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My registration story

James Fox, Laboratory Manager in Biology, shares his personal experience of applying for professional registration and explains how it has benefited his career and why it makes sense to know more about the process before you submit your application!

James Fox of Biology in an off duty photo.

In 2016 I knew a job I wanted to apply for would be advertised with the request that applicants be "professionally registered or prepared to work towards professional registration". I decided to make an application and went ahead without advice via the Science Council. Honestly, I found the process long and frustrating: I filled the long form out expecting to be automatically awarded Registered Scientist (RSci) based upon my experience and qualifications. However, I was asked to revise my application twice to provide further and more in-depth evidence. I was angry: I had 10 years' research experience and a PhD - how was this not sufficient for the assessors? Nevertheless, after the additions I was duly awarded an RSci and joined the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) as my professional body. The RSci once-only application process costs around £15 but there is also the cost of the annual registration fee of £25 plus the society membership of around £135. You can claim tax back on these amounts if your professional body is listed via the Government Gateway so after completing a short application form in the following April I received a small reimbursement cheque from the HMRC!

RSB requires you to log your continued professional development (CPD) in its online system: there are a number of different categories and you can only hit a certain maximum number of CPD credits per category to fulfil the required 50 CPD credits/CPD hours. However, it is fairly easy if you do it gradually over the year and remember to include everything! I also used my RSB membership to get a significant reduction on a training course. Membership of the RSB allows you to include the nominal letters MRSB alongside your RSci and also sends a monthly magazine, The Biologist.

After two years of RSB membership my role here at the University had changed (I was now a lab manager and no longer a research associate) and I started to feel I wasn't fully utilising my membership apart from the one training course reduction. While I enjoyed receiving The Biologist I did not think I was getting enough from my membership so I decided to change professional body to the Institute of Science & Technology (IST). It's a more relevant professional body for me and there is also the bonus that their membership fee is a more reasonable £51 per year, which again is tax deductible! Their application process required me to send over copies of my qualification certificates, my RSci award and a short application form. The IST conference looks to be very useful and the Institute sends an interesting monthly newsletter email. The RSci transfer process was very simple: the IST took care of most of it, I just emailed RSB to notify them that I would not be renewing my membership because I was transferring.

Since being professionally registered I decided to become a Registrant Champion, which essentially means the Science Council have sent me some posters and leaflets to take to events and for me to tell my registration story to others to try to encourage them to follow. I also then became an assessor, this involved a one day training course in London and then assessing two applications which were also marked by more senior assessors. My mock assessments matched those of the senior assessors so I was allowed to start assessing other applications 'for real' during a probationary period. To maintain being an assessor I have to assess a small number of applications per year, but the number is not onerous and you can refuse if you're particularly busy when the request comes in. The training and assessor process highlighted to me that the application form has to be written in a certain way highlighting specific skills/experiences/outcomes and with the use of 'I' and not 'we' at all times to allow the application to be successful. I look back now and wish I had had the experience or some assistance before I wrote my application as I'm sure it would have been an easier process!

I should say that my line manager has commented that me having my professional registration was a factor in me being awarded my current position, so for my personal circumstances it has definitely been a worthwhile process. I gladly do CPD throughout the year but being professionally registered forces me to log it and keep a clear record, which I realise now is no bad thing when it comes to performance / role reviews or for any future job changes. As such, I plan to maintain my RSci registration and furthermore will be looking carefully as to whether I meet the criteria for Chartered Scientist (CSci) later this year.