We’ve had some more info on the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) from Alan Simmons (Careers Specialist from the NHS) and Antonia Clark (Careers Consultant at City University and our national careers contact for all things NHS). Here’s what Alan had to say:
Which degrees are acceptable for the STP?
There is no finite list of degree subjects that are acceptable for entry onto the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).
The list of STP FAQs on the main NHS Careers website (which was written for 2012 entry but is likely to change little for 2013 entry) includes the following question:
What is a relevant degree?
Successful candidates might have a variety of relevant qualifications and experience. As a minimum, candidates should have an upper second or first class BSc Honours Degree or equivalent in a pure or applied science. The most commonly accepted degrees will be:
- Life Sciences: life sciences, biology, microbiology, genetics or biochemistry
- Physical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering: pure or applied physics, engineering, applied mathematics
- Physiological Sciences: physiology, pure or applied physics, engineering, biology or human biology.
Science degrees related to medicine and those such as biomedical science, medical electronics or biotechnology may also be considered suitable if relevant to the specialty or theme for which you are applying. A second degree and/or research experience related to healthcare science specialisms or equivalent evidence of scientific knowledge and academic capability are also desirable.
Applicants therefore need to prove through their application, that the content of their first degree is relevant to the type of STP vacancy for which they are applying. STP vacancies are likely to be available in the three broad science themes of:
- Life sciences (e.g. biochemistry, clinical immunology, microbiology, histopathology etc)
- Physiological sciences (e.g. cardiac sciences, respiratory and sleep sciences, vascular science, audiology, neurophysiology etc)
- Physical sciences (e.g. rehabilitation engineering, radiation safety, imaging with non-ionising radiation, device risk management and governance etc)
A student planning to apply for a place on the STP needs to decide which area of science they wish to apply for and then demonstrate how their first degree is relevant to that science discipline. For example, a student with a degree in sports science, depending on the exact content of their degree (e.g. if they have studied physiology and/or human biology as part of their degree), might be most ‘suited’ to a physiological sciences STP vacancy such as respiratory and sleep sciences or cardiac sciences.
Details of the learning outcomes, indicative content and work based trainee learning guides for each STP specialty can be found on the NHS Networks website.
What types of roles exist for those who successfully complete the STP? Are some or any of these people-facing, or are they mainly lab-based?
As indicated above, the NHS employs healthcare science staff in three main areas – life sciences, physiological sciences and physical sciences. The range of opportunities is very broad, and is dependent on the area chosen. A student considering a career in healthcare science should be encouraged to research as much as possible about the options available. We have more information about the different areas of science on our main website.
In broad terms, healthcare staff working in the life sciences are predominantly laboratory based (e.g. working in pathology, genetics etc), with limited direct patient contact, although this could change as more NHS staff become community based in the future.
Staff working in the physiological sciences are, by the very nature of their role, working directly with patients, as they are measuring the functionality of a particular organ or body system (brain activity, gastro-intestinal tract, hearing, cardio-vascular system etc).
Some of those staff working in the physical sciences will have little direct patient contact (e.g. device risk management and governance), whereas those working in other areas of the physical sciences (such as rehabilitation engineering) will work directly with patients to design equipment that will help to improve their mobility (for example).
Because of the very stiff competition for places on the STP, how can an applicant enhance his/her chances?
(The full question from a potential applicant went on: “I gather that previous work experience in a lab or as a healthcare assistant may be helpful. Additionally, any activity which demonstrates a commitment to the NHS may also be viewed favourably. Is there anything else?”)
Again, it depends on which area of science they wish to pursue. Lab experience is not an essential pre-requisite for applying for the STP. Evidence of some knowledge of the NHS and perhaps of changes affecting the provision of healthcare may well be expected.
If a candidate is seeking a lab-based area of science, then experience of lab work will be useful; if they wish to work in the physiological sciences, then experience of working with people in some capacity (a caring role, or maybe customer service) could be advantageous.
Are there any possibilities for working in “e health” careers?
If this is an area which interests you, it would be worth finding out more about the work of:
- NHS Direct which has a broad range of online information about health and recruits staff into ICT-related roles
- NHS Connecting for Health whose remit is to maintain and develop the NHS IT infrastructure, and is developing systems (for example) around e-prescribing; the choose and book system for patients etc.
It’s also worth visiting the NHS Jobs website to search for possible vacancies. It is not possible to suggest particular job titles as they won’t necessarily be found right across the NHS, so you need to think laterally about skills and search terms, and try the advanced search on the site.
For example, take the ‘advanced search‘ link from home page – then navigate to the ‘search by skills‘ field – and then try search terms such as “telehealth”, “remote”, “mobile device” etc. Trying these today, all elicited some job vacancies, but with job titles you would not necessarily have considered before.
Potential applicants would then need to look carefully at the person specification for each vacancy to see what the requirements are. An MSc (in any subject) may or may not be required, but as with any job application, it’s a matter of clearly demonstrating in their application, how they meet the requirements of the specification.
There will also be companies developing apps and so on for mobile platforms, in conjunction with the NHS, or supplying these to the NHS.
Hope you find this useful – I’ve started to tag all these posts with “NHS” so if you’ve found your way here by chance, you can find all the other potentially relevant posts by clicking on the tag link at the end of the post.