Geneticists research the inherited traits of humans, animals, plants, and microorganisms. They can use special methods to modify genetic material. They are sometimes called molecular geneticists or clinical scientists.
You could be:
locating and researching individual genes, to identify which can cause certain diseases and conditions
identifying and possibly helping to treat genetic disorders in humans or animals
using tiny amounts of DNA to identify archaeological remains and help reconstruct the past
developing new methods of genetic engineering, ranging from producing fruits which last longer, to cloning animals
modifying genes to develop ways of increasing the production of crops or animals
helping to control pollution by developing microorganisms called ‘biosensors’
setting up and carrying out experiments and investigations, collecting data, analysing it and making recommendations based on the results
working in a team of scientists and other staff, perhaps leading and planning projects.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
The starting salaries for new genetics graduates tend to be around £18,000 to £20,000. Well qualified and experienced geneticists can earn more than £47,000 a year.
Pre-registration trainee clinical scientists working in the NHS start on Band 6, £35,522 to £43,286 a year, and registered clinical scientists are on Band 7, £43,422 to £50,506 a year. Principal clinical scientists are on Band 8a, £53,513 to £57,767 a year and Band 8b, £63,530 to £68,223 a year.
You could also work as a specialist biomedical scientist within the NHS on Band 6, £35,522 to £43,286 a year.
The current pay scales are from April 2022.
Salaries for research posts at universities range from around £25,000 to £40,000 a year.
Depending on your job, you might work in a hospital, industrial or academic laboratory, an office or a classroom.
You would normally work regular hours but might have to work evenings or weekends.
You might travel to conferences.
You may need to wear protective clothing such as a white coat, a mask or gloves.
You normally need a degree (SCQF Level 9) in genetics or a related subject with strong genetics content such as biology, applied biology, biochemistry or molecular biology. Many genetics degree courses are combined with another subject. For entry you usually need 4-5 Highers, normally including at least 2 from Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Biology and Chemistry are often preferred. You also need Maths, English and a science subject at National 5.
A small number of HNC (SCQF Level 7) and HND (Level 8) courses ask for 1-3 Highers and may offer a progression route to a degree course.
To train as a clinical scientist you would need a 2:1 Honours degree (SCQF Level 10) or above in a pure or applied science subject specialising in a relevant subject to be eligible for the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).
Most entrants, particularly to research jobs, also have a specialist postgraduate qualification in genetics.
In NHS Scotland the job title used is clinical scientist and in order to practise in the UK as a clinical scientist you need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
You could do research and clinical work in hospitals or universities. Agricultural, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries employ researchers and technicians as well as geneticists who work in management, marketing, sales and public relations. Government departments employ staff with knowledge of genetics to develop science policies and give advice.
What Does it Take?
You need to be:
practical, logical and methodical
patient and willing to persevere
accurate and careful when carrying out experiments and recording results
able to analyse and interpret complex data
able to develop ideas based on the results of your research
able to produce clear and precise scientific reports.
You should have:
an enquiring mind
excellent analytical skills
good problem solving skills
an eye for detail
IT and statistical skills.
To become fully qualified and able to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), you complete three years of training.
In industrial jobs, initial training is on the job. You then take further professional in-service training.
You may need to take postgraduate and professional qualifications in order to get on.
Other opportunities may be available for geneticists in a wide range of settings from pharmaceuticals and horticulture to food, biotechnology and environmental companies as well as research and scientific analysis for institutes, government agencies, laboratories and universities.
With work experience and further skills, you may be able to move on to become a laboratory supervisor or manager.
The IntoBiology website is a good source of information on what you can do with a career in biology and includes videos, projects and study skills.