How to become a doctor

Doctors are medical professionals who may work as a general practitioner or specialise in a specific area of medicine. Their job offers them a high profile and is considered to be one of the most well respected professions available. Being a doctor demands a huge amount of hard work, both before entering the career and throughout your progression, but promises to be one of the most satisfying and rewarding jobs.

Average Salary

Average Salary

£26,000 to £103,000


Qualification Level


Weekly Hours

Weekly Hours

45 to 50 hours

Starting a career as a GP or doctor

People decide to become a doctor for a number of reasons. Some choose to enter the profession because they have a natural medical ability, some because they are committed to helping others, some are attracted by the large salaries and others enter because they seek work in a challenging and ever-changing profession.

Being a doctor means that you will work in one of the most highly regulated environments and you will continually be learning more. This is a job that guarantees challenges and obstacles but also offers the opportunity to work closely with a diverse patient range, be on the forefront of medical developments and witness outstanding treatments and recoveries on a daily basis.

What qualifications do I need to have in order to become a doctor?

The entry requirements and qualifications that you will need to become a doctor will depend on whether you want to be a General Practitioner (GP) or a hospital doctor. A GP is a doctor who works in the community, in a medical centre or a surgery and who is able to assess patients, give prescriptions and refer to specialists if necessary. A hospital doctor will work in a hospital and will specialise in a specific area of medicine or with a specific patient base.

To become a GP, you will need:

  • To hold a degree in medicine that is recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC).
  • Have completed a two year foundation course in general training. This will give you practical experience of the job.
  • To complete specialist training in general medical practice.
  • Complete an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

To become a hospital doctor, you will be required to have:

  • A five year degree in a medicine course that is recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC).
  • Completed a two year foundation training course in general training
  • Completed a two year core medical training (CMT) course or an Acute Care Common Stem (ACCS) course.
  • Completed specialist training. The amount of time that this training takes will depend on the area of medicine that you choose to specialise in. The training will usually last between 4 and 6 years.
  • Complete an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

If you want to become a doctor but don’t hold a science degree, you might be able to enter a six-year degree course in medicine. This will include the first year of pre-medical learning or a ‘foundation year’.

For those who want to become a doctor and who already have a science related degree at a level of 2:1 and above, you could enter a 4 year graduate programme that will allow you to begin the further specialist training on completion.

You may be required to complete further assessments to become a doctor. This might include the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or a BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). These tests are used to check how well suited you are for a career in medicine by assessing your mental abilities and behavioural responses to the questions asked. The answers to these tests help you and your employer to determine whether your emotional and mental reactions are suitable and this works alongside your suitability based on academic results.

For more information on entry requirements for various doctor role, the British Medical Association (BMA) has further information.

Essential Skills for Being a Doctor

Being a doctor is one of the most academically demanding professions and will constantly require the individual to continue to learn and seek out medical developments throughout the world. However, there are a number of essential skills that a doctor must possess in order to work safely and ensure that patient wellbeing is secured.

Essential skills that a doctor should have includes:

  • The ability to communicate to a wide cross-section of society. This means speaking to children, the elderly, those with learning difficulties, professional superiors and colleagues.
  • The ability to clearly communicate verbally and in writing.
  • Excellent time management skills.
  • The ability to calm a patient and help them understand their conditions and manage their emotional responses.
  • An enthusiasm to continue learning and the ability to embrace developments within the field.
  • The ability to adhere to strict policies and regulations.
  • A strong ability to maintain thorough reports on each patient.
  • The ability to make quick decisions and to work under pressure.
  • Management and leadership skills.
  • Excellent practical skills and physical abilities such as hand-eye coordination.
  • Maths skills for writing prescriptions and determining dosage amounts.
  • Strong administrative abilities.

Day to Day Work of a Doctor

Working as a doctor will see you dealing with a variety of patients, medical conditions and professionals on a day to day basis. Your work will be varied, demanding, hard and rewarding. Whether you are based in a community surgery, a hospital, private setting or visiting patients at home, you will need to adhere to very strict regulations and this will be at the forefront of all of your daily undertakings.

Some of the likely daily tasks that you will undertake as a doctor, either a GP or hospital doctor, will include:

  • Meeting new patients and assessing their condition to make a diagnosis or report on progression.
  • Giving advice to patients on how to manage their condition, what treatment is best suited and what steps can be taken at home to ease symptoms or promote recovery.
  • Completing updates on medical records.
  • Reviewing medical notes to understand a patient’s medical history to date.
  • Attending meetings, seminars and courses.
  • Writing prescriptions.
  • Referring patients to specialists.
  • Travelling to visit a patient where necessary (usually, only GPs will do this).
  • Review medical journals and specialist fields to keep up to date with research developments or progressions within treatments throughout the world.

How much does a doctor get paid?

Doctors can earn large salaries and this is attractive to many. However, be aware that their jobs are amongst the most demanding and their working hours are regularly the longest. As a guideline, a hospital doctor’s salary will be:

£26,000 to £45,000 for new hospital doctors in training. This salary will increase to between £38,000 and £70,000 with full training and experience. A highly experienced hospital doctor, such as a consultant, can expect to earn between £76,000 and £103,000.

A doctor who works in the private sector is likely to earn more than these guideline figures.

A GP, on the other hand, will have a salary progression that is similar to the following:

A starting salary of between £26,350 and £30,500 whilst the GP is completing their foundation training. With experience and the completion of specialist training, the GP will earn between £36,000 and £45,750. Highly experienced GPs can expect their salary to increase to between £56,000 and £84,500.

Some GPs are self-employed and are able to earn more than the above figures because they have a contract with the clinical commissioning group (CCG).

Career Progression for a Doctor

The medical field is vast and this means that doctors have ample potential to progress and develop their careers. There are a number of ways that they can do this, such as through specialisms or through management and training roles.

Some doctors will decide to become the head of a department or manage a specific ward or area of medicine. Other doctors may choose to take on a research position and develop their understanding of an intrinsic area of medicine.

Alternatively, the doctor might move into a training role and help new doctors at the beginning of their careers.

Working Hours and Working Environment for a Doctor

Doctors work incredibly long hours and despite having set shifts, their days are rarely able to finish when planned. Sometimes they might be on a rota to work a twelve hour hospital shift and find that they are still covering their duties several hours later. A GP may expect to leave at the closing time of the surgery but may have to write several referrals or extensive notes on the patients that they have seen.

Doctors work for the wellbeing of their patients and this means that they are not able to simply walk away at the end of their shift. Economic difficulties mean that the NHS is struggling and as such, doctors and all other medical professionals are being stretched to help manage the situation.

The hours that a doctor will work will depend on their setting. GPs, for example, are less likely to work at the weekends as their surgeries are likely to be closed. However, a hospital doctor will need to work some evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

If you live in a rural area, it may be necessary for you to drive to see patients and GPs may find that they need to do home-calls for elderly, disabled or bed-bound patients.

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"