Applying for the NHS Scientist Training Programme in 2021

Scientists working in a laboratory

Last updated 07 February 2021

STP Programme: Applications Q&A’ for Manchester students and graduates – link is now on the university’s Video Portal (more access info below…)

The NHS Scientist Training Programme 2021 (STP) is open for applications until Monday 22nd February! Thousands of scientists and engineers of all disciplines work for the NHS, and the STP is how they recruit most of their Clinical Science trainees each year.

This blog post will help you navigate the process (we’ll also update it when there is new information to share with you).

N.B. Some of the resources mentioned in this blog may only be accessible to University of Manchester students. If you are not a Manchester student, have a chat with your own Careers Service about the support available to you.

There are 302 STP places this year across 31 different speciality areas. There are 36 places in the northwest on the site so far, with the greatest number in the West Midlands (48) and London (62). Some specialities are very regional e.g. Andrology is only available in the West Midlands this year.

Tips for applying

There are changes to the process this year and we strongly advise that you read all info on the STP website thoroughly. You can also watch the recording the official STP Q&A webinar from the 28th January.

The recording of the ‘STP Applications Q&A talk’ for Manchester students and graduates is now available! Current Manchester students can also access the recording on the Video Portal and a link is on the SBS Careers Facebook group. Any problems, email

For now, here’s a quick summary:

  • You will only be able to choose ONE specialty instead of two.
  • The logical and numerical reasoning tests have been replaced by a Situational Judgement Test.
  • There are 3 ‘essay’ questions this year, linked to the STP person specification. Matching your application to the person spec will be crucial, but also tailoring your answers to your chosen speciality.
  • Interviews will continue to use the adapted format they used last year, moving from multiple mini interviews to an online interview.
  • As last year, if you are offered an interview with an employer this will be your ONLY interview for the STP programme. If you decline this offer of an interview, you will leave the selection process for 2021.
  • International applicants can apply and, if successful, will be sponsored by the NHS for their Tier 2/points-based visa.

The questions

In this part of the application, you are asked to present evidence of how you meet the core person specification for a trainee clinical scientist. There are three parts:

  1. Scientific skills (500 words)
  2. Transferable skills (250 words)
  3. Physical requirements (250 words)

You are asked not to write anything about your qualifications here as it is covered elsewhere on the form (so make sure you complete that bit properly!).

In each section, you need to write a reflective piece on how you meet that element of the person specification.

The good news is you don’t have to cover every element of the person specification (look at those word counts!) but rather select those which, in your view*, best reflect your strengths. (*having of course informed that view by doing some prior research…)

Please ensure you make your application specific to the scientific speciality you are applying for. This is will be key to getting to the next round, so give it some focus, people!

How to make a strong application

GET UP-TO-DATE: Invest some time reviewing the information for applicants on the National School of Healthcare Science website – and use it in your application!  Read the job description and person spec to get an overview of the role, then thoroughly research the specialism you plan to apply for e.g., check out the relevant professional body for each specialism. The STP curriculum library is also useful to gain insight into the rotation and specialist modules for each speciality. (NB. you need to be prepared to travel during training as a rotation might take you to a partner hospital).

GET THE INSIDE TRACK: Hopefully you managed to get to one of the ‘open day’ talks (*Update* the BARTS Health STP Open Day takes place on the 4th Feb and if you are quick, you may still be able to sign up). If you cannot attend, some may put the talks on their website after the event – MAHSE in Manchester do (and they are adding some info on specialisms, too). Alternatively, see if you can speak to someone on the programme – use LinkedIn’s alumni search to find Manchester graduates on the STP (this video shows you how).

GET READY FOR THE SJT: Spend some time getting familiar with Situational Judgement Tests. SJTs can be tricky and – contrary to popular belief – you need to do some preparation if you want to do well at them.

SJTs assess how you would respond to a hypothetical situation. Advice from the STP webinar was to “reflect on your own values and behaviours… and consider what is important to patients”.

Read the NHS Constitution, reflect on what you have learnt about the role of healthcare scientists in the NHS, digest the person spec thoroughly.

We have some great resources on our website including some FREE practice tests on the Graduates First site (which also explain the “right” answers) and a short online talk.
(NB. If you have a special requirement or need to request extra time to complete these tests, you need to do this by the 17th February).

Scotland and Wales

Scotland and Wales recruit separately to the England.

For Scotland, you apply for an individual trainee position. They have started to advertise some Medical Physics ones, and the site says more positions will be added in Feb/March. The guidance for applicants is less comprehensive than for England and we would advise taking a similar approach to if you are applying to the UK (see above!).

In the past, Wales have advertised their STP vacancies later than the UK. You might want to bookmark the Wales NHS jobsite

We’ll update this blog as new information becomes available. In the meantime, good luck!

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