Clinical molecular geneticists are employed by NHS regional centres for genetics and are based in large hospitals or specialist laboratories.
The primary function is to identify genetic defects, anomalies and disorders, including congenital diseases and acquired mutations, such as those observed in malignant tumours.
Testing and identification activities are carried out for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, ovarian and breast cancers, muscular atrophy, Huntington’s disease, hereditary neuropathies and other rare anomalies. Testing is usually done in three core phases: carrier testing, diagnosis confirmation and prenatal diagnosis.
Salary & benefits
Trainees receive a starting salary of approximately £25,000 to £30,000. Consultant clinical scientists earn salaries in the range of £50,000 and £100,000.
Professionals based in and around London may be paid a supplementary allowance in the range of 5% to 20%, subject to minimum and maximum limits, to manage the higher living costs.
Clinical geneticists work in the molecular genetics service, forming teams comprised of clinical scientists from other specialist areas, medical personnel, genetic technologists and counsellors.
Work schedules are not fixed and team members often work across multiple shifts. While on-the-job travel is not common, clinical geneticists need to be flexible and mobile to follow career progression opportunities.
Academic requirements include a 2:1 or higher honours degree in biochemistry, biomedical science, genetics, medicine and other subjects which include life sciences components.
A postgraduate or PhD in relevant subjects is an additional advantage, since competition is fierce and open positions for pre-registration enrolment are limited due to funding constraints.
The conventional entry path consists of completing the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).
Training & progression
The training process for clinical molecular geneticists is the same for clinical scientists across all specialties. Trainees complete a four year, pre-registration programme of formal study (two years) and practical experience (two years), leading to a certificate of competence from the Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS) and the eligibility to complete registration with the Health and Care Professions Council.
Additional compulsory requirements at this stage include obtaining an MSc and the first part of MRCPath qualifications – a requirement for membership of the Royal College of Pathologists.
Post-registration, geneticists complete multiple work placements on a rotational basis, maintaining a detailed log of training and work experience in all aspects of clinical molecular genetics.
They also complete the second part of the MRCPath. Upon completion of all job requirements, geneticists can apply for consultant clinical scientist and principal clinical molecular geneticist roles.