Healthcare science assistant and associate workforce

Lab tech

28 / 11 / 2013 Midnight

Healthcare science support roles are undertaken on levels 1-4 of the career framework, providing individuals entering the profession with development opportunities which are key to sustaining the workforce for the future.

Routes vary into these assistant and associate levels (Agenda for Change bands 2-4) and recruitment is managed locally by NHS organisations.

Levels 1-4 of the career framework

Work is underway to create a national learning and development framework that will provide a curricula for assistants and associates, enabling a clear route to progress to practitioner level training. In addition, work is being done to identify how healthcare science support roles can provide a flexible approach that crosses specialisms.

A steering group is overseeing the implementation of a new modular framework which includes curriculum, qualifications (apprenticeships and foundation degree) and learning structure for healthcare science assistants and associates. The framework has been designed to provide flexibility, progression and wider opportunities for entry into healthcare science and career development.

We will update employers as implementation progresses. 

Routes into assistant roles

Healthcare science assistants are generally recruited into roles at Band 2 of Agenda for Change. Individuals are often required to work towards a vocational qualification and one way to do this could be through an apprenticeship scheme. Healthcare science Apprenticeships are a great way to develop the workforce you require, providing individuals with on the job training covering the skills needed to carry out the role. Read our Prezi which captures the role of healthcare science apprentices in York NHS Foundation Trust.


Work is well underway to develop new Apprenticeship standards, which will consist of five qualification levels with clearer progression routes within and beyond Career Framework 1-4. The levels include:

  1. Introductory qualifications
  2. Intermediate apprenticeship - technical certificate, competence certificate, and underpinning personal, cognitive and skills framework
  3. Advanced apprenticeship - as above
  4. Higher apprenticeship, level 4 - as above
  5. Higher apprenticeship, level 5 - Integrated Foundation Degree/HND.

The titles are generic and may vary.

Routes into associate roles

Healthcare science associates are commonly trained through a foundation degree or diploma and employed at Band 4. Applicants are generally required to have A levels, including a science subject, plus experience of working in a laboratory setting.

The work to create a national framework, that will provide a curricula for assistants and associates, will provide a clear route for individuals to progress to practitioner level training.

Further career progression from this structure includes:

  • Accredited Scientific Practice (ASP) - additional modular development and recognition for individuals who don't wish to progress to practitioner, or develop more specialist skills in one discipline
  • Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) - achievement of the Higher Apprenticeship level 5 will equate to the first two years of PTP (Bsc level).

Each qualification within the Apprenticeship framework comprises of a mandatory and optional selection of modules from the framework to meet the credit requirements of the relevant qualification. The minimum number of optional knowledge and competence units will be mandated as required in Apprenticeships.


The work on the apprenticeship standards specification is almost complete. The next stage is the development of the new healthcare science qualifications that will be used in the apprenticeships.

As part of the implementation of Modernising Scientific Careers Career Framework 2-4, a number of working groups are being established, one of which will be a Healthcare Science Apprenticeship Ambassadors group. The aim of this group will be to share and cascade learning with support from the MSC team from the implementation of healthcare science apprenticeships at levels 2-4.

We will continue to update this section as work progresses.

Shared learning

Visit our shared learning section to find out more about what organisations are doing to develop their support workforce, including the recruitment of apprentices.

If you are developing your support workforce we would like to hear from you. Send a brief outline of what you are doing to and we will get in touch to develop a shared learning example.

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