How to Become a GP in the UK: A Step-By-Step Guide

How to Become a GP in the UK: A Step-By-Step Guide

Thinking about starting a career as a General Practitioner? Read our step-by-step guide to learn more about how to become a GP in the UK.

What Does A GP Do?

General Practitioners (or GPs for short) are generalists rather than specialists as they treat all common medical conditions and their work brings together physical, psychological and social aspects of healthcare. A GP is usually a patient’s first point of contact when seeking treatment. If urgent and specialist treatment is necessary, a GP will refer patients to a hospital or a medical specialist.

GPs operate within the communities where they live. They work with a wider multidisciplinary team (e.g. nurses, specialists, physician associates etc.) to promote health, prevent illness and provide medical treatment. In terms of where they work, GPs typically work out of a GP surgery. However, they may also make house calls as well as visits to other settings such as care homes.

General practice is the largest medical specialty in the UK. Currently, there are more than 41,985 GPs. 90% of patient contacts occur in general practice and over 1.3 million GP consultations take place every day.

What GSCEs & A-Levels Do You Need to Become A GP?

Medical universities in the UK determine their own unique admissions criteria. This means that entry criteria will be different for each medical school. To apply, candidates will need a combination of GCSEs, AS levels and A levels. Most universities seek students who have good grades in science subjects and mathematics. You can also boost your odds of securing a spot by building up some healthcare related experience.

To increase your chances of getting into a medical school, you will need:
  • 7 GCSEs, including sciences, with 5 subjects at grades 9 to 7 (A* or A) and English and maths at least grade 6 to 5 (B)
  • 3 A levels at grade A in chemistry and either biology, physics or maths, plus another academic subject

How to Become A GP in the UK – Step by Step

  1. Complete Your Medical Degree

If you would like to become a GP in the UK, then you will first have to complete a medical degree that is recognised by the General Medical Council. Most students undertake a 5-year undergraduate course, however those who already hold a BSc degree may start in a later year of study. Depending on your chosen university programme, you will qualify with an MB, i.e. a Bachelor of Medicine, or with an MBBS, i.e. Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery.

  1. Undergo Foundation Training

Once you finish your degree, you will then need to complete the Foundation Programme (FP). During this two-year programme, you will try out a few different specialties in a safe, well-supervised environment.

  1. Complete GP Specialist Training

In order to become a GP, you will then have to do specialist training in general practice.

You will need to spend between 18-24 months working as a specialty registrar in a hospital. You will gain experience in a range of jobs in numerous hospital specialties, including:

    • General Medicine
    • Elderly Care Medicine
    • Paediatrics
    • Community Paediatrics
    • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
    • Psychiatry and old age Psychiatry
    • ENT Accident and Emergency Dermatology Ophthalmology Palliative Care.

You will also work for 12-18 months as a GP Specialty Registrar in General Practice. During this time, you will receive personalised tuition from a seasoned GP as well as other members of the Primary Health Care Team.

To successfully complete your training, you must gain a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). Trainees also need to do workplace-based assessments throughout their placements.

  1. Register with the GMC

To work as a GP in the UK, you will need to hold a licence to practise from the General Medical Council (GMC). You can visit the official GMC website to learn more about the registration process.

From 2023 onwards, medical graduates will need to pass the Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) in order to gain a license to practice. UK students can take the MLA as part of their medical degree. However, medical graduates who have trained outside the EEA will take the MLA instead of the PLAB test.

  1. Gain Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners

You will also need to gain Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP). To become a member of the RCGP, you will need to pass 3 exams:

  • Applied Knowledge Test (AKT)
  • Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA)
  • Workplace Based Assessment (WPBA)
  1. Continuous Professional Development

Like all medical professionals, GPs should keep their training up to date even after they complete their initial training. This is called Continuous Professional Development (CPD). The Royal College of General Practitioners stipulates that 250 credits are required for GP revalidation every five years. GPs can build credits by attending courses and conferences and by doing e-learning through the RCGP.

How Long Does It Take to Become A GP in the UK?

It takes between 9 – 11 years to fully train as a GP in the UK.  However, the length of training can vary from person to person. For example, you will spend less time in university if you study graduate entry medicine. Typically, training can be broken down as follows:

Years 1 – 6 Undergraduate Medical Degree
Years 7 & 8 Foundation Programme
Years 9 – 11 GP Specialty Training
GP Training

What Are the Different Types of GPs?

Salaried GPs:

Salaried GPS work for practices and receive a set salary. They get all the benefits of being employed and they can change jobs easily. However, salaried GPs do get less of a say on how a practice is operated. This is a suitable path for people who value stability in their career.

GP Partners:

GPs who are partners in a practice are self-employed. This means that they pay their own tax and do not receive benefits. They are responsible for running their practice and as such, their role requires management, leadership and business skills. This is an ideal career path for people who have an entrepreneurial streak.


Like contractors, locums work between practices as required. The major benefit of being a locum GP is that you will be able to spend far more time with patients. This is a great job path for people who enjoy plenty of variety. As a locum, you will have more control over your working hours. According to a 2015 Pulse GP Jobs Survey, 78% of locum GPs cite flexible working hours as a key reason to becoming a locum. However, it is worth noting that you will have to do your own accounts and handle your own tax returns or hire a medical accountant.


How Much Do GPs Earn in the UK?

Salaried general practitioners in the UK typically earn between £58,808 – £88,744. Your annual salary will depend on your experience and how long you have worked in the role.

If you are a partner in a practice, then you may also receive a share of profits of the business in addition to your yearly earnings. As such, these roles typically provide higher earnings.

Locum doctors are self-employed and are payed on an hourly basis. Consequently, there is potential for locum doctors to earn far more than salaried doctors. The amount you earn will depend on a variety of factors such as how many hours you commit to, if you work unsocial hours, and if you’re available for emergencies. In 2015, the NHS introduced pay caps for locum doctors. These are:

  • £20 per hour for foundation doctors
  • £50 – £67 for associate specialists (depending on weekends, holidays and anti-social hours)
  • Maximum rate of £100 per hour for an emergency medicine consultant working during anti-social hours

What Skills & Qualities Do GPs Need?

Teamwork: In order to provide holistic care for patients, GPs collaborate with large teams made up of a diverse range of medical, healthcare and administrative professionals. Therefore, it’s important to be able to work well in a team in order to consistently deliver a high standard of care.

Leadership: If you are responsible for running a practice, then it is essential to learn how to be an engaged and inspiring leader. This will help to bring out the best in your team and improve patient outcomes.

Business Savvy: Many GPs choose to run their own practice either on their own or with partners. In addition to their usual duties, they will need to manage the business affairs of the practice.

Decision-Making: Patients who call into surgeries can present a wide range of conditions. As such, GPs need to be able to make fast and effective decisions based on the patient’s symptoms and their medical history.

Driving Licence: As part of your daily work, you may need to conduct visits to patients’ homes or to other locations (e.g. schools, retirement homes etc.) Therefore, it’s key that you are mobile and can travel with ease.

Learn more about the skills needed to be a doctor.

5 Reasons Why You Should Become A GP

  1. General practice could be a great fit for more civic-minded people. GPs play an integral role in the community as they treat many local people. If you are passionate about serving your local community, then general practice could be the way to go!

  1. Working as a GP can be highly rewarding. There is immense job satisfaction to be gained from delivering successful treatments and from developing positive relationships with patients.

  1. As a GP, you never know who will walk through your door. You will treat patients of all ages from all walks of life. As such, your day-to-day workload will be incredibly varied. If you are looking for a career in which every day is different then you should certainly look into general practice.

  1. The career opportunities for GPs are wide-ranging and varied. For example, you could work for the military, charitable organisations, or even as a medical writer. Doctors are in high-demand the world over so it will be very do-able to secure work abroad, should you wish to travel. There is also the option to further specialise in another medical field.

  1. Doctors working in general practice tend to have a better work-life balance than other medical professionals. The National GP Worklife Survey, carried out by the University of Manchester, found that general practitioners in the UK work an average of 41.8 hours per week.

How Can Study Medicine Europe Help You Become a GP in the UK?

Do you aspire to work as a GP in the UK? If so, Study Medicine Europe can help you achieve your dreams. Our team works to help students secure spots in respected medical universities across Europe. Our partner universities are fully-accredited and deliver an excellent standard of education.

Most of our partner universities offer guaranteed entry and do not have mandatory entrance exams. What’s more, their lower tuition fees and living costs means that graduates can kickstart their careers without the burden of debt. We will support you throughout your studies and after graduation. Our team will even guide you through the process of registering for a license to practice medicine so you can continue your GP training in the UK.