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science careers
Scientists in health: making a
difference to people’s lives
Much more than just labs and test tubes
Healthcare science staff do a variety of jobs in the NHS, covering:
• Life sciences (mainly laboratory based, with little direct patient contact,
investigating disease, genetic make up, researching new scientific treatments)
• Physiological sciences (predominantly working directly with patients,
measuring the function of a particular organ or body system)
• Physical sciences and biomedical engineering (some roles involve direct
patient contact such as rehabilitation engineering. Others ensure the safe
functioning of equipment or researching new devices).
Life sciences
Life sciences staff generally spend most of their time in a laboratory:
• investigate diseases through blood and tissue analysis
• contribute to identifying and understanding causes of death, sometimes
offering support to bereaved relatives
• monitor patients’ response to certain treatments
• work to find out the genetic components of illness, for example by studying
• help collect eggs from patients undergoing IVF
• carry out research to identify new scientific treatments for cancer and other
Physiological sciences
These staff often work directly with patients to measure and monitor particular
conditions, for example:
• carrying out electrocardiograms (ECGs) to check how the heart is working
• undertaking diagnostic tests to assess lung function
• measuring eye function and taking images of the eye and its supporting
• assessing hearing and balance function in everyone from tiny babies to the
• investigating the nervous system to diagnose and monitor things like epilepsy,
stroke, dementia and multiple sclerosis
• helping patients with sleep problems such as sleep apnoea, where people
temporarily stop breathing.
Physical sciences and biomedical engineering
Roles in this area involve some direct patient contact, for example working with
people with a disability to provide the equipment they need such as:
• wheelchairs
• artificial limbs
• electronically assisted speech
• other robotic aids.
Other healthcare science staff work behind the scenes on all sorts of equipment, for
• designing instruments and equipment to monitor patient’s progress
• maintaining and servicing machinery such as dialysis machines
• making sure that equipment used in radiotherapy delivers the correct dosages.
Myths about healthcare science
The healthcare science team don’t work with patients. True or false?
False: Many healthcare scientists work directly with patients. This could be monitoring
breathing or heart rates through to treating patients with hearing difficulties.
Healthcare science staff don’t just work in labs. True or false?
True: Some healthcare science teams in areas such as genetics work in labs but many
do not, especially in areas where they need to interact with patients. This could mean
working on wards or in the community visiting people’s homes.
Doctors couldn’t do their job without the support of healthcare science staff.
True or false?
True: Healthcare science staff are critical to the delivery of patient care. In fact, the
healthcare science team are involved in 80% of all clinical decisions in the NHS and
develop some of the most amazing clinical technologies.
There is no career progression in healthcare science. True or false?
False: There is a clear career pathway for staff working in healthcare science. With hard
work and a commitment to continuous learning, you could each the level of consultant
healthcare scientist, advising doctors on patients’ treatment.
National scientific careers programme
Education and training in healthcare science has been revolutionised in the
• training is now more coordinated and patient-focused
• students at all levels get work-based training and experience from day one
alongside their academic course
• apprenticeships, undergraduate and post graduate training programmes are
all now available in healthcare science
• with hard work and a commitment to continuous learning, you might be able
to reach consultant healthcare scientist.
Modernising Scientific Careers:
Career and Training Pathways
Find out more
• Watch the video with current healthcare science students at
• Read about all the training routes at
• Visit to find out about healthcare science
courses and universities
• Give NHS Careers a call on 0345 60 60 655 to talk through different career
If you like science and like the idea of
helping people, a healthcare science career
could be for you!
Thank you for listening.