How do I become a doctor in the UK?
By Gemma Raw
So, how do I become a doctor in the UK? If you've ever wondered this, you’re not alone. Every year, thousands of people make the deliberate choice to train to become a doctor, and many more qualified doctors travel from overseas to work for the NHS. Now, more than ever, doctors are in high demand in the UK. They perform a crucial role in making sure that people receive the right treatment and care. In return, they can expect to earn a good salary and have a wide range of specialisms to choose from.
Why become a doctor in the UK?
There’s no doubt that being a doctor is an incredibly demanding job, but it is also rewarding in so many ways. You get to care for people at their most vulnerable and change lives for the better. Although this is true in any country, what makes the UK different is the NHS.
Given the way the NHS is structured, there are plenty of opportunities to progress as a doctor. Together with the Royal Medical Colleges, the NHS provides some of the best medical training programmes in the world. Another benefit of being a doctor in the UK is job stability. There are more than 250,000 doctors working for the NHS, and over a quarter qualified abroad. You will never be short of career opportunities. Doctors typically enjoy above-average earnings, and if you choose to specialise, you can earn anything between £37,000 to £70,000 a year.
How do you become a doctor?
In the UK, doctor courses usually take around five years, or four if you’re entering a graduate entry programme. As well as formal medical study, you’ll be required to complete in-hospital clinical training too. Following graduation, doctors enter a two-year Foundation Programme, where they receive a provision registration to practise medicine during their first year. Full registration to practice as a doctor is awarded at the end of year one.
However, if you trained abroad, your degree must be from a General Medical Council (GMC) approved medical school. If you have any doubts, it’s a good idea to check to see if your primary medical degree is included on the World Directory of Primary Medical Qualifications.
Start working in the UK as a doctor
Doctors of all grades and levels of experience are welcomed once you have registered with the GMC. As well as holding the correct medical qualification, you will also need to demonstrate that you have completed at least 12 months of medical practice at a public hospital (with references). Additionally, you must also evidence your English language capability. You can do this either by taking the Occupational English Test (OET), where you’ll need at least a B grade, or by achieving an overall score of 7.5 in the English Language Testing System (ELTS) exam.
This may seem a little daunting, but for most international doctors who have a good understanding of the English language, it’s a relatively quick process.
A licence to practice
As well as being registered with the GMC, you will also need a licence to practice as a doctor in the UK. This will enable you to legally prescribe medicine and treat patients. To maintain your licence, the GMC requires you to demonstrate that your knowledge and skills are up-to-date. Every five years, you will need to evidence that you are fit to practise by participating in the GMC’s revalidation process.
Doctors in the UK must be clear whether they are licensed, are registered only, or neither. If they give the impression that they are licensed or hold registration when they do not, it is considered a criminal offence and punishable by law. These strict rules are for the benefit of both the patient and the doctor.
Hopefully, you’ve found this information helpful but if you’re still wondering how to become a doctor in the UK, get in touch with us. Every day, we help doctors and their families find fantastic permanent jobs and make the life changing journey to the UK. For more information on the NHS, read our collection of NHS blogs.