NHS Scientist Training Programme – Apply This Week.

 I go on holiday for a week and what happens? They finally launch the NHS Scientist Training Programme recruitment for 2012, for England (hopefully you spotted my tweet about it just before I left).

This is the main recruitment round for scientists with a relevant degree who want to work in the NHS. It happens once a year, with a very tight deadline – it launched last week, and ends next week.

Deadline is 27th February (I’d get in earlier if possible).

UPDATE (27/2/12):
The deadline is noon today for getting your application in (or rather, it’s “12pm” – I’m assuming they mean noon as there’s no official UK definition of when “12pm” is!).
However, you also have to complete online aptitude tests by 5pm, Wednesday 29th Feb. See the FAQ doc
for more details of practice tests.

The jobs are grouped into “themes” of similar sciences – the largest demand is once again, Medical Physics – and involve both hands-on training within the NHS and completion of an accredited Masters degree. Even if you’ve got a PhD, you’ll normally still have to complete this Masters degree (I ran a workshop as part of a Masters on a previous version of the programme – 6 out of about 30 students already had a PhD). It’s a three year programme, with no guarantee of an NHS job at the end – but they’re unlikely to invest in all that training for you if they don’t expect to need you at the end of the programme.

If you’re at the point of filling in the online application, I’ve had a go at it myself to find out what they expect, so here are a few pointers:

  • The online form won’t let you advance a page until you’ve filled in any “mandatory” questions (and most of the questions are mandatory).
  • You only get to see the “essay questions” once you’ve filled in 12 previous pages, including all the mandatory sections. Want to know what they are in advance?

1.    Your motivation and commitment to the Training Programme

In no more than 300 words, please state why you have applied for the NHS Healthcare Scientist Training Programme outlining your motivation for the programme and what you plan to gain in terms of career development.

2.    Your passion for science and/or technology

In no more than 300 words, please demonstrate your passion for science and/or technology and provide evidence about how you seek to implement constant improvement and innovation in your work/studies.

3.    Patients

In no more than 300 words, please explain how you would hope to apply your skills and knowledge for the benefit of patients and the public.

4.    Team working and leadership

In no more than 300 words demonstrate how you have worked as part of a team and outline the skills you used to influence the outputs of that team. Please summarise your achievements in order to demonstrate you are a high achieving individual.

  • The site recommends cutting and pasting your essay answers from a word processing package into the online application, to avoid timeouts (I left it for an hour or so, and sure enough, it did sign me out, losing any text I’d added to the essay questions without pressing “Save & Continue”). There seems to be a slight discrepancy between the characters as measured in Word 2010 and those measured in the online application. I’d avoid going right up to the character or word limit in Word, just in case some of your answer gets cut off. It’s ambiguous whether they’re limiting the number of characters or number of words. In practice, I was able to add over 300 words as long as it was under the 3000 character limit – but there is no telling what the software does when it’s submitted. I’d keep under both limits, just to be safe!
  • One of the mandatory sections is your mobile phone number. If you don’t want to give them your mobile number (I’m fussy about who gets my mobile number), it doesn’t have to be a real one – you could give them a landline instead. Even if you do give them your mobile number, you don’t have to give them permission to SMS you, though they keep asking you for that on every page…
  • When a page looks nice and short – don’t be fooled! Once you’ve answered the first mandatory question, new ones often appear, as if by magic, on the same page (and they’re often mandatory too).
  • As you’re completing the various pages, you can go back to previous pages and change your answers – but can’t advance again unless all the mandatory sections are complete.
  • Once you’ve completed the essay questions, if you “save and continue”, it doesn’t immediately give you an option of going back to previous pages. Don’t panic – you can “preview” your answers and it does then give you the chance to “amend” them, which means (phew) that you can go back and change things before you press Submit.

This is an extraordinarily competitive programme (around 10,000 applications last year, and there are only around 200 jobs this year) but someone is going to get the chance – just make the most of those essay questions.

If you want to consider alternatives, there are separate recruitment processes for the NHS in Scotland (deadline is 24th Feb though), Northern Ireland (process not clear but at least some are being advertised here) and Wales (should have been an ad in New Scientist yesterday but no sign yet – try NHS Jobs site).

UPDATE (22nd Feb), from NHS Careers Consultant, Alan Simmons:

Good luck!


21 comments on “NHS Scientist Training Programme – Apply This Week.

  1. Thanks for the tips. Now I’m just wondering about my qualifications: I have a recent PhD in Biochemistry (with focus on ovarian cancer metabolism), an MRes in Biomedical Research (did some NMR work and gene therapy), MSc in Biomedical Sciences (Haematology) and a BSc in Biology. I am confused as to what I should I put as my preferences. Reproductive science, haematology or clinical biochemistry? I’m afraid if I put all of them, it won’t look very focused…

    • Hi Lisa

      Well, you’ve only got 3 choices/locations, so I guess that may depend on where the vacancies are for each specialism. However, rather than focusing on which categories your qualifications fit into, I’d focus on what you want to do as an NHS role, and then make the connections with your previous experience/quals (whatever they are). It’s also important to show your motivation to go into whichever specialism you choose, rather than falling back on the old “logical progression/best subject” reasoning, which is a very passive approach and probably won’t do you justice.

      Best of luck in getting the application in by noon today, if it’s not already been submitted.


    • Good point – but to be fair, it is in the FAQs doc I linked to, along with lots of other stuff I didn’t cut’n’paste. However, I will post an update to remind applicants to get their online tests completed by Wednesday. Good luck with them!

  2. Hi, thank you for this information, im currently a undergrad whose looking into various careers, I just wanted to know if you knew anything about 2013 entry?


    • Hi Mobeen

      As far as I know, the Scientist Training Programme will go ahead in 2013 – but beyond that, I suspect it will be the usual last-minute rush! Hopefully, it will get advertised at around the same time (early Feb 2013) but last year, they promised us it was “about to go live” from December onwards. The lesson is to start looking out from December onwards (particularly on the NHS jobs site).

      We won’t know which jobs are needed in which locations until the recruitment programme is announced (it’s always like this).

      I do have a bit more info on this year’s recruitment round. Apparently, there were 7735 applicants for 205 places this year, so more than 37 applicants for each job. In addition, you can apply for more than one job (you get 3 choices) so you can probably multiply that by 3 to get the number of applications for each job.

      Also, we found this info (it’s a pdf) for the interviewers on how the interview rounds would be carried out – it’s a bit like speed-dating with lots of short interviews. The document doesn’t tell you the questions, but at least it does tell you about the format. No guarantees that they’ll do this again next year, but it’s a format they’ve been using in medicine, so it may stick around for a while yet.

      Glad to see you’re doing some forward planning and good luck next year.

      • Hiya,

        Thankyou so much for the reply, you said that it comes up on the NHS jobsite, like how is it presented on there? or does it clearly state the programs name and positions available.

        A little concern i have about this is that after the 3 years are we guaranteed a job in the NHS of left to look for jobs within the NHS or privately?

        Once again thank you for the info :).


      • Hi Mobeen

        I was at a talk by Prof Paul Klapper (Consultant Virologist and leading light for the Microbiology strand of Clinical Scientists) on Friday and he had some useful info to add to all this (may write it up into a blog post soon). In particular, he was clear that after 3 years, there was no guarantee of a job. In the pilot for genetics, 60% of them didn’t have an NHS job to go into at the end. This may be specific to genetics or because it was a pilot, and he seemed not too worried about this (he felt they were superbly qualified to get jobs in the private sector) but it does make you wonder what they thought about it!

        I think it’s an illustration of the general trend for a lot of lab work to be outsourced, even from the NHS. To be honest, there are no guarantees of a job in 3 years time in any organisation, and in the meantime you would have exceptional training and paid work so it’s probably still a very good deal, even if you have to find something else at the end.

        Regarding the programme names, I’d use the Advanced Search on the NHS jobs site, choosing “Healthcare Scientists” for Staff Group, and maybe filtering it by Salary if there are too many senior posts to trawl through. They do seem to use a variety of job titles so you can’t rely on searching for Scientist Training Programme!


  3. Dear Elizabeth,

    I have a real passion for Medical Physics, really truly this is the only thing I want to do with my life, but… I’m only predicted for a 2:2. I am trying my hardest to get a 2:1 but it might not happen. Do you think I should still apply? Do you think they would give me a chance?

    Kind regards,

    • Hi Bella

      That’s a difficult one. The NHS info on the new Scientist Training Programme specifically asks for a 2:1 (and encourages those with postgrad degrees to apply in particular). It’s very possible that you will just get selected out at the application stage with a 2:2 for this “fast track” programme. However, you could try and find slightly lower level entry points, such as the one being advertised at the moment – Health Physics & Imaging Technician (that’s a live vacancy – see the job spec for full details of entry and training).

      Once you’re in, there may be opportunities to develop your career within the NHS – there will be plenty of scientists within the NHS who don’t go through the STP but have very satisfying careers. The difficulty is finding any job within the NHS at the moment (though the example above shows they do exist). You should also explore alternatives, such as working for an employer who makes the medical physics equipment – you’re still part of the process of supporting healthcare, and if you try for a job which liaises with healthcare providers to ensure they have the equipment and services they need that might suit you?

      As another suggestion, you might also think about going back and doing a different first degree to try to get into the NHS Practitioner Training Programme, but that could prove very expensive.

      I’d try and visit your local medical physicists and discuss the roles within their departments and see how you might fit, if you feel the STP is out of reach.

      Good luck – that job ad shows there are alternatives!

    • That’s because all comments are moderated before showing up, in case they really are spam (but yours isn’t so see the answer above).

  4. Hey guys,

    I was hoping you can help. I tried to apply for 2012 entry, filled in the application without any problems until I got to the assessment tests (numerical and logical) and that’s when everything fell apart. My question is, how do you prepare for them? I mean are there any practice type questions available anywhere that I can maybe use to gear me up for my second attempt in 2013? Did everyone else struggle with it like I did or did you guys sail through them?

    • Hi Sundus

      I’d definitely get some practice in well before you have to sit these tests again. Even if the practice tests don’t tell you exactly what you got wrong, you should at least get feedback on whether you need to improve your accuracy or your speed – or both. Have a look at this old post I wrote about psychometric tests which includes some hints on how to improve your performance, plus the links to our website include all the online practice tests we’ve found.


  5. Hi,

    Hopefully you can help me… I will be applying for the STP in 2013, I’m currently in my final year studying sport and exercise science expecting a 1st, is my degree suitable? I want to get into cardiac science, is this as competitive as some of the other areas?


    • Hi Jon

      I’m really sorry but I don’t think I can help here. We don’t have any sports science degrees at Manchester Univ so I haven’t any experience of whether they might be accepted by the NHS for the STP. However, I would strongly suggest trying to get to talk to NHS scientists to find out.

      You should be doing this well before any application anyway. They’ll expect you to have talked to NHS scientists, so you know what you’re getting yourself into, and have demonstrated that you’re committed enough to the role to have done this extra research.

      Good luck

  6. Hi Elizabeth,

    Like one of the posters above I also have a 2.2 in biology (was frustratingly a borderline 2.1) and on graduating, was told to get some work experience in order to stand a better chance of becoming a clinical scientist, (this was pre STP). I have since worked for 9 years in various cell biology labs and have worked my way up the ranks to my current position as the manager of a cleanroom tissue culture facility within a university. I have also recently gained chartered biologist status. I would really like to apply to join the STP scheme, however I am worried that I will now just be filtered out in the initial stage due to my degree grade. Is it possible to use experience to qualify or will my grade hold me back?

    Thanks for any advice you have,


  7. Hi

    Is there any programme similar to this available in Wales? It says on nhs jobs that Wales has its own programme but I haven’t been able to find anything. Thank you


  8. Hi there,I am hoping to apply for the STP programme in 2013. having done a BSc and an MSc, with experience, my aim is to become a clinical embryologist. In order to be considered, do I have to contact a hospital (London) for my training or find a university before I apply ?

    Thank you very much

  9. Hi All

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to close the comments on this post now. It’s quite an old post, it’s now on a blog which is no longer actively maintained (see our new blog at http://manunicareersblog.com) and I’m not really an expert in the NHS STP!

    If you have any questions on the STP, you should try your own careers service (if you are a student), or try tweeting the NHS Careers twitter account (@NHS_Careers), or Alan Simmons, NHS careers adviser (@Alan_Simmons). Of course, the best information you’re likely to get is from an NHS clinical scientist – start networking!

    Best regards

Comments are closed.