NHS Careers > Explore by career > Wider healthcare team > Careers in the wider healthcare team > Clinical support staff > Assistant technical officer

Assistant technical officer

Assistant technical officers (sometimes known as clinical support workers and assistants) work in healthcare science with doctors and scientists, in a variety of roles, including to diagnose and treat diseases.

They may work in pathology laboratories, on wards or in clinics.

Within pathology laboratories, assistant technical officers provide support to biomedical scientists. Their work is often varied and can involve different laboratory skills, including:

  • making up chemical solutions
  • using computers to analyse data
  • responsibility for labelling and sorting of tissue samples
  • disposal of chemical or biological waste
  • maintaining stocks or consumable items
  • phlebotomy (taking blood from patients)

Assistant technical officers can specialise in one area of their work, however, many have the opportunity to work in a range of different aspects of pathology and can expand their responsibilities and skills by training and supervising other staff. Areas they can work in, include:

In wards or in clinics, assistant technical officers may take blood (phlebotomy) or assist physiological scientists, who are investigating the functioning of organ/body systems, such as a cardiographer

Within a pharmacy setting, staff working at assistant level may be employed as pharmacy assistants.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this career, although a range of GCSEs may be beneficial.

It may be possible to enter these roles through an apprenticeship with the NHS.


Trainees are given mostly on-the-job training, starting with general safety instructions and how the job role fits in the day to day working of the hospital. Trainees then move on to specialised individual training.

Certificates of Competence can be awarded for the safe performance of various duties, these will help if you want to work as a medical laboratory assistant in another hospital. Assistant technical officers usually have access to work towards appropriate QCF/NVQ qualifications, such as in pathology support.

New routes are coming on stream to enter as a healthcare science assistant or associate

Career prospects

A post as a assistant technical officer, is not a route to qualifying as a biomedical scientist. However, should an assistant have suitable motivation, they will be encouraged to become a trainee biomedical scientist.

How to apply

Vacancies are advertised on the NHS Jobs website and in local papers. It is also worth contacting the personnel officer or head biomedical scientist at a hospital where you would like to work.

Further information

For further details about careers as an assistant technical officer working in pathology, please contact:

Institute of Biomedical Science
12 Coldbath Square
Tel: 020 7713 0214
Fax: 020 7436 4946
Email: mail@ibms.org
Website: http://www.ibms.org/