How Long Does It Take To Become A Doctor?

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

Becoming a doctor is an arduous process that requires dedication and hard work.

But it’s well worth the effort for those who are passionate about pursuing a career in medicine.

After all, being a physician means having the power to positively impact people’s lives — and work at the cutting edge of medical science.

So how long does it take to become a doctor once you leave school?

Core Medical Education

Becoming a doctor in the UK typically takes a minimum of 10 years after completing your A-levels.

Here’s a breakdown of the journey:

  1. Undergraduate Medical Degree: 5 years
    • This is the standard length for most medical programmes in the UK. Some universities offer a 4-year programme for graduates, but the traditional route is 5 years.
  2. Foundation Training: 2 years
    • After completing the undergraduate degree, every medical graduate enters a two-year foundation programme. The first year (F1) allows the individual to become a fully registered doctor, while the second year (F2) offers a chance to experience different specialties and rotations.
  3. Specialty Training: 3 to 8 years
    • The duration here varies significantly depending on the chosen specialty. General Practice (GP) training typically takes 3 years, while surgical or other specialised fields can take up to 8 years.

Factors That Might Extend Medical Training

Intercalated Degrees: Some students opt for an intercalated degree, which means taking a year out of the medical course to achieve an additional degree (often a Bachelor’s or Master’s in a related field). This adds at least one year.

Research: Some doctors decide to take time out for research, which can be a few months to several years.

Taking a Gap Year: Whether for personal reasons, further studies, or travel, some individuals decide to take a year out.

Part-time Training: Some doctors, often due to family commitments, choose to train part-time. This can extend the length of specialty training.

Additional Specialised Training: After completing specialty training, some doctors opt for sub-specialty training, which can add a few more years.

While the standard path to becoming a doctor in the UK is around 10 years after A-levels, individual choices and circumstances can extend this timeline.

Regardless of the duration, the journey is rigorous but rewarding for those committed to the medical profession.

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