Training in genetic pathology

To work as a consultant in genetics, you can begin your career as a medical doctor or as a clinical scientist. Medically-qualified doctors need to complete specialty training in clinical genetics. Scientists need to complete Higher Specialty Specific Training – or HSST – in genetics, to become a consultant clinical scientist.

The medical route

What are the entry requirements?

To enter training to be a consultant clinical geneticist, you’ll need to:

  • qualify as a doctor
  • register with the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • complete the UK Foundation Training Programme or equivalent
  • complete two years Core Medical Training (CMT) or Acute Care Common Stem (ACCS) training
  • gain membership to the Royal College of Physicians.

How long will it take?

After your CMT or ACCS, specialty training in clinical genetics takes four years if you’re training full-time. There might be opportunities to extend your training, by undertaking research or out-of-programme training. 

What will my training cover?

The training programme in clinical genetics will enable you to work effectively as a consultant within the NHS, focusing on diagnosing inherited disorders and birth defects, estimating genetic risks and providing genetic counselling to families.

Your training will give you a comprehensive course in the science of genetics – from cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin inheritance, to how to diagnose specific genetic disorders. You’ll hone your ability in laboratory-based work, including skin biopsies and phlebotomy, and will get a chance to work in a genetics laboratory. A significant aspect of your training will focus on communication, equipping you to share difficult news with patients and families.

Find out more about specialty training in clinical genetics via the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board.

What exams will I need to take?

You’ll take the Certificate Examination in Medical Genetics, which should be attempted during your second or third year of specialty training in clinical genetics.

For further information about the format of exams, visit our exams page.

The science route

To train to be a consultant clinical scientist specialising in genetics, you’ll first need to become a qualified clinical scientist. You can then enter Higher Specialty Specific Training – or HSST – in genetics.