NHS Careers > Working in the NHS > Developing your career > Clinical academic careers

Clinical academic careers

As your healthcare career develops, you will have the opportunity to move into different areas and responsibilities. A growing area is clinical research where funded training towards recognised qualifications is available. These are available to the majority of registered healthcare professions, with different schemes for doctors and dentists aswell as non-medical healthcare professions.

Check out our video about clinical academic careers, which shows real healthcare professionals talking about their clinical research work. 

A full transcript of the video can be viewed here.

The growing field of clinical academia offers training which leads to qualifications such as Masters degrees and PhDs. Research projects completed as part of training allow NHS employees to build on the clinical skills they already have, offering them the opportunity to conduct research which can be used for both educational purposes and to improve patient care.

Academic research is supported by government funding and is vital in helping healthcare staff deliver the best possible care. Having the best evidence available to inform clinical decisions is a key premise in Health Education England (HEE)’s Research & Innovation Strategy which has been developed with key stakeholders across the healthcare system. 

Types of clinical research programmes

There are a number of funded research programmes available within the NHS and some of these are also supported by a mentorship scheme.

The joint clinical and academic programmes tend to follow a structured pathway, which includes the following levels:

    • Internships
    • Masters in Clinical Research
    • Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowships
    • Clinical Lectureships
    • Senior Clinical Lectureships.

HEE and the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) have developed a new scheme, the Integrated Clinical Academic Programme (ICA), which offers healthcare professionals outside of medicine and dentistry the opportunity to complete a research qualification, whilst maintaining their clinical practice. This replaces the previous Clinical Academic Training Programme and Healthcare Science Research Fellowship Programme, and follows the pathway described above. 

For doctors and dentists interested in undertaking a clinical academic career please see the NIHR Integrated Academic Training Programme

When can I start?

Potentially, healthcare professionals can start their academic research training directly after registration although it is more likely that this will happen after some clinical experience. There are also new opportunities to undertake internships that help staff prepare for working in a research environment.

As well as national training programmes such as the HEE/NIHR ICAP, healthcare staff may also find opportunities locally. These schemes are usually run in partnership between employers and local universities. 

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more information about the different research programmes available by visiting the NIHR and HEE websites. In addition to the NIHR, other programmes and sources of funding include the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.