The journey to becoming a Doctor is a long one. Therefore, it is important that you know how long each stage of becoming a Doctor actually is, and how long it will take you to train overall. You must be an extremely motivated, hardworking individual, and it is important that you do your best to achieve the highest grades possible all the way throughout the process of becoming a Doctor.
This will be quite a long article, as we are aiming to provide an extremely detailed resource that is full of information. Although I would recommend reading the whole article, if you would like a short answer, it can be found below, because, at Think Student, we always include a summary at the start of the article to answer students questions in as brief a way as possible.
So, the short answer is that becoming a Doctor is an extremely long process. It will take you around 14-15 years to train to a level where you can work as a GP (more details about other Medical profession can be found below). This figure is reached by counting qualifications from GCSE level to Specialist GP Training.
The stages to get to this point include:
- GCSEs (2 Years)
- A-Levels (2 Years)
- An Undergraduate Medicine Degree (5-6 Years)
- Foundation Programme (2 Years)
- EITHER Specialist GP Training (3 Years) – only for students who want to become GPs
- OR Speciality Training (5-8 Years depending on the speciality)
To become a different type of Specialised Doctor (not a GP), it could take you 16-20 years to be qualified depending on the area that you go into.
From then, when you are qualified as a Doctor, you must complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as a part of your ongoing education to ensure that you continue to be successful in your career. This can take many different forms, and more details are found below.
This article is going to set out all of the different stages which you will need to complete in order to become a Doctor. Each stage will state:
- How long it takes to complete the Specific Stage
- The Cumulative time taken to get to the end of that Stage
- Why the stage is important
- Helpful resources where you can read more about the Stages
In that way, you will have an opportunity to understand how long each stage of training to become a Doctor will take, as well as the total amount of time that you will need to spend in education in order to become a Doctor. Each stage is incredibly important, so we want to give you as much information as we can, while also pointing you in the direction of other resources which will help you continue your research into becoming a Doctor.
If you have the opportunity, you should try to use as many different resources as you can in order to get the best picture of each stage, so that you have the most knowledge that you can get. Remember that the resources listed in this article could just be used as a starting point!
This layout also means that if there is only one area that you want to find out about (or find some more resources to help you with your research), this article will be easy for you to navigate.
Stage 1: How Long Does it Take to Get GCSE Qualifications?
Time Taken to Complete Stage 1 of Becoming a Doctor: 2 Years
GCSEs are incredibly important in terms of your progression into a career as a Doctor. The courses are completed over the duration of 2 years at your Secondary School, and most students will complete 9, although some students may be offered the option to do an extra GCSE (such as Further Maths).
They are necessary for prospective doctors for a number of different reasons. These include the following:
Firstly, GCSEs are needed to allow you to move forward in your academic career onto the right A-Level courses at Sixth Form. More information about A-Levels and their importance can be found further on in this article.
Secondly, although the courses are only 2 years long, GCSEs demonstrate your built-up academic ability over the course of your education. They are the first officially recognised qualification which show your abilities, and therefore it is important that you are successful in them, especially if you would like to be a Doctor.
Additionally, a certain number of GCSEs are required for your application to University. A degree is an absolute necessity for anyone wanting to become a Doctor, and therefore, GCSEs will contribute to your entire academic career, as they are a requirement for University applications.
Because Medical Degrees are so competitive, it is essential that your qualifications are the highest that they can be. This includes GCSE qualifications, as even though they are not perhaps the most important qualification for your application, they will make a significant contribution.
Helpful Resources Regarding Acquiring GCSE Qualifications:
If you are interested in finding out the specific GCSE requirements for becoming a Doctor, check out this useful article, here. It will discuss the GCSEs needed to become a Doctor, which skills you will learn from your GCSEs which will aid you in your career, and what grades you need to achieve. It is a useful overview of GCSEs and their relation to careers in Medicine.
Another useful resource is this helpful website, which lists many different Universities and their GCSE requirements. This can help you with your research of which Universities you can apply to, as well as how the GCSE requirements can vary across Universities.
Stage 2: How Long Does it Take to Get A-Level Qualifications?
Time Taken to Complete Stage 2 of Becoming a Doctor: 2 Years
Cumulative Time Taken to Complete Stage 2: 4 Years
A-Levels are incredibly important in your path to becoming a Doctor. They are the qualifications which will allow you to move onto completing a Medical degree at University. They will be the most recent qualifications that you have earned at the time of your application to University, and therefore they are invaluable in your path to becoming a Doctor.
There are a number of A-Level subjects which will put you in a good position to apply to University to do Medicine. The A-Levels that you will need are discussed in the article listed below in the ‘Helpful Resources Regarding Acquiring A-Level Qualifications’. It is important that you choose the correct specific subjects if you would like to be a Doctor, so it is certainly worth using the resources below to start your research.
All A-Level subjects will take 2 years to complete. Exams for these subjects will all take place at the end of these linear courses. These are important exams and will dictate your opportunities for University, as the entry requirements for Universities are very high and competitive for most Medical degrees. You must make sure you work as hard as you can at Sixth Form in order to achieve the best grades possible in your A-Levels.
You may also be given the opportunity to take more than 3 A-Levels (if you have been successful in your GCSEs) in order to improve your University Application. If you feel as though you can achieve good grades in 4 A-Levels, this is certainly something to take advantage of. It is important that you develop the most skills and knowledge that you can in order to set yourself up for a challenging career as a Doctor.
A-Levels are important because they can help you develop the basic skills which will allow you to progress more easily in a career as a Doctor. A-Levels are extremely helpful because they are more specific than GCSEs, but also not so specific that you are limited in your options moving forward.
Helpful Resources Regarding Acquiring A-Level Qualifications:
If you would like to find out more about which A-Levels you need to become a Doctor, take a look at this helpful article, found here. It explains the subjects that you should take, and why you they would help you develop some of the skills that you will need in order to become a Doctor.
You may also want to do some further research about which A-Levels you will need, you may want to have a look at this useful website, which lists many Universities and what their A-Level entry requirements are. However, it is important to note that this website does not specify the grades that are required by each University, so you will still need to do your own individual research at this stage.
Stage 3: How Long Does it Take to Get an Undergraduate Medical Degree?
Time Taken to Complete Stage 3 of Becoming a Doctor: 5-6 Years
Cumulative Time Taken to Complete Stage 3: 9-10 Years
A Medical Degree is one of the most important qualifications for prospective Doctors. It will provide you with the basic knowledge of Medicine which will allow you to progress on to more specialised training which will enable you to become the type of Doctor that you would like to be, whether that is a General Practitioner (GP) a Hospital Doctor, or a Surgeon, for example.
At the point of completing your degree, it will be clear that you are truly committed to becoming a Doctor. It will be hard work but is an absolutely essential qualification for individuals who are aiming to become Doctors. You cannot progress into a career as a Doctor without a degree in Medicine, though it is also not the final step – you will have to complete more specialised training. However, this will not be possible without a degree.
A Degree in Medicine will also enable you to develop skills in research, presentation, communication, and working in a high-pressure environment. All of these skills can be transferred to other jobs and life events, which is one of the things that makes a Medical Degree so great.
The ability to plan your time to balance your personal life and work for your Degree at University will be essential, and this is one of the skills that will be absolutely invaluable to you in your life as a Doctor. Having such a high-pressure job will mean that you need to have strategies to cope with the stress and having a work-life balance will be essential for this.
As with every qualification you will need to become a Doctor, achieving the highest Degree grade that you can will set you up well for moving on to the next stage of training. It is so important to remember how competitive careers in Medicine can be, and you must always work the hardest that you can.
Helpful Resources Regarding Acquiring an Undergraduate Medical Degree:
If you would like to read more about what life is like as an Undergraduate Medical Student, take a look at this article, which lists 12 things that every Medical Student should know. This is a fun article which may give you some insight in what it is like to be a Medical Student.
You may also want to give this helpful article, which talks about some of the more unusual careers that a Medical Degree could lead you to. Even if you have a career plan, it is beneficial to find out about the other career options which may be open to you. This article is only a starting point, but it could lead you to more research about other potential careers.
Stage 4: How Long Does it Take to Complete a Foundation Program?
Time Taken to Complete Stage 4 of Becoming a Doctor: 2 Years
Cumulative Time Taken to Complete Stage 4: 11-12 Years
A Foundation Programme is an undisputable necessity for anyone who wants to become a Doctor in the UK. It is a 2 Year course, which will help prospective Doctors develop their skills in communication and teamwork. It will also teach a development in basic clinical skills and the treatment of patients with acute (short-term) injuries or illnesses.
Following the completion of your degree, you will be considered a Doctor. However, this does not mean under any circumstances that you can start practicing immediately! Instead, you must complete the Foundation Programme, which will give you experience in a number of different clinical settings.
This experience is generally gained from 6 placements in different clinical settings, which will all last 4 months each. Therefore, the Foundation Program is not only a step which will enable you to progress in your career, but it is an experience which may enable you to decide which Medical career path you would like to go down. This is especially useful, as it is difficult to know which types of medical practice you will enjoy if you have never experienced them.
The Foundation Program is the first bit of paid work that newly qualified Doctors will be able to access and is so important for their progression into careers in Medicine. Students should apply for the Foundation Programme in their last year of studying, and should make sure that they start the application early in order to give themselves enough time to complete it!
The Foundation Programme gives newly qualified University graduates the opportunity to put their academic knowledge into practice in a clinical setting. So, you will gain a great amount of experience while completing this qualification. There will also be some formal training, which will take up around 3 hours of planned training a week.
Additionally, although there will be no formal exams to finish this course, there will still be some assessment to ensure that you have met the requirements for the qualification by doing the work. The Foundation Programme is a step up from University, and therefore, as you would perhaps expect, it has an even higher focus on independent study, so it is important that you are good at managing time and staying organised and motivated.
Helpful Resources Regarding Completing a Foundation Program:
Some more information about the Foundation Program and how to apply can be found here. It is important that you understand the application process in advance, and up to date information about applying can be found on the website linked above. You should make sure that you leave yourself plenty of time to complete the application.
You may also be interested in looking at this helpful website, which goes into more detail about the Foundation Programme and what you can expect as a Foundation Doctor. It is useful if you want to find out roughly what your Foundation will comprise of, and what opportunities will be open to you.
This is another useful website which you can use for the basis of further research. It explains what the Foundation Program is, how it is assessed, and how to apply.
Stage 5A: How Long Does it Take to Complete Other Types of Speciality Training?
Time Taken to Complete Stage 5 of Becoming a Doctor: 5-8 Years
Cumulative Time Taken to Complete Stage 5: 16-20 Years
Speciality Training is the stage which follows the completion of the Foundation Program. The type of Speciality Training that you complete will depend on the career that you would like to move into, and the amount of time taken to complete this training varies depending its type.
The Speciality Training required for GPs is discussed in the point above, but there are many different types of Speciality Training that may interest you.
Regardless of the specific speciality, all Speciality Training will provide Doctors who have completed their Foundation Program with the opportunity to develop the necessary skills for the career that they want to progress into.
Some examples of Training that you may be interested in completing are the following:
|Training Subject||Duration||Cumulative Time Taken|
|Surgery||7-8 Years||18-20 Years|
|Psychiatry||6 Years||17-18 Years|
|Paediatrics||8 Years||19-20 Years|
|Radiology||5 Years||16-17 Years|
GP Speciality Training (more information can be found about this below) may look a lot shorter than these specialities, but remember that it is all about learning the specifics of the subject that you would like to pursue. GPs must have a broad knowledge of everything and be able to diagnose and refer people to other specialists who will be able to support and care for them in the right way.
The types of Speciality Training listed here will take a lot of extra knowledge that is developed on the basis of the things learned at degree-level and during the Foundation Program. Though you must remember that although you will have basic medical skills at the point of starting your Speciality Training, subjects like Surgery and Paediatrics require very specific subject knowledge and application which has not already been learned, and so it will take a lot of time to complete the training.
Helpful Resources Regarding Completing Speciality Training:
Further examples of Speciality Training areas that you may want to look into, as well as their durations can be found on this useful website. This will give you a basis for doing some research into the subject area that you would like to pursue.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in General Surgery, this NHS website may be a good starting point for your research into Speciality Training. It will explain how the Training works as well as providing some further links which will help you improve your application at each stage.
If you are interested in Psychiatry as a career, this NHS Website could be of interest to you. Again, it explains the path into the career in terms of further training, as well as more useful links which may form a basis of your research into the profession.
If you would like to move into a career in Pediatrics, you could take a look at this NHS Website, which talks about the pathways into this specific subject area in more detail. This is a good starting point for your own research.
If you are interested in a career in Radiology, the NHS Website explains how the Speciality Training works in this area. Another good starting point for researching any questions you might have about progression into this specific career.
Remember, these are just a few examples of which careers Speciality Training could allow you to move into. Make sure that you have a look at all of the possibilities in order to help yourself make an informed decision about the career that you would like to go into.
Stage 5B: How Long Does it Take to Complete Speciality GP Training?
Time Taken to Complete Stage 5 of Becoming a Doctor: 3 Years
Cumulative Time Taken to Complete Stage 5: 14-15 Years
IMPORTANT NOTE: Try not to get confused about the titles here. We have split ‘Stage 5: Speciality Training’ into 2 sections, as the most commonly asked questions are about becoming GPs, so this heading has more detail about that specific type of training. However, make sure to note that you do not need any other type of Speciality Training to move on to Speciality GP Training. This training is in place of other types of Speciality Training.
Speciality Training is the stage which follows the completion of the Foundation Program. If you would like to become a General Practitioner (GP), you will need to complete Speciality GP Training, which will give you the opportunity to develop the specific skills that you will need to progress into that profession.
As a GP, you will need to have a broad range of knowledge, as you will become the first point of contact for many patients. A GP will be able to work in Hospitals, Clinics, and Patients’ Homes, so there are a wide range of possibilities for Doctors completing this type of Speciality Training.
GPs will need to be skilled at diagnosis and will be required to refer patients to other services in order to provide them with the right care. They will also be more involved in social cases (such as those involving the safeguarding of vulnerable children) than Doctors who choose to follow different professional pathways.
GPs are invaluable to the Health Service in this country, and a career in this area will give you a varied and interesting working life. The Speciality Training for GPs will give you the experience and skills to be able to work successfully in this field, and will be an end to your training before the start of your Medical career (excluding CPD which takes place whilst you are practicing).
Helpful Resources Regarding Completing GP Training:
If you are interested in becoming a GP and would like to read more about applying for Speciality GP Training, take a look at the NHS Website, which will give you more information. As with every stage, you should make sure to allow yourself enough time to put together a successful application for this training.
If you would like to read more about becoming a GP, with some more in-depth information, take a look at this useful website, which sets out the structure of the course, as well as some more information about the application.
Stage 6: How Long Does it Take to Get “Continuing Professional Development” (CPD) Points?
Time Taken to Complete Stage 6 of Becoming a Doctor: Ongoing throughout your career
Cumulative Time Taken to Complete Stage 6: Ongoing throughout your career
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is something that you will have to complete for as long as you are working as a Doctor. It is required by most professions so that Professionals are up to date with new information in their field of practice. Doctors, like many other professionals are required to do a certain amount of CPD each year alongside their working jobs.
Typically, Doctors should be doing 250 hours of CPD every 5 years, which, if evenly distributed over the years, becomes around 50 hours per year.
This can take many different forms of which, some of which include:
- Independent CPD (activities such as reading academic, subject specific journals and books)
- Structured CPD (such as seminars, conferences, and e-learning events)
CPD is required so that Doctors are not treating patients based on concepts which are no longer relevant. Medicine is a fast-moving subject with breakthroughs being made all the time, and it is essential that all Doctors are aware of these so that they can provide their patients with the best care that they can.
CPD will vary depending on the type of Doctor you are, so it is a very personal thing which you will have to manage by yourself. Workplaces may offer in-house training for practicing Doctors, and these should be taken advantage of.
One of the nice things about CPD is that you can shape it around your own specific needs. As long as you complete the necessary amount, you can fit it in around your schedule. You can also identify your weakest areas and use CPD to build up your knowledge and experience in those areas, which is something that will help you greatly in your professional life.
It is important that as a Doctor, you strive to give the highest quality of care to your patients, and CPD can help with this. It ensures that you remain competent in your role as a Medical Professional, which is something that should certainly be a priority for you.
Helpful Resources Regarding Continuing Professional Development (CPD):
If you would like to find out more about Continuing Professional Development (CPD), you may want to take a look at this useful document, which provides lots of detailed information about CPD for Doctors.
If you would like to read more about different Doctors and their experiences of CPD, this article may be of interest to you. It asks a number of different Medical Professionals how the complete and manage CPD, and how they can apply it to their careers.
You may also want to take a look at this helpful website. It talks about what CPD is, how it is useful to Doctors and Surgeons, and how much should be completed (and in what way). Websites like these will help you to find out general information about CPD for Medical Professionals, but if you want to find specific events that you can attend, you will have to do your own independent research.