Initial clinically oriented applications of emerging proteomic technologies that aim to identify biomarkers for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma diagnostics have yielded promising results. The development of new proteomic diagnostics remains critical for the early detection of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma at more treatable stages. Prognostic markers for disease recurrence and treatment sensitivities are also required. In this overview of current biomarker identification strategies for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, different combinations of mass spectrometry platforms, laser capture microscopy and 2D gel electrophoresis procedures are summarized as applied to readily available clinical specimens (tissue, blood and saliva). Issues related to assay reproducibility, management of large data sets and future improvements in clinical proteomics are also addressed.