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Specialty training

This section provides an overview of what postgraduate specialty training involves. Further information about the individual specialties available, including general practice, can be found on the NHS Medical Careers website.


Postgraduate medical training in the UK is delivered using an agreed curriculum for each specialty that sets the standards against which competencies will be assessed. There is a clear career structure with explicit paths to follow.

Medical Specialty Training

The modern curriculum aims to improve patient care by streamlining postgraduate medical training and help meet the changing needs of the NHS.

Since August 2007, Senior House Officer (SHO) and Specialist Registrar (SpR) grades have combined to form the new Specialty Registrar grade (StR). Depending on your chosen specialty, you will enter either run-through specialty training, beginning directly after your foundation years, or core training - usually in medicine or surgery - which typically runs for two years, after which time and subject to satisfactory progress, you will need to apply to continue your specialty or GP training through higher specialty training programmes.

For the latest information on training programmes, person specifications and how to apply, please visit the Medical Specialty Training website.

Specialty training programmes

Specialty and GP training programmes will normally be delivered by training schools overseen by local postgraduate deans. Most programmes will initially be broad based and become specialty focused over time. For example, you might start with core medical training, with the opportunity to explore career choices and receive informed career guidance, and then move on to, say, cardiology or gastroenterology.

Specialty training programmes vary in length and are tailored to the needs of the specialty. The medical royal colleges have produced national curricula for each training programme to meet the standards required by the General Medical Council (GMC), which has taken on the functions formerly overseen by the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB). These curricula will state the competences you'll gain by following the programme, providing explicit standards and guidance for assessment.

When you have successfully completed your specialty training programme, you'll receive a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) which will make you eligible for entry to the GMC's Specialist Register or GP Register. For more information on the award of a CCT, visit the GMC website.

Application and recruitment

You will need to apply for postgraduate medical training programmes in the UK with the local education and training board or college overseeing recruitment to your chosen specialty. For further information on how to apply, and for up to date information relating to competition ratios and future prospects in each specialty, visit either NHS Medical Careers or Medical Specialty Training websites.

You will compete for places on specialty training programmes with other doctors at similar levels of experience and competence. Career entry points, person specifications and eligibility requirements are updated and published each year, and the application and selection period normally runs from early December to March.

Medical careers in the modern NHS

The role of a doctor has developed significantly in recent years. Now you'll find far greater emphasis on teamwork, alongside other healthcare professionals such as midwives, scientists and therapists. There is also a move away from hospital based medicine towards increased opportunities for working in the community, such as through general practice.

When you choose your specialty you'll need to think realistically about your personal aptitude for the particularly specialty alongside future career prospects. Your first choice of specialty may not always hold the best prospects for you, bearing in mind how and where you will train, together with the specific needs of the NHS and the levels of competition to enter the various specialties.

New techniques and treatments are making medicine ever-more challenging so the move towards joint decision-making and improved communication throughout your training programme is vital for you and for your patients.

Tailored medical specialty training programmes aim to ensure that the standards of postgraduate medical training are explicit; that doctors in postgraduate medical training reach these standards and in so doing, meet the expectations of patients and the changing demands of the NHS. You will be part of a workforce specifically suited to the requirements of the modern health service.