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Job Photographs

  • A man is sitting behind a desk, talking to a woman who is sitting on the other side of the desk.

    This doctor works in general practice, treating people's general health complaints. An introductory chat is the first step when seeing a patient.

  • A woman is sitting in a chair.  A man is standing next to her.  He is looking in her ear with a piece of medical equipment.

    A general health check may involve an ear test.

  • A woman is lying on an examination couch in a doctor's surgery.  A man is standing next to her.  He is holding ultrasound equipment to her stomach and pointing to a monitor.

    The ultrasound equipment shows the image of an unborn baby.

  • A woman is sitting on an examination couch.  A man is standing next to her and giving her an injection.

    This patient is having inoculations before going on holiday to India.

  • A man is sitting at a desk in a doctor's surgery.  He is using a computer.

    Using a computer to read and update a patient's medical notes.

  • Two men, wearing operating theatre hair caps and face masks, are talking to each other.

    Anaesthetics is just one area of specialisation that doctors can move into.



Medicine is about helping people - treating illness, providing advice and reassurance, and seeing the effects of both ill health and good health from the patient's point of view. You have to examine the symptoms presented by a patient, and consider a range of possible diagnoses (identify what is wrong with them).

Video: - Heena: General Practitioner

Video: - Karen: Surgeon

Video: - Dr Gabir: Rehabilitation Doctor

Work Activities

Medicine involves helping people - treating illness, providing advice and reassurance, and seeing the effects of both ill health and good health from the patient's point of view.

As a Doctor, you have to examine the symptoms presented by a patient, and consider a range of possible diagnoses (identify what is wrong with them).

You must test your diagnosis, decide on the best course of treatment, and monitor progress. This demands an enquiring mind, the capacity to acquire and maintain high levels of knowledge which have to be constantly updated, and the ability to relate to people as individuals, each with their own special health needs.

There are more than 60 different specialties that you can choose to work within. Each is unique, but there are many characteristics which they have in common. You will need to work as a part of a multi-disciplinary team in virtually every specialty. Some require particular skills, such as an ability to make decisions in life-threatening situations or confidence with computers. Many require an interest in teaching or research and some require particular manual dexterity.

Specialties broadly fall into one of the following categories.

  • anaesthetics
  • general practice
  • medicine
  • obstetrics and gynaecology
  • ophthalmology
  • paediatrics
  • pathology
  • psychiatry
  • radiology
  • surgery (including dental surgery)

Personal Qualities and Skills

It is as important for doctors to be able to communicate well with patients, carers and colleagues, as it is to sew up a wound or read an X-ray.

There is no single set of characteristics that makes a good doctor. Medicine includes a wide range of people, working in very varied roles. As in any strong team, it needs players with different aptitudes that complement each other.

Comments from doctors and students suggest that these are some personal qualities will need. You don't necessarily need them all, but do you recognise something of yourself here?

  • a concern for people - Do you care about the people around you and what happens to them?
  • an enquiring mind - Do you always want to find out more about things that interest you? And do you analyse and update the knowledge you already have?
  • an interest in people - Are you curious about how other people think and feel? Do you generally like other people and take an interest in what they say and do?
  • a rational approach - Are you keen to establish facts, test ideas and find out how things work and why they go wrong? Do you approach problems in a logical way?
  • an open mind - Do you get along well with people whose attitudes and background are very different from yours? Can you see things from other people's point of view?
  • imagination - Can you see around problems to find new solutions? Do people look to you for ideas?
  • ability to handle pressure - How have you coped with pressure situations such as the build-up to exams? Does it affect your behaviour significantly or can you handle it?
  • hard work - Can you cope with hard work over sustained periods?
  • patience - Do you get impatient with other people easily, or are you willing to go along at their pace?
  • determination - If something doesn't come right first time, do you take time and make an effort to sort it out?
  • decisiveness - Do you make decisions with a fair degree of confidence, based on what you know?
  • humility - Are you comfortable with recognising the limits of your ability and knowledge, and willing to look to others for help?

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Foundation year 1: £27,146
  • Foundation year 2: £31,422
  • Doctors starting training: £37,191 - £47,132
  • Specialist Doctors: £39,060 - £72,840
  • Consultants earn £77,913 - £105,042

Hours of work

Hospital Doctors working hours can be long and irregular, and include shift, weekend and public holiday work. GPs work around 50 hours a week. Hours are usually divided between morning and afternoon/evening surgery. Some GPs choose to have out-of-hours duties.

Where could I work?

Employers include the NHS (the largest single employer of Doctors) and private medical companies, the armed forces, government departments, industry, and research and teaching establishments.

Opportunities for Doctors occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK. There are opportunities to work in other countries, especially in Europe.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on the NHS Jobs website, in professional journals, and on specialist and general job boards.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

So, how do you become a Doctor?

Firstly, you'll need to demonstrate your motivation, and show that you have a realistic understanding of what this role involves. Work experience, such as shadowing doctors and other healthcare staff, or maybe working in a care environment (such as a care home) is essential for entry to medical school.

It can seem very complicated, but basically there are three main stages which have to be completed in order to qualify as a Doctor:

  • Stage 1 Medical School Degree Course
  • Stage 2 Foundation Programme
  • Stage 3 Specialty,GP and run-through training

More details can be found in our information article, 'Medical School Applications'.

Here are the three stages in more detail:

Stage 1: Undergraduate Medical School

This involves a period of study at medical school (attached to a university) including work experience placements in a hospital and community setting.

The different types of medical degree course include:

  • standard five-year degree course
  • courses which include a pre-medical year, for candidates with non-science A levels (or equivalent)
  • accelerated courses for graduates (four years in length)

What qualifications do you need to get into Medical School?

The majority of medical schools require three A levels including chemistry. Others will accept AS level in chemistry, depending upon the other qualifications being offered. Some require biology at A level.

Candidates without science A levels

For candidates without science subjects to offer at A level (or equivalent), it is possible to undertake an additional pre-medical year at some universities. The pre-medical year is a preliminary course in chemistry, physics and biology and lasts normally 30 weeks.

Candidates without A levels

A small number of access courses are offered which can lead onto a medical degree. The acceptability of access courses varies between medical schools and so it is essential that you check this prior to starting on an access course.

Candidates without A levels but with considerable life experience may still need to hold academic qualifications and will need to produce evidence of their ability to cope with the demands of the course for which they are applying.

Candidates with a degree

Medical schools increasingly welcome applications from graduates. Graduate candidates normally need a first or upper second class honours degree. Some medical schools require the degree to be in a science-related subject, whilst others do not, so make sure you check with your intended medical school.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

What will medical schools will be looking for in candidates?

Entry into a medical school is tough! You will be called for an interview and will face searching questions about your motivation, your work at school, hobbies and personal interests, as well as having to produce evidence of your academic achievements.

A key question will be your reasons for wanting to become a doctor. You should also be able to demonstrate relevant paid or voluntary work experience e.g. work as a hospital auxiliary, in nursing or residential care.

Students can find the addresses of local hospitals and residential homes on-line, or in the telephone book. How about getting in contact with them and arranging some work experience?

Stage 2: Foundation programme

This is a two-year programme which all UK medical graduates must undertake before moving on to further training. You must have first completed stage 1 undergraduate medical school before starting on the two-year Foundation training.

You will be known as a foundation doctor while on the training programme.

Stage 3: Speciality, GP and run-through training

This is when you get to train and specialise in either general practice or your chosen speciality. The length and nature of the training will depend upon the career area/specialty in which you wish to work. Once this is completed, you can call yourself a Doctor!


The majority of medical schools require A levels in chemistry, whilst others will accept AS level in chemistry, depending upon the other qualifications being offered. Some require biology at A level.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


If you don't have the usual academic qualifications needed for a degree in medicine, you might be able to enter the course through:

  • An Access to Medicine course.
  • A 'pre-medical' or 'foundation' year, if you don't have science A levels.

Medical schools increasingly welcome applications from graduates. Graduate candidates normally need a first or upper second class honours degree. Some medical schools require the degree to be in a science-related subject, whilst others do not, so make sure you check with your intended medical school.

There are also shortened or fast-track medical degrees, usually lasting four years, for graduates. You would usually need a relevant first degree, for example, in a science subject, although some universities accept graduates in any subject.


You can train in a specialty (once qualified as a doctor) on a part-time basis. This can be through the NHS 'Less Than Full-time Training Programme', through which students cover 50-80% of the normal full-time weekly programme.

Other options for part-time training are 'job-sharing' and 'permanent part-time'.


Students on university courses in medicine (recognised by the General Medical Council) may be eligible for financial help from the NHS as part of their course.

If you are accepted onto approved courses, you might be eligible to receive financial support from the NHS. The timing of when this is provided depends on the type of course you are doing.

1) Funding for undergraduate students on standard five-year courses

Gaining admission to the standard five-year courses means you are entitled to receive student loans from Student Finance England for maintenance and tuition fees in the first four years.

From year five onwards, tuition fees will be paid by the NHS Student Bursary Scheme and you will be eligible to apply for a means-tested NHS bursary to cover maintenance costs and a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England.

Students also have access to a non-means tested grant of £1,000 as part of their NHS Bursary award.

However, the arrangements for graduate medical students on a five year course are different. In the first four years of the course, you would not be eligible to receive a loan for tuition fees or a maintenance grant regardless of whether or not you have previously received funding. However, you may be able to apply for a full, income based, maintenance loan from Student Finance England.

From year five of the training, graduate medical students receive the same support as undergraduate medical students (see above).

2) Funding for graduates on accelerated courses

Currently, you will have to fund the first £3,465 of your tuition fees in the first year. In the subsequent years of your course, the NHS Bursary scheme will pay £3,465 towards your tuition fees. Throughout the course, eligible students will be able to receive a Student Loan Company loan to cover the difference between £3,465 and the tuition charges of their universities, to a maximum charge of £9,000.

Further Information

NHS Wales Careers

Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare



NHS Jobs


Step into the NHS

NHS careers

Tel: 0345 6060655


Skills for Health

Skills for the health sector

Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP

Tel: 0117 9221155



NHS Education for Scotland (NES)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN

Tel: 0131 6563200



Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Beechill House, 42 Beechill Road, Belfast BT8 7RL

Tel: 028 9040 0000



UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)

Tel: 0161 8557409



Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)

Tel: 020 3829 5924



British Medical Association (BMA)

Address: BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP

Tel: 020 7387 4499


BMJ Careers

Address: BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP

Tel: 020 7387 4410



British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: 16 Cromac Place, Cromac Wood, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JB

Tel: 028 9026 9666



Money 4 MedStudents

Address: 24 King's Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 8QN

Tel: 020 8545 8443



British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: 14 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1LL

Tel: 0131 2473000



General Medical Council (GMC)

Address: 3 Hardman Street, Manchester M3 3AW

Tel: 0161 9236602



General Medical Council (GMC Scotland)

Scottish enquiries

Address: 5th Floor, The Tun, 4 Jackson's Entry, Edinburgh EH8 8PJ

Tel: 0131 5258700



British Medical Journal (BMJ)


Getting into Medical School 2014 Entry

Author: Simon Horner Publisher: Trotman

The Essential Guide to Becoming a Doctor

Authors: Adrian Blundell, Richard Harrison, Benjamin W. Turney Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Scottish Medical Training (SMT)

Scottish enquiries



British Medical Association (BMA) Wales

Welsh enquiries

Address: 5th Floor, 2 Caspian Point, Caspian Way, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF10 4DQ

Tel: 029 2047 4646



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