Would I be able to work for the NHS? What preparation will I need to get into a design field?

Q. I am 52 and have not worked in the UK, but my partner is British and we hope to move there. I have 25 years' experience as a medical laboratory scientific officer. How can I approach this line of work in the NHS? And are there similar jobs in other sectors?

A. This job now goes under the heading of biomedical scientist. It's a relatively new profession on the register of the Health Professions Council (HPC), covering jobs from cancer screening, diagnosing HIV and giving emergency blood transfusions to dealing with food poisoning and infection control. You have such a lengthy background in your job abroad that you should be able to apply through the international registry of the HPC, letting them know if you have a degree, what sort of work you have done and for how long. If they think you meet their standards of proficiency (set out in the publications section of their website, www.hpc-uk.org ), you will be able to register with them. If you don't meet those standards, you will have to contact the Institute of Biomedical Science (www.ibms.org ), the professional body for those working in laboratories, and ask what you would need to do to complete their own registration portfolio, and demonstrate fitness to practice. You would need either an honours degree in biomedical science or the equivalent, and you would have to spend time training in an approved laboratory. Unfortunately, this is not one of the NHS jobs that attract funding to train. Biomedical scientists also work in areas such as veterinary labs and pharmaceutical companies. Start by contacting the HPC - much may depend on the sort of work you have been doing previously.

New instruction

Q. For the past five years, I have worked for a global networking company as a trainer. It is now time for a change and I am keen to get into the instructional design field. What preparation or study would I need? And would I need to apply directly to companies, find an agency or be self-employed?

A. The term instructional designer (loosely defined as analysing learning needs and delivering a system to meet them) hasn't caught on here yet - it's a term more commonly used in the US and Australia. So even if a job is that of an instructional designer, you might find it going under other headings. Here, such a person might be called a learning technologist (see the Association for Learning Technology at www.alt.ac.uk) or even a web designer. Some web designers work on technical implementation, but also work with subject matter experts to realise their ideas for things like interactive activities.

There are useful definitions on www.umich.edu/~ed626/define.html. As the term can be used in different ways, so the skills looked for can vary. It might be that an employer needs more technical skills, project management or writing and design skills. The Open University, obviously one of the first in the field here because of its work with distance learning courses, says it would need instructional designers to have experience of structuring, organising and writing learning materials, and an understanding of the process involved in developing materials or events. All three job search methods you mention are options. Other websites for information or contacts are www.learningcentre.co.uk and www.becta.org.uk .

Careers advisers: Kathy Harvey, former editor, the MBA handbook; Sophie Relf, careers consultant, www.totaljobs.com

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk