This role is pretty much as complicated as it sounds. Cytogenetics involves the study of cells, cellular systems, and genetics. A clinical cytogeneticist (CC) undertakes the detection, analysis and study of human hereditary anomalies, defects and diseases.
Findings from these procedures are used in treating medical conditions such as infertility, mental and physical illnesses and abnormalities, prenatal disorders and the spread of malignancy with diseases such as cancer.
Cytogeneticists use blood and body fluids to observe and study chromosomes, using several screening tools and methodologies. Core responsibilities of a cytogeneticist include blood sampling and the analysis of patients with learning disorders, fertility problems and congenital defects.
Salary & benefits
Clinical cytogeneticists are primarily categorised by designation bands, upon which salary ranges are based. Pre-registration trainees receive around £24,000; post-registration salaries are around £30,000; and consultants receive between £50,000 and £100,000.
Cytogeneticists, like other medical professionals, work extremely irregular hours over the course of the average day. They frequently work in continuous shifts without an off period in between.
Mobility is also essential as they may need to move locations to gain wider experience in research and medical work.
A 2:1 or higher degree in genetics, biomedical sciences or related disciplines is the minimum requirement. Candidates with a postgraduate or PhD qualification, or first degree holders with lab or healthcare facility-based project experience, are generally preferred by employers.
The general entry route for cytogeneticists involves enrolling in a national training programme: the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).
A less common alternative route is to join as a laboratory assistant and progress by completing the necessary experience and qualification requirements.
This can be a long-drawn process, since promotions are mainly dependent on performance rather than experience and qualifications.
Training & progression
Cytogeneticist trainees are required to complete a structured training and development programme – the National Training Programme for Clinical Scientists in Cytogenetics – which is conducted over a period of two to three years.
The training is a mix of formal learning and rotations across several general hospitals within the base district. The training record should list details of training completed in R&D and audit skills, prenatal testing of amniotic fluid, blood sample cytogenetics and leukaemia cytogenetics.
The programme culminates in an external final assessment, conducted by two independent evaluators, and the awarding of a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Cytogenetics.
Subsequently, trainees need to complete a four year work experience programme, obtaining a competency certificate from the Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS) and completing eligibility assessments to gain membership of the Royal College of Pathologists.
Cytogeneticists can then apply for state registration as a certified clinical cytogeneticist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Career progression is dependent on the basis of this comprehensive training and experience record during the four year period. This generally leads to positions as consultants or principal clinical cytogeneticists.