If you want to pursue a career in research, relevant postgraduate study and qualifications are essential. At the same time, informal training, courses and e-learning offer a useful way to start integrating research into your clinical practice.
A key consideration is whether you wish to follow a research/academic career pathway, or combine research with a clinical career pathway. Either way, begin by finding training opportunities - and funding where possible - to help you pursue your ambitions.
Planning a career in research
Career frameworks (see below) can be used to help plan what knowledge, skills and training you need to develop your career. If you lack experience in research, look for opportunities to get involved in a research project before committing to formal training programmes. For example:
- look for research internship opportunities
- investigate what research is being undertaken where you work
- contact your regional Allied Health Professions Research Network hub for advice
- contact the research officer for professional networks to which you belong
Career frameworks map out different career pathways. They illustrate the range of opportunities available at different points of a career and often describe the behaviours, knowledge, skills and/or qualifications required.
The CSP’s physiotherapy framework provides a good starting place and can help you explore the behaviours, knowledge and skills you have already developed and plan your research training.
The NHS Simplified Knowledge and Skills Framework describes the types of knowledge and skills a post-holder needs to be effective in their job. It is central to learning and development, and to career and pay progression within the NHS.
Staff working in higher education institutes have their grading and pay determined by the national Higher Education Staff Framework. The framework has examples of career pathways for academic staff.
The Researcher Development Framework (RDF) is a professional development framework for researchers in higher education. It articulates the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of successful researchers, helping them to realise their potential.
Health Education England has developed a clinical academic framework for AHPs, nurses and midwives who wish to combine career in clinical practice and research.
Different types of postgraduate research training include Masters degrees, PhDs, postgraduate diplomas and certificates, and professional qualifications. For further information on the different types of training, see both the Prospects website and the Target website.
Details of CSP accredited post-qualifying physiotherapy programmes can be found elsewhere on this website. The Royal College of Nursing website also has details of post-qualifying training opportunities of relevance to allied health professionals.
England: the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
NIHR’s Trainees Coordinating Centre (TCC) offers research training awards to all healthcare professionals interested in undertaking patient-focused, applied health research. The research must be relevant to the NHS and the current and future needs of patients and the public.
NIHR also offers fellowships to support outstanding individuals become future health research leaders. These fellowships buy out salary costs, meet training and development costs, and also contribute to the research costs needed to complete an identified research project. NIHR research professorships are open to all professions and also aim to facilitate strong research leadership.
Northern Ireland: Health and Social Care (HSC) Public Health Agency
HSC doctoral fellowships enable individuals to undertake research training as a means of developing a research career in health and social care, and to follow a training programme leading to a PhD.
Scotland: the Chief Scientist Office (CSO)
The CSO offers doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships in health services and public health research to individuals who wish to pursue a career in research in a health care related field, or who would like to build on existing research skills.
Wales: health and care research wales
HCR Wales offer a wide range of training courses which cover the different stages of the research journey, from study set up to research methods. In addition, the Research Capacity Building Collaboration (RCBC) in Wales, established to increase the volume of health research, offers five training schemes.
Other training opportunities
Always investigate local opportunities for research training, not least your own employer. You can also contact your regional Council for Allied Health Professions Research Network hub for advice about local training opportunities. Frontline magazine and interactive CSP routinely promote opportunities for research training to CSP members. And please also see Doing research in this section of the website for other ideas including e-learning and other online resources.
Fund your research training
The CSP Charitable Trust supports physiotherapy education and research. The academically accredited courses award accepts applications from qualified, student and associate members undertaking academically accredited programmes of study.
The Physiotherapy Research Foundation (PRF) has an annual funding round. PRF does not support research that is part of a taught Masters or undergraduate course. Funding research costs at a doctoral level is considered, but not training fees.
The RD Funding database for health research can be searched for training and education opportunities. Use the fellowships, studentships and training bursaries search terms.