What is a clinical scientist and what does he do?

Article written by CEMP's team

Do you know what a clinical scientist is? What does a clinical scientist do and what are his functions within a laboratory? In this article, we’re going to go through all details surrounding this fascinating profession. Are you ready?


What is a clinical scientist?

Put simply, it’s possible to say that a clinical scientist is a professional that is suitably qualified to develop his work at a clinical laboratory by collecting, preparing and analyzing human biological samples with the aim of helping in the processes of diagnosing, studying, preventing, following up, treating and investigating all types of illnesses.

Quite logically, this global definition can be more nuanced depending on the specific job position and tasks that the clinical scientist undertakes, as well as depending on the type of laboratory he joins, as we’ll see later in this article.


What does a clinical scientist do? The main tasks for these professionals

Just like we mentioned above, the tasks for a clinical scientist depend on the position he or she fills in, his or her specialization, as well as the type of laboratory he or she joins.

However, from a general perspective, a clinical scientist will be in charge of the following tasks:

  • Collecting biological samples, that is, the samples that will undergo the clinical analysis process 
  • Ensure the correct conservation of biological samples throughout the whole analytical process, as well as their traceability according to the relevant protocol
  • Applying preanalytical processing techniques, with the aim of preparing the biological samples for their analysis
  • Implementing the corresponding analysis techniques, depending on each particular case. As such, this may imply the following proceedings: 
    • Hematological analysis techniques on the received samples
    • Microbiology analytics in samples and cultures
    • Immunological techniques on biological samples
    • Biochemical parameter analysis (cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, uric acid, bilirubin, transaminases, among many others).
    • Genetic analysis for biological samples and cell cultures.
  • Verifying the application of the established protocols why analysis are developed
  • Evaluating the reliability of the obtained results during the analysis proceedings
  • Communicating the results of analytics following adequate protocols
  • Checking that analytic equipment works properly, as well as performing the required maintenance tasks
  • Managing stock and supply in the clinical laboratory
  • Identifying and evaluating the potential risks in the functioning of the laboratory, adopting the right prevention and correction measures 


What is a specialized clinical scientist?

In the field of clinical analysis, some clinical scientists are specialized in very specific areas, developing their career within those.

As an example, we may cite the following specialization areas:

  • Hematology, which is related to blood tests, as well as related tissues. Without a doubt, this is one of the most common test types when it comes to diagnosing illnesses. We may also include here the specialists in coagulation, which are in charge of analytical processes related to finding risk factors and disorders related with blood coagulation.
  • Biochemistry. This specialization includes all analysis related with parameters such as cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, uric acid, bilirubin, transaminases, etc. 
  • Microbiology. Specialists in this area focus on analysis related to parasites, bacteriology, allergies, immunology (hepatitis, HIV, herpes, etc.), toxicology, etc. However, parasitology can be considered as a specialization on its own.
  • Genetics. This fascinating specialization includes all sorts of analytical tasks related to DNA, RNA, control of genetic expressions, hybridation techniques of nucleic acids, mutations and polymorphisms, extraction of tissue or cell samples for genetic analysis, gene therapies, cancer, etc.
  • Cytology. Included here are all analytical tasks related to obtaining and processing the different types of gynecological samples 

All in all, there are other potential specializations within the work of a clinical scientist, although the ones cited above are the most well-known and demanded in the field of clinical laboratories.


Where can I work as a clinical scientist?

The work of a clinical scientist can be developed in many different types of environments. Without being particularly exhaustive, we can at least cite the following:

  • Diagnosis laboratories located at private or public clinics and hospitals
  • Research laboratories linked to the pharmaceutical industry
  • University laboratories and labs located at other educational centers
  • Laboratories targeting assisted reproduction
  • Toxicology laboratories
  • Clinical testing laboratories
  • Forensic clinical laboratories
  • Asides from the field of laboratories, clinical scientists can also engage with tasks related to management, team leadership, sales (in the pharma sales sector), etc.


What should I study in order to become a clinical scientist?

If you want to work as a clinical scientist, it’s essential that you get specialized training and, if possible, become a specialist in a particular area or, at least, update and extend your training at a continuous rate.

The first training level involves specialist training in higher education. In the UK, this corresponds to the BTEC Level 1 Diploma in Applied Science, which may lead to Level 2 Certificate or Level 3 Diploma. In order to join this course, you must at least have completed 4 GCSEs at 1-2 (E-G) or above including Science, English and Maths, usually with functional skills at Entry Level 3.

If you want to get in-depth knowledge in clinical analysis or even become a specialist in certain areas (such as genetics or microbiology, for instance), you should look into a Master’s Degree in medical laboratory science or other similar postgraduate options.

Whatever your choice is, it’s important that you seek for certain fundamental aspects when it comes to picking an educational option:

  • Make sure the study program covers the contents you’re really interested in and, above all, that it’s updated and responds to the requirements made by clinical laboratories. If your Master’s doesn’t align with what the current job market is demanding, it won’t be easy for you to start your professional career.
  • Your educational center should offer you the possibility of undertaking some professional practical experience through an internship at a laboratory or a company within the field. This will mean you get a first professional experience that gets you an introduction to the job market. 

Now that you know what a clinical scientist is and what does a clinical scientist do, are you interested in becoming one and joining this fascinating field? With the right training and a proactive attitude, you’ll surely achieve your goals sooner than you imagine.

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