Clinical molecular geneticist: job description

Clinical molecular geneticist: job description

Clinical molecular geneticists are responsible for detecting, analysing and interpreting disease-linked genetic abnormalities within patients via molecular biological and biochemical screening.
Clinical molecular geneticists research and investigate diseases including familial cancers, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer's.

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

Clinical molecular geneticists analyse patients’ DNA specimens via a variety of techniques such as fragment analysis, DNA sequencing and mutation detection. Most of their work is laboratory-based. Other responsibilities include:

  • using a variety of tests and diagnostic procedures to determine genotypes (the genetic make-up of individuals) and/or identify genetic diseases
  • supervising and training junior laboratory staff and medical technical officers
  • recording and analysing quality control data
  • keeping up to date with developments in the profession
  • attending conferences and relevant training sessions
  • liaising with colleagues and other healthcare professionals
  • carrying out research and development
  • analysing and interpreting DNA test results
  • writing reports that outline test results for use by GPs, paediatricians and consultants

Typical employers of clinical molecular geneticists

  • The NHS
  • Universities
  • Government agencies
  • Pharmaceutical, biotechnology, food, energy, water, horticultural and environmental companies

There is intense competition for the limited number of training vacancies that arise each year. Job vacancies are advertised online, in national newspapers, local hospital or health authority job boards and scientific journals such as New Scientist, Nature Genetics and Nature.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.
  • If you'd like to find out what your salary might look like, take a look at our article on how much you might earn in science on our TARGETcareers website.

Qualifications and training required

You will need a 2.1 in a medical or life science degree such as biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, biotechnology, physiology, medicine or biomedical science. It is essential to have studied genetics on your degree and a relevant postgraduate qualification can be beneficial. Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options and visit the science section of TARGETpostgrad for lots more advice.

Research work, hospital laboratory placements and experience gained using relevant scientific and analytical techniques can be particularly helpful.

To work within the NHS, you will need to complete the scientist training programme (STP) after your degree. 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 practice 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.

Key skills for clinical molecular geneticists

  • Problem solving
  • Communication skills
  • An analytical and inquisitive mind
  • Teamworking skills
  • Research skills
  • Good IT skills

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