If the sight of blood makes you squeamish, this probably isn’t the career for you. Haematology is all about blood, but not in a creepy horror movie kind of way. Haematologists aren’t vampires (at least we don’t think so); rather they are highly skilled specialists in their field.
Haematologists usually work in specialist departments of hospitals carrying out tests on blood samples and analysing results to sniff out blood-based irregularities. It’s a bit like detective work; they look at the shape, size, function and number of blood cells to help diagnose illnesses.
Another huge part of a haematologist’s work is research. They are instrumental in carrying out medical research of the blood and organs.
Haematologists aren’t just involved in the diagnostic and research process; they are also involved in the treatment and care of patients, particularly of those with diseases of the blood and organs. That means that they aren’t just confined to the laboratory, but also treat certain patients one-on-one and work with doctors and nurses.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries for trainee haematologists range between £25,000 and £34,000 a year. With more experience, they should be looking at salaries between £30,000 and £40,000, whilst those at the very top of the profession receive salaries ranging from £38,000 to £97,000 a year.
If you’re looking for a cushy nine-to-five job, haematology isn’t your best option. Haematologists are expected to work hospital hours, so that means working during the weekends and in the evenings too. However, there are opportunities to work part-time.
To become a haematologist, there are two routes: clinical scientist and biomedical scientist. The NHS Scientist Training Scheme offers 200 posts in physics, life sciences and engineering and physiological sciences.
Those wishing to enter haematology can apply to the blood sciences pathway of the scheme, and if accepted, will be placed on a three year training programme and study for a Master’s degree.
An accredited degree in biomedical science is necessary to go down the trainee biomedical scientist route. Those with other degrees in life sciences might be able to become biomedical scientists, providing that they take some biomedical modules to bolster their degree.
It’s extremely competitive to get onto either training scheme, even with a life sciences degree. Strong academic results and relevant work experience will really help your application. Some gain an MSc or a PhD in a relevant subject to try and improve their chances.
Really, there isn’t a non-university route into haematology. It is possible for people to secure assistant positions in healthcare science without a degree, but they’ll still need to study for an accredited degree if they want to become a haematologist.
Training & progression
Training really never stops for a haematologist. They have to continue to study throughout their careers to keep abreast of new research techniques, patient treatments and medical science developments.
On the NHS training schemes, trainee scientists will be subject to three years of work-based training, specialising in the last 18 months. On top of this, they will study for a master’s degree in their area.
Trainee biomedical scientists work towards registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which involves training in a laboratory setting and gaining a Certificate of Competence.
There is a short cut: integrated degrees accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science enable students to reach the registration stage as part of the course through compulsory clinical laboratory placements.
Much of a haematologist’s career progression is facilitated through research. Publication in peer-reviewed journals, undertaking postgraduate research, and networking all aid career progression.
With experience, haematologists might choose to specialise in particular areas and look to progress to a principal scientist role.