Healthcare science

Most graduate healthcare scientists in the UK are trained by, and then go on to work for, the National Health Service (NHS). A range of positions are available within the NHS for physicists and chemists, as well as biological scientists. The NHS England and Wales scheme for graduate level recruitment into scientific roles is called the Scientist Training Programme (STP). NHS Scotland and HSC Northern Ireland manage their own recruitment programmes.

Applying for the Scientist Training Programme (STP)

Graduates apply for a three-year, fixed term, integrated training programme of workplace-based learning and a Master's degree in their chosen specialism. Applications are made within a one-month window – for the 2020 intake this ran from 18 Dec 2019 to 22 Jan 2020.

The National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) website has comprehensive information on both vacancies and the application process for England and Wales. Trainees are employed by a single NHS trust. In the first year of training they undertake four rotations in related departments, followed by 18 months of specialist training. Some of the rotations could be with other NHS trusts, so trainees must be prepared to travel to work. After this period of training, successful trainees will be in a position to apply for NHS posts as healthcare scientists and to the appropriate professional register.

Important: The STP is extremely competitive and some graduates made multiple applications before they got onto the programme. It makes sense to have a back-up plan in case your application is unsuccessful. Consider speaking to a careers consultant to explore your other options.

Getting in and getting experience

Applicants must have an honours degree (1st or 2:1) in a pure or applied science discipline relevant to the specialism for which they are applying. Applicants with a relevant 2:2 degree will also be considered if they have an MSc or PhD in the specialism for which they are applying.

An MSc or a PhD in a relevant subject area will be advantageous when applying for trainee positions but is not essential. N.B. An undergraduate or integrated Masters (e.g. MChem, MPhys or MSci) is not assessed as equivalent to an MSc for the STP as the “masters” year lasts 9 rather than 12 months.

The Careers Service maintains a blog post on applying for the STP with advice and tips for applicants. We also have additional information for Manchester students – ask the Information and Advice Team.

Before making your application, try to visit a clinical lab or speak to a trainee to get insight into the programme. Some departments have open days around the recruitment window and these are advertised on the NSHCS site. E.g. the Manchester Academy for Healthcare Scientist Education hosts an annual STP open day in January, including an opportunity to visit a lab (2020 open day presentations).
You could also make contact with Manchester alumni on the STP or speculatively via LinkedIn.
  • Work experience and involvement with research projects/publications will improve your chances. Look for ways to link your module options and course projects to clinical science.
  • Seek out opportunities to gain laboratory experience outside of university labs e.g. summer studentships or an industrial placement (some NHS trusts offer industrial placements).
  • Approach hospital laboratories speculatively to ask for work experience, particularly high volume labs like haematology and biochemistry. Use the NHS jobs site to find names of lab managers to contact from current vacancies.
  • For patient-facing roles look for opportunities to interact with the sort of people you will be supporting e.g. for audiological science, volunteering with younger children and the elderly.
  • Relevant work experience, particularly within a clinical or NHS setting, is particularly important: the NHS uses values-based recruitment, so any NHS experience, including volunteering, will help when making your application and at interview.

Biomedical science in the NHS

Entry as a trainee Biomedical Scientist in the NHS is different to the STP. Graduate entry usually requires the applicant to hold a degree that is accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS). The BSc Biomedical Science degree programme at The University of Manchester is not accredited by IBMS. This means you would need to have your degree assessed by the IBMS (for a fee) and probably have to undertake further study, either topping up your degree to back-fill any missing elements or complete the conversion Masters at MMU. (N.B. The MSc in Medical Microbiology at The University of Manchester is not accredited as a basis for degree conversion).

However, the good news is that your biomedical science degree is accepted to apply for a place on the STP, and also for lots of other graduate science jobs!