How to: choose your specialism


As the date for the opening of STP applications draws ever closer I’ve had emails asking for advice from several people hoping to apply.

When I found out about the STP, I knew I wanted to do bioinformatics and this is something I think I’ve taken for granted. Much like choosing your university course, if you’re not 100% sure what you want to study, all the different options can seem overwhelming. Yes- you’re unlikely to pick Medical Physics if you studied biomedical sciences, and vice-versa, but there are still plenty of different specialisms to choose from that might interest you. So today’s STP application advice session will be focussed on the things you might want to consider when choosing which STP specialism to apply for.

Editors note: This post was written for the 2018 applications and might not be accurate for future years.

If you don’t know all the different specialisms that are available check out this link, where they’re all listed. We’ve been getting trainees in different specialisms to write about their fields on this blog too, so if you think you might be interested in one of these specialisms, it’s definitely worth checking out these posts or go to the specialism post on the menu:

Clinical Bioinformatics (genomics)

Genomic counselling

Clinical embryology

Clinical pharmaceutical sciences

And we’re planning on adding more ASAP!

Of course, I can’t tell you about what each specialism will involve, so I’ll have to leave you to do your own research in that area but what I can do is cover a few things you might want to think about when choosing your specialism, that may not immediately come to mind.

Patient contact

Do you want to do a specialism that will allow you to interact with patients on a daily basis? Or would you rather never have to speak to a patient for the whole of your career? This is something you should think about when deciding on your specialism. Some specialisms have daily or weekly clinics, some will see patients in passing in hospital hallways, and some will be completely out of public areas of the hospital. It is worth looking into this if it’s something that is important to you.

Wet lab/practical work

Some specialisms obviously don’t have wet-lab work, but some specialisms that you might expect to involve more practical or wet-lab work don’t actually have that much. If you’re really invested in a specialism, but whether you do or don’t do any lab or practical work is equally important to you, it’s definitely worth finding out how much it involves.


Finally, some specialisms are only offered in certain places. Just double check that you’re happy to move to any of the locations that offer your specialism of interest – and if you’re not- your chances of getting on to the specialism are reduced compared to someone who is willing to move anywhere.

I hope this was useful for those of you still unsure what specialism you would like to do.

If any readers have any ideas about what you want us to write about in the run-up to the applications opening, please let us know! Until next time!

Author: Jes

I am a trainee clinical bioinformatician working at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. I am passionate about increasing awareness and discussion about healthcare science and particularly the routes into the field.

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