Getting into healthcare science

There are over 350 careers in the NHS, and each one makes a difference every day. Healthcare science is part of this diverse and amazing workforce. If you’re not sure what role is right for you, you can use the compare roles tool to compare information on the skills and qualifications needed for a role. You can also look at pay, conditions, and where a role could take you in the future. If you’re not sure where to start, try our Find Your Career quiz and discover an NHS career that matches your interests.

There are many ways to begin a career in healthcare science. Wherever you are in life or in your career journey, there will be a route that works for you.

School and college entry level

Discovering healthcare science careers early is a bonus as it increases the amount of time that you can spend developing in this particular field.

The main way to enter the workforce at this point is via A-levels or T-levels as they enable you to build a good base and explore the different specialisms to help you make an informed choice.

With A-levels or T-levels you can begin working at assistant or associate level and may be offered an apprenticeship which will enable career progression.

Whether you choose to stay working as an assistant or associate, or to progress your career with further study, healthcare science has something for everyone. In most healthcare science specialties you can work at the following levels:

  • Healthcare Science Assistant at Level 2: Carrying out routine technical and scientific procedures and support within hospitals, general practice and other healthcare settings for a wide range of people

  • Healthcare Science Associate at Level 4: Working in hospitals, primary care and other healthcare settings, carrying out routine technical and scientific procedures. Supporting healthcare science practitioners and clinical scientists

  • Healthcare Science Practitioner at Level 6: Supporting the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions

  • Clinical scientist

  • Consultant clinical scientist

Degree level entry

Degree level entry into healthcare science roles will differ depending on whether you are looking at going down the physical, physiological or life sciences route.

For physical and physiological science there are accredited degrees that enable you to access the Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) in one of five disciplines. This enables you to get work experience and training during your degree. As a full-time course the PTP takes three years and integrates academic learning with 50 weeks of workplace-based training. After passing the PTP you can apply for work as a healthcare science practitioner.

The five disciplines on the PTP are:

  • Cardiac, critical care, vascular, respiratory and sleep sciences

  • Neurosensory sciences (audiology, neurophysiology, ophthalmic and vision science)

  • Life sciences (blood sciences, infection sciences, cellular sciences, genetics science)

  • Medical physics (radiotherapy physics, radiation physics, nuclear medicine)

  • Clinical engineering (medical engineering, radiation engineering, renal technology, rehabilitation engineering)

There are also two different types of training programme in life sciences that will support entry into the field as a biomedical scientist. Both include selecting Institute of Biomedical Science accredited degrees, but one includes choosing a degree that has a placement year so that you come out ready for registration. The other will require you to do a registration year as part of work when you graduate.

Postgraduate level entry

Once you have a science degree the there are multiple routes into healthcare science.

The Scientific Training Programme (STP), through the National School of Healthcare Science, involves paid training over three years at masters level to become a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) – registered clinical scientist.

The Higher Specialist Scientific Training programme (HSST) involves training for five years post-registration to become a consultant clinical scientist. HSST posts require working towards clinical exams and a doctorate.

There will also be opportunities for development when you are in post. If you have an accredited degree some posts will support you in completing your portfolio to achieve state registration whilst working as an associate practitioner. If your degree was not accredited, your employer may support you in taking top-up modules that would then enable you to move onto the next stage of portfolio completion.

Other ways to enter healthcare science

There are also routes into the professions via something known as equivalence or route 2 registration, especially for clinical and biomedical science routes.

These routes mean that when you have gained enough clinical experience and knowledge you can complete a portfolio that demonstrates a similar level of knowledge and experience to someone who has gone through one of the formal training routes. Once you’ve gone through the equivalence process you can then register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and/or the Academy of Healthcare Science (AHCS).

Level 2/GCSE equivalent Apprenticeship route
Level 4 (post A-levels)
  • Apprenticeship route
BSc level
  • Practitioner Training Programme (PTP)
  • Apprenticeship route – level 6
Master’s level
  • Scientist Training Programme (STP)
  • Apprenticeship route – level 7
Doctoral level
  • Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) Programme