Applying for the NHS Scientist Training Programme in 2023 (updated 10 Jan)

Welcome to our NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) blog post for 2023.

LAST UPDATE: 10 JANUARY – Applications are open, tips added!

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 will help you navigate the application process, and it will be updated when there is new information to share with you – so expect a major update next week when recruitment for the STP for England goes live!

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, contact your own Careers Service about the support available to you.

The STP is highly competitive – in 2022 they received 7604 applications for 345 places, spread across 31 separate specialisms – so it is important to have a ‘Plan B’ up your sleeve in case you are unsuccessful. However, each year Manchester graduates DO get on the STP so don’t be put off applying.

STP Recruitment in England, Wales and Scotland

England, Wales and Scotland recruit their STP trainees separately, so if you decide to apply in more than one region, you will go through a separate application process for each. England recruits the greatest number of trainees and they have a more complex process, including completing a situational judgement test (SJT).

The 2023 STP in England opens for applications on Mon 9 January at 11am and closes on Mon 23 January at 4pm. The SJT must be completed between 31 January (6am) and 2 February (midnight).

For Wales it opens on Mon 23 January at 9am and closes on Mon 6 February at 5pm.

Details of the STP in Scotland will be announced in Spring 2023.

All key dates are on the National School of Healthcare Science’s STP website 

We strongly advise that you read all info on the National School of Healthcare Science’s STP website thoroughly. There is a LOT of info on it, so get yourself a cuppa first!

  • As last year, you will only be able to choose ONE speciality.
  • The two essay questions now been merged down into one(!), with a 1000 word count limit.
  • The SJT will again be used for ‘longlisting’ of applicants. Shortlisting will be done by clinical scientists’ review of applications.
  • Interviews will be held online again and further details will follow (last year candidates were interviewed by two scientists from the employing department).
  • 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 2023.
  • International students and graduates can apply and the STP meets the requirements for the Skilled Worker Visa. The NHS will support your visa application but is unable to contribute towards any fees.
  • Disabled applicants can request reasonable adjustments, including extra time for the SJT. You will need to email them and the info is on this page – they are going to be busy, so do this early!

How to make a strong application

A recording of the official STP 2023 Application Webinar that took place on Thursday, 5 January is now available on the NSHCS website. If you haven’t watched it yet, you are missing a trick. Get tips and advice from the people who run the recruitment programme!

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. You are applying for a specific specialism and your application needs to reflect this – a generic application won’t cut it!

The STP curriculum library is useful to gain insight into the rotation and specialist modules for each speciality. If you are still deciding between specialisms then this is a good place to start. NB. you need to be prepared to travel during training as a rotation might take you to a partner hospital.

GET THE INSIDE TRACK: Try to attend an ‘open day’ event. If you cannot attend, some may put the talks on their website after the event. The Manchester Academy for Healthcare Science Education (MAHSE) have uploaded recordings of last year’s talks on their website, with live content for 2023 to be confirmed. Alternatively, see if you can speak to someone on the programme – use LinkedIn’s alumni search tool to find Manchester graduates on the STP. Check out social media sites like the NSHCS on Twitter.


READ THE NHS CONSTITUTION: The NHS recruits against its core values and you need to demonstrate these in your application and at interview. Read the NHS Constitution, reflect on what you have learnt about the role of healthcare scientists in the NHS. This is a handy checklist to help you digest it.

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.

Make good use of the wealth of information on preparing for the SJT on the NSHCS website.

You will need to set up an account on the Pearson VUE website before you take the test. Keep an eye on your ‘junk’ folder for replies from Pearson VUE in case your email filter is particularly strict! There are also some technical requirements for accessing the test – review these in good time.

SJTs assess how you would respond to a hypothetical situation. Advice from the STP webinar in 2021 was to “reflect on your own values and behaviours… and consider what is important to patients”.

Work through the SJT sample questions now available on the Pearson Vue website. There are also some FAQs to help you.

We have some great SJT resources on our website including some FREE practice tests on the Graduates First site (which also explain the “right” answers) and an online talk from our psychometric test experts at the Careers Service. There is also the self-paced Get Ready for Psychometric Tests pathway on CareerConnect.

The supporting information ‘essay question

This section of the application form is where you are asked to present evidence of how you meet the core person specification for a trainee clinical scientist. You need to show you have the potential to ‘fly through the programme’. This year they have whittled it down to one question:

“You should write reflectively on how you meet the core person specification for an STP trainee (the person specification in full is on the NSHCS website). You do not have to cover every element of the person specification but should select those which, in your view, best reflect your strengths.”  

The key word here is ‘reflective’ – not just what you have done but why, and what you learned from it and how it has informed your decision to apply for the STP. Give personal examples of your scientific interest and experience that will help differentiate you from other applicants. Consider the broader skills that a Healthcare Scientist will need (e.g. time management will be important for managing a full-time job alongside a part-time MSc; working under pressure in a clinical environment, scientific curiosity, compassion and patient-focus, authenticity and leadership).

“You can however if you wish, explain how they relate to the specialty you are applying for.”

This is absolutely crucial! Make your application is specific to the scientific speciality you are applying for, that you understand the role of a Healthcare Scientist within your chosen specialism. If it isn’t focused, you may not make it to the next round.

Note: You are asked not to write anything about your qualifications as it is covered elsewhere on the form (so make sure you complete those sections properly).

Some tips:

  • In previous years, the form contained individual questions about a candidate’s scientific skills, transferable skills and physical requirements. Use these as prompts when planning your answer.
  • When you mention technical skills e.g. something learned in a project, there is no need to go into too much detail about what they involve. For instance, you might mention you used ‘flow cytometry’ but you don’t have to mention what this actually is! Instead think about the interests that led you to that project and aspects of the project you enjoyed, with an eye on the STP person specification and your chosen specialism.
  • Help the short-listers by making your answer easy to read e.g. by including some paragraph breaks. They will thank you for it!

Happy writing and make sure you submit your application in plenty of time!

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