineering Ulster University Undergraduate full-time four year programme (including placement year for Diploma in Industrial Studies)
BSc Hons Biology Ulster University Undergraduate full-time three year programme (or four years including placement year for Diploma in Industrial Studies)
BSc Hons Biochemistry Queen's University Belfast Undergraduate full-time three-year programme
BSc Hons Biomedical Science  Ulster University Undergraduate full-time three-year programme, or four-year programme including integrated placement for Diploma in Professional Practice or placement year for Diploma in Industrial Studies
BSc Hons Biomedical Science Queen's University Belfast Undergraduate full-time three-year programme
BSc Hons Clinical Physiology Ulster University Undergraduate full-time four year programme (includes integrated placement for Diploma in Industrial Studies)
BSc Hons Engineering Queen's University Belfast Undergraduate full-time three-year programme or four-year MEng Engineering
BEng Hons Engineering Ulster University Undergraduate full-time four-year programme (including placement year for Diploma in Industrial Studies)
BSc Hons Genetics Queen's University Belfast Undergraduate full-time three-year programme
BSc Hons Microbiology Queen's University Belfast Undergraduate full-time three-year programme
BSc Hons Molecular Biology Queen's University Belfast Undergraduate full-time three-year programme
BSc Hons Physics Queen's University Belfast Undergraduate full-time three-year programme or four-year MSci programme

Career pathway

Those entering the healthcare science profession after leaving school can advance with training opportunities to NVQ Levels 2 and 3. Technicians and laboratory assistants may be awarded extra salary scale points for posts that require additional skills and responsibilities.

The healthcare scientist can develop their job further to the senior and principal scientist level by accepting increased responsibility and/or participation in research and development projects.

Further promotion to consultant level is possible where responsibility may include the running of a laboratory or department providing a range of services.

You may also become involved in advanced scientific work, research or training.

Professional recognition

The Health Professions Council (HPC) is the professional regulator for any Healthcare Science profession which is regulated. Currently, two Healthcare Science professions are regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC) - Clinical Scientist and Biomedical Scientist and members of these professions must apply for registration with the HPC before they can practise in the UK.

Eligibility to apply for registration with the HPC is automatic upon successful completion of an approved programme of education and training.

In addition to the professional regulator most professionals have a leadership body. One of the roles of the leadership body is to approve training programmes which will lead to a professional qualification. Two of the best known are the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) and the Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS).

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