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Healthcare science assistant Assistant technical officer

Healthcare science assistants support healthcare science professionals.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £15,000 to £20,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • a good general standard of education, like GCSEs (A* to C) in English, maths and a science
  • an understanding of medical terminology
  • paid or unpaid work experience in a healthcare or lab setting

 You could take a college course in applied science to improve your chances of finding work.

You could also get into this job through an apprenticeship.

Health Careers has more information about becoming a healthcare science assistant.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • excellent hand-eye coordination
  • organisational skills
  • the ability to work under pressure

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • labelling, sorting and storing specimens
  • helping with tissue and fluid sample analysis
  • putting together chemical solutions
  • loading and operating machines
  • using a computer to input and analyse data
  • disposing of hazardous waste
  • sterilising equipment
  • maintaining stock levels

You might also deal with telephone enquiries and file records.

You’ll work with scientists in areas like:

  • biochemistry - studying chemical reactions in the body like kidney failure
  • histopathology - examining the structure of diseased tissue
  • virology - analysing viruses, the diseases they cause, and vaccines
  • cytology - studying the structure and function of cells, and screening for cancers
  • haematology - analysing diseases of the blood and blood forming tissues
  • immunology - examining how the immune system works, for example with allergies
  • transfusion science - transferring blood and blood products from one person to another

4. Salary

Starter: £15,000 to £18,000

Experienced: £20,000

Highly Experienced: £22,500 (healthcare science associate)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday, which may include evenings and weekends.

You’ll be based in clean, and sometimes sterile, lab conditions. You might also work in a clinic, with patients on wards or in a GP practice. You may also have clerical duties and spend some time in an office.

You may need to deal with unpleasant or challenging sights and smells from infectious materials, bodily fluids and biological samples. 

You’ll usually need to wear protective clothing, gloves, glasses and a mask to prevent contamination.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could apply for a senior post as a healthcare science associate.

With a degree you could work towards becoming a healthcare scientist or biomedical scientist, or apply for the NHS Practitioner Training Programme

You could also train to become a cardiological technician, cardiographer, cervical cytology screener or phlebotomist.

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Last updated: 14 December 2016