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Hospital doctor

A hospital doctor diagnoses and treats illness and disease in patients admitted to hospital.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £26,350 to £102,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 48 per week

1. Entry requirements

To become a hospital doctor you'll need to complete:

  • a 5-year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • a 2-year foundation programme of general training
  • 2-year core medical training (CMT) or Acute Care Common Stem (ACCS)  
  • specialist training - the length of this stage depends on the area of medicine you choose, but will usually take between 4 and 6 years
If you don't have qualifications in science, you may be able to join a 6-year degree course in medicine. This includes a one-year pre-medical or foundation year.

If you already have a degree in a science subject (minimum 2:1) you could take a 4-year graduate entry programme into medicine. 

When you apply for a course in medicine, you may be asked to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). This is used to check your suitability for a career in medicine by testing your mental abilities and behavioural characteristics, rather than your academic achievements.

You may be able to get NHS funding to pay for your course fees and help with your living expenses.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has more information about becoming a hospital doctor.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent communication skills and the ability to explain choices to patients
  • the ability to work under pressure and make quick, accurate decisions
  • excellent hand-eye co-ordination and practical skills
  • the ability to put people at their ease and inspire trust and confidence
  • leadership and management skills

3. What you'll do

You’ll examine, diagnose and treat patients who have been referred to you by GPs and other health professionals. Medicine is a large field, and you’ll specialise in a particular area like:

  • surgery – caring for patients before, during and after an operation
  • medicine – treating general medical conditions and working in specialisms like cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, geriatrics and neurology
  • paediatrics – managing health conditions that affect babies, children and young people
  • pathology – investigating the cause of disease and the effect on patients
  • psychiatry – working with patients experiencing mental health problems ranging from depression and anxiety, to personality disorders and addictions

You could also work in areas like anaesthetics, obstetrics, gynaecology, radiology and oncology.

You may also spend time:

  • leading a team of medical staff
  • managing a department
  • teaching and supervising trainee doctors
  • writing reports, and keeping GPs informed about the diagnosis and care of their patients

4. Salary

Starter: £26,350 to £45,750 (doctors in training)

Experienced: £37,500 to £70,000 (specialty doctors)

Highly Experienced: £76,000 to £102,500 (consultants)

Surgeons working in the private sector may be paid more.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll work long hours including nights and weekends. You’ll be part of an out-of-hours rota system.

You’ll spend time in consulting rooms, wards, operating theatres and special units like accident and emergency.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you may go on to lead a team or manage a department.

With experience and entry on the General Medical Council (GMC) Specialist Register, you could apply for senior (or consultant) roles.

You may also progress to teaching and training students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals.

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Last updated: 21 December 2016