In September 2021, the National Health Society (NHS) expressed its concern for falling shorthanded some 50,000 doctors. Just like the rest of the world, the United Kingdom dealt with the harsh blow of the COVID-19 pandemic. More doctors spend their time off work due to signs and symptoms, self-isolation after exposure to COVID-19 positive cases, or permanent leave for better work opportunities outside the UK, or in another field.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) London reported that over 10.5% of doctors across the United Kingdom were off work, of which 4.2% were off due to contracting COVID-19. The increase of medical professionals leaving work leaves the remaining healthcare forces staggering. In fact, approximately 15% of the staff in the NHS are non-British. The United Kingdom employed around 28,000 non-British National doctors to fill in the vacant positions that homegrown doctors left.

The NHS had already urged to increase medical school admissions by 50%. This can also be your opportunity to proceed with your formal education in medicine and practice in the United Kingdom. This article outlines a comprehensive guide to the steps to becoming a doctor in the UK. Read on to know more about the application and admissions process, training, exams, licensure, and certifications necessary to be a fully-fledged doctor in the United Kingdom.

Steps to Become a Doctor in the United Kingdom

1. Plan ahead while you are still in high school.

Choosing the path of medicine should ideally have been decided while you are in high school. Unlike other countries like the United States, the first step to becoming a doctor in the UK begins in your undergraduate studies.

An undergraduate degree program in medicine takes 5 years to complete on average. While you are still in your high school classroom, decide whether or not you have the grit and determination to dedicate the next decade of your life to studying to become a doctor.

While you are at it, look up the admissions and requirements of various medical schools. Aim to improve or maintain high grades in science subjects like chemistry, biology, and physics.

Learn More: Best Medical Schools in the United Kingdom

2. Accomplish your undergraduate degree in medicine.

In the United States, medicine is a graduate degree, requiring aspiring students to first complete a four-year undergraduate degree program of their choice. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom offers medicine at the undergraduate level.

To qualify for a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), you should have accomplished GCSEs, AS levels and A levels in your high school years. Medical schools favor applicants with above-average academic performance in science and mathematics.

You may also need to take the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). The UCAT is an admissions test required by a UK Consortium or non-UK Associate Member University.

An undergraduate degree program in medicine typically takes 5 years to complete. The preclinical stages of your studies will last 2-3 years consisting of lectures and familiarization with the various theoretical concepts of medicine. The clinical-stage takes place in the latter part of your studies, where you will be trained to work in hospitals and with patients.

The MBBS is equivalent to a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), the latter solely awarded in the United States. Medical schools in the UK also provide the option to earn an intercalated medical degree. By adding another year to your studies, you can complete coursework for another field of discipline, such as humanities, on top of your medical degree.

See Also: Free Medical Schools

3. Fast-forward to your graduate studies in medicine.

In the case that you had already accomplished a science-based undergraduate degree program, you can proceed with accomplishing a graduate degree in medicine. To become a doctor in the UK, graduate programs in medicine will take four years to complete, unlike the 5 or 6 years with an undergraduate medical program.

Similar to entry medicine degrees, a graduate medical program also consists of theoretical concepts and applied training in hospital wards.

4. Earn your degree in medicine.

Whichever path you took to study medicine, persevere to complete your studies and necessary training. With a degree in medicine, you are eligible for further medical training as a doctor in your specialty of choice.

5. Register with the GMC for licensure.

Now that you are ready to work as a doctor, you are eligible for obtaining a medical license with the General Medical Council (GMC). To proceed with registering for licensure, you have to pass exams assessing your medical knowledge and applied skills in providing care and treatment to patients. Come 2025, the UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA) will be required for fresh graduates.

6. Apply for the Foundation Programme.

After registering with the GMC and earning your license, you are eligible to apply for the Foundation Programme. The Foundation Programme is a two-year training program for newly-qualified doctors.

The Provisional Registration is for eligible applicants for the UK Foundation Programme. On the other hand, you must be eligible for Full Registration if you are interested in applying for the F2 Standalone Programme.

By qualifying for the Foundation Programme, you are certified to deliver effective treatment and care to patients in accordance with the standards of GMC.

7. Accomplish your specialty training.

In becoming a doctor in the UK, you’d have to proceed with work and training for the specialization of your choice. You can either become a general practitioner (GP), or another medical specialty like internal medicine.

Be clear with what type of doctor you want to be, and which medical specialty you are particularly passionate about. GP training generally takes 3 years to complete. It consists of training as a specialty registrar in a hospital for 24 months or less, and another 18 months as a specialty registrar in general practice.

At the start of 2021, GP trainees hit a new record by earning 4,000 acceptance posts.

On the other hand, you can also train for another medical specialty. Specialty training takes 5 to 8 years to complete.

8. Continue with a lifelong education as a doctor.

Despite becoming a fully-qualified doctor, the learning never stops. Becoming a doctor in the UK, you must showcase your knowledge and expertise in your field of specialization with Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Earn CPD points every year to prove your relevance and professionalism as a practicing doctor in the United Kingdom. Seminars, online courses, and workshops are some events to earn CPD points.

The United Kingdom is just one of many countries around the world experiencing a shortage of medical professionals. To address this issue, the NHS welcomed more medical students to join the professional ranks. The UK presents a lot of career opportunities for graduates of medicine.

And unlike other countries, the UK is not as strict or limiting in welcoming international students. The process for international students accomplishing their training in the United Kingdom is more or less similar to those of homegrown students.

Despite the tiresome work hours, becoming a doctor is a very rewarding experience. The United Kingdom’s healthcare system is far from perfect, but as medical posts continue to open, the new generation of doctors can strive to work for the good of patients, and for the appropriate compensation of medical professionals.

See Also: Work visa from United Kingdom


I hope that you found this article on how to become a doctor in the UK informative and helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs in the United Kingdom!

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