Clinical academic training pathway (other health professions)

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There is no one route into clinical academia nor is there one starting point. The training route is flexible and interchangeable and while the information on this page discusses research-focused clinical academic roles through one available career pathway, it is by no means the only pathways available and many clinical academics will continue to develop their careers through a range of opportunities. Connecting to these various avenues can help to build a successful career. In addition to careers in research, clinical academics make a valuable contribution to the development of knowledge and skills through teaching. 

HEE NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Pathway (ICA)

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Health Education England (HEE) provides an Integrated Clinical Academic Pathway (ICA) which specifically supports smart clinicians to develop academic skills, usually with university based academic partners, and are retained within the NHS.

This pathway supports clinical academics with varying levels of experience, from research tasters for those who have no research experience, through to doctoral and senior post-doctoral research fellowships.   

Important features of the ICA scheme:

  • Salary is covered, regardless of the level of the applicant
  • Successful bids are those which demonstrate a strong, collaborative working partnership between the trust and the university
  • Have a clear commitment to the academic and clinical development of the individual
  • Support projects that are dedicated to proving patient care

For those who wish to stay in the university or higher education institute (HEI), academics are able to apply for the all professions scheme.

Internship Scheme

Delivered by the regional HEE Hubs, this is usually a 30-day internship which includes a taught introduction to research and introduction to a research team. Aimed at individuals with little or no research experience.

The award covers salary costs for the days undertaking the Internship away from clinical practice.


Note: Internships are also funded by local and professional schemes. Applications are administered and managed by local teams, based on local requirements. 

Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowships (PCAF)

A one year full-time (or part time equivalent) national scheme (national schemes are funded by HEE but are co-ordinated by the NIHR Academy) supporting early career researchers to become competitive applicants for a peer-reviewed doctoral level research training fellowship. For researchers who wish to undertake a smaller amount of academic training, the PCAF Bridge option is available, lasting six months full time or part-time equivalent for those with a Masters degree.

Salary, training and academic mentorship is included. 20% of the PCAFs time is allocated to do NHS clinical activity, which is funded by NIHR.

Bridging Scheme

The ICA Bridging schemes support non-medical clinical academics to build on their previous academic training and to develop applications for a pre or post-doctoral award, and take the next step in their clinical academic career. This scheme is run by regional HEE Hubs and is targeted towards postdoctoral applicants, but pre-docs are also supported.

Salary, travel and training expenses are included.


Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship

This is a national programme designed to deliver a PhD and training programme.  Fellowships can be full-time (three years) or part-time equivalent (up to six years).

This award includes funding to cover your salary costs, PhD tuition fees, the costs of an appropriate research project, and the costs of tailored clinical and academic training programmes.

Clinical Lectureships (CL)

This national programme supports those in the early stages of their post-doctoral career who wish to establish themselves as independent practitioner academic researchers over the course of the award. Duration is for three years (or part-time equivalent).

Funding includes up to 60% of awardee's total salary, costs of the approved research project and costs of personal training and development programme.

Senior Clinical Lecturer (SCL)

This national programme supports those already establishing themselves as independent clinical researchers but not yet recognised as leaders in their field. Duration is for five years (or part-time equivalent).

Funding includes up to 60% of awardee's total salary, costs of the approved research project and costs of personal training and development programme.

Note: For CL and SCL levels, UKRI fellowships are a major other contributor, and NIHR fellowships other than ICA also fund a substantial proportion of clinical academics.

NIHR Fellowship Programme

NIHR also fund four fellowships designed to support individuals at various points of their development in becoming leading researchers, from initial pre-doctoral training to senior post-doctoral research:

  • Pre-Doctoral Fellowship launch date: Late January / February annually
  • Development and Skills Enhancement Award launch dates: January, May, September annually
  • Doctoral Fellowship launch dates: April, October annually
  • Advanced Fellowship launch dates: April, October annually

Further reading

UKRI Fellowships

UK Research and Innovation funds a large number of clinical academic fellowships. Fellowships from UKRI and its councils are listed in the Funding finder, where you can also find out how to apply. New opportunities are added throughout the year.

Local schemes

In addition to the national ICA scheme, there are opportunities for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to participate in local training schemes.

These schemes operate as partnerships between one or more organisations from the NHS and higher education, with one organisation leading. Sources of funding for schemes vary, with some by Strategic Health Authorities, others by NHS trusts, or through a combination of HEI and trust sources. Schemes are targeted at different stages of the pathway and most are targeted at the doctoral training level.

Local clinical academic internship opportunities

Individual NHS Trusts have developed their own clinical academic internship programmes in response to local need and availability of resources to support them. Applications are administered and managed by local teams, based on local requirements. 

Further reading