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Clinical cytogeneticist: job description

Clinical cytogeneticists work as part of a medical team responsible for detecting, analysing and interpreting genetic diseases in human blood, tissue and bodily fluid samples.
Clinical cytogeneticists rarely have contact with patients, but their research has a significant impact for the individuals in question.

What does a clinical cytogeneticist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Clinical cytogeneticists analyse abnormalities in patients’ chromosomes via microscopy, photography, DNA techniques, computer-aided technology and other automated testing procedures. Typical responsibilities include:

  • testing unborn babies for genetic traits
  • helping haematologists analyse blood samples
  • laboratory management
  • liaising with relevant medical/laboratory staff
  • recording data
  • writing reports and journal articles
  • problem solving
  • research and development

Typical employers of clinical cytogeneticists

  • NHS hospitals and research centres
  • Private research facilities

Jobs are sometimes advertised in national newspapers, local hospital or health authority job lists and scientific journals such as New Scientist and Nature. Speculative applications may be worthwhile – the Association for Clinical Genetic Science can help with contact information.

Qualifications and training required

In order to begin training with the NHS scientist training programme (STP) you will need a 2.1 or higher in a relevant BSc discipline. Further research experience or qualifications are also desirable. The application process for the STP typically starts in January.

Scotland has separate training schemes, which also involve a three year STP or an equivalent programme.

After completing the STP, you can then apply for a certificate of attainment from the Academy of Healthcare Science. This is will enable you to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

In order to practise as a clinical scientist in the UK, you must be registered with the HCPC. You will automatically be eligible to apply for registration if you have completed a HCPC approved course, but you will need to pay a fee for the HCPC to process your application, plus a registration fee, which is reduced by 50% if you graduated from an approved course within the last two years.

Research work, hospital laboratory placements and/or relevant experience gained using similar scientific and analytical techniques can be useful.

Key skills for clinical cytogeneticists

  • A logical and inquisitive mind
  • Research skills
  • Painstakingly accurate
  • Communication
  • Teamworking skills

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