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Brain Scans


Healthcare scientists are involved in

85% of all clinical decisions in the NHS

This website helps current and future healthcare scientists make informed choices. It does so through up-to-date information about the profession, its specialisms, educational routes and career progression pathways. It also supports parents, teachers and career advisors in guiding students to make the right career choices.

About Healthcare Science and its specialisms

Entry routes and career progression

Apprenticeships in Healthcare Science

Becoming a Healthcare Scientist

About Healthcare Science and its specialisms

Healthcare Science in the UK is a healthcare profession, like the medical professions (doctors and nurses) and Allied Health Professions (AHPs). It represents more than 50 healthcare-related scientific, engineering, and technical specialist divisions. There are more than 55,000 Healthcare Scientists in the UK, comprising around 5% of the NHS workforce – but their work  impacts on 85% of all diagnoses.
The table below shows 50+ Healthcare Science specialisms, grouped under four themes: Life Sciences, Physiological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Bioinformatics.


HCS & Specialisms

Life Sciences

  • Analytical Toxicology 

  • Anatomical pathology 

  • Blood transfusion science/ transplantation 

  • Clinical biochemistry 

  • Clinical cytogenetics 

  • Clinical embryology & andrology 

  • Clinical immunology 

  • Cytopathology including cervical cytology 

  • Electron microscopy 

  • External quality assurance 

  • Haematology 

  • Haemostasis and thrombosis 

  • Histocompatibility &  immunogenetics 

  • Histopathology 

  • Molecular genetics 

  • Microbiology including bacteriology, mycology and epidemiology 

  • Paediatric metabolic biochemistry 

  • Phlebotomy 

  • Tissue banking 

  • Virology

Physiological Sciences

  • Audiology 

  • Autonomic neurovascular function 

  • Cardiac physiology 

  • Clinical perfusion 

  • Critical care technology 

  • Gastrointestinal physiology 

  • Hearing therapy 

  • Neurophysiology 

  • Ophthalmology 

  • Respiratory physiology 

  • Sleep physiology 

  • Urodynamics and urological measurements 

  • Vascular technology 

  • Vision science

Physical Sciences

  • Biomechanical engineering 

  • Clinical measurement 

  • Equipment management and clinical engineering 

  • Medical electronics & instrumentation 

  • Medical engineering design 

  • Rehabilitation engineering 

  • Diagnostic radiology 

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 

  • Nuclear medicine 

  • Radiopharmacy 

  • Radiation protection & monitoring 

  • Radiotherapy physics 

  • Renal dialysis technology 

  • Non-ionising radiation 

  • Medical illustration and clinical photography 

  • Maxillofacial prosthetics and reconstruction 

  • Ultrasound

  • Decontamination Sciences


  • Clinical Bioinformatics and Genomics  

  • Computer science and modeling  

  • Health Informatics

Watch the short video below for a better understanding of Healthcare Science and its specialisms.

  • Click here for a selection of the best short videos made by Healthcare Scientists on a range of HCS specialisms.

  • The NHS Careers website offers a wealth of resources on Healthcare Science careers with detailed case studies and examples. 

What are the different entry routes to become a Healthcare Scientist?

There are a number of entry routes to Healthcare Science profession - these range from the level 2 (GCSE equivalent) apprenticeship route to level 8 (doctoral level). The diagram below makes it easy to understand the available routes at various education levels. 

Entry routes
Entry Route to HCS.png

Practitioner Training Programme (PTP)

A three-year BSc Honours undergraduate training scheme that includes work-based and academic learning. Click here to find details on the National School of Healthcare Science's website (NSHCS). A self-funded scheme, students are responsible for paying university fees. 


Scientist Training Programme (STP)

A three-year programme of work-based learning, supported by a University accredited master's degree. Click here to find further details on the National School of Healthcare Science's website (NSHCS). Trainees are salaried and their university fees are paid for by the programme. 

Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) Programme

A bespoke five-year workplace-based training programme supported by a doctoral level academic award. Click here to find all details on the National School of Healthcare Science's website (NSHCS). 

There are also equivalence routes for Healthcare Science practitioners and scientists, developed by the Academy of Healthcare Science (AHCS). Click here for the relevant AHCS web page. 


What do apprenticeships involve?

  • Work-based training programmes: open to all age groups (minimum age 16)

  • Appropriate time frames: one to four years (a few apprenticeships take five years)

  • Practical learning: acquire job-specific skills working alongside experienced staff

  • Theoretical knowledge: attend college, university or a training centre usually through day-release or block-release

  • Earn while learning: being salaried as an employee

  • Nationally recognised qualifications: as part of apprenticeship

Apprenticeships banner.png

Why should I consider an apprenticeship?

  • to meet my personal development needs

  • to progress my career and academic plans

  • to learn in a flexible way that suits me and my employer

  • to develop a wide range of skills for the health sector now and in the future

Healthcare Science Apprenticeship Standards

There are currently four approved Healthcare Science Apprenticeship Standards. These four Standards (listed below) cover a wide range of Healthcare Science specialisms. 


  • HCS Assistant – Level 2 (Intermediate Apprenticeship)

  • HCS Associate – Level 4 (Higher Apprenticeship)

  • HCS Practitioner – Level 6 (Degree Apprenticeship)

  • Clinical Scientist – Level 7 (Master's Level Apprenticeship)


  • The chart below shows routine tasks for apprentices at HCS Assistant, HCS Associate, HCS Practitioner and Clinical Scientist level; as well as the typical duration periods and salary bands.

  • The arrows indicate successful career progression, (subject to further apprenticeship availability, job vacancy and employer requirement set by each employer). 

  • All available Healthcare Science Apprenticeship jobs can be found here.

All HCS Standards.jpg

What qualifications or experience do I need if I want to apply?


An apprenticeship is a job with educational and training components. Each job has its unique criteria as set by the employer. This means there are no set qualifications or criteria for Healthcare Science (HCS) apprenticeship jobs, nor are there age limits. Anyone can make a career change at any point in their career. Depending on their prior education and experience they can apply for any one of the available HCS Apprenticeship Standards.

When can I apply for a Healthcare Science Apprenticeship?

Level 6 (degree level) and Level 7 (master's level) HCS apprenticeships are delivered by Higher Education Institutes (HEIs)/universities, so most of these programmes start in September. This means that job adverts for these levels go live in June, July or August.


Level 2 and 4 HCS apprenticeships are delivered by FE colleges and private training providers, so there is greater flexibility for when employers recruit. However, the majority of such programmes start in September and January, and job adverts go live approximately two months prior to this.


Below are some of the best resources for HCS apprenticeship jobs.

Do I fit the bill?

Employers look for apprentices who are:

  • keenly interested in the welfare of others

  • committed to treating everyone with respect and dignity

  • excited about learning to improve and innovate for patient care and safety

  • good listeners, honest and friendly with a professional attitude to work

  • good team players who accept personal responsibility and strive to deliver excellent results

  • creative problem solvers enthused about using technical skills for healthcare

Am I up for the Challenge? 

Please bear in mind that you may be: 

  • working and meeting with people from all backgrounds

  • operating in a busy clinical or non-clinical environment

  • travelling between the different hospitals of your NHS Trust

  • required to wear your NHS Trust uniform when on duty

  • asked to assist with patients or relatives who are distressed 

  • exposed to body fluids (but you will receive full safety and hygiene training)

This web page is updated in Dec 2020. If you want to share any update or correction please get connected on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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