How to Become A Surgeon in the UK: A Step by Step Guide

How to Become A Surgeon in the UK: A Step by Step Guide

What Does a Surgeon Do?

Surgeons are highly-trained medical practitioners who use their expert skills and knowledge to perform operations on patients. Surgical procedures aim to investigate or treat a range of injuries, diseases and degenerative conditions. The day-to-day responsibilities of surgeons may include:

  • Performing operations with a team of people
  • Liaising with patients before operations to explain the procedure and any associated risks
  • Carrying out tests and arranging X-rays
  • Administrative duties such as filling out paperwork
  • Performing ward rounds
  • Training and supervising newly-qualified doctors

What Skills & Qualities Do Surgeons Need?

In addition to having a detailed knowledge of medicine, surgeons need to have a wide range of skills in order to be successful. These include:

  • Manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination
  • Decision-making and problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • The ability to work well under pressure
  • Attention to detail
  • The ability to put people at ease and inspire trust

How Much Do Surgeons Earn in the UK?

Salaries for trainee doctors start somewhere between £26,350 and £45,750. This jumps to the £37,500–£70,000 range for experienced speciality doctors. Upon becoming a consultant, you can expect to earn somewhere in the region of £76,000–£102,500. However, consultants working in the private sector are typically paid more.

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

In total, it can take up to 16 years to become a fully-qualified surgeon in the UK. However, the length of your training can vary depending on a range of factors such as the length of your undergraduate course or your choice of specialty. Typically, training can be broken down as follows:

Years 1 – 5Undergraduate Medical Degree
Years 6 & 7Foundation Programme
Years 8 & 9Core Surgical Training
Years 10 – 16Specialty Training

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What GSCEs & A-Levels Do You Need to Be A Surgeon?

Entry criteria for programmes may vary as medical universities in the UK set their own admissions criteria. In general, applicants will need a combination of GCSEs, AS levels and A levels. Candidates who have high grades in science subjects and mathematics stand a higher chance of securing a spot. Outside of your studies, it is also a good idea to start building up healthcare related experience.

What are the Steps to Become A Surgeon in the UK?

1) Get Your Medical Degree

Medical school marks the first step on your path to becoming a surgeon. You will need to complete a degree in medicine that is recognised by the General Medical Council. These typically take five years to complete; however four-year graduate entry programmes are available to candidates who already have a BSc degree in a related field. After completing your degree, you will be called a junior doctor.

2) Complete Foundation Training

Upon graduation from medical school, you must then undertake a two-year foundation programme of general training. During this period, you will spend a few months trying out different specialities such as general medicine, general surgery, and psychiatry in a safe, well-supervised environment.

3) Complete Core Surgical Training

The aim of Core Surgical Training, or CST, is for trainee surgeons to build competence in a range of surgical knowledge and skills. During this period, trainees undertake hospital training in a range of surgical specialties. All trainee surgeons have to complete CST, regardless of their future specialty aspirations. At the end of CST, trainees must sit The Membership Examination of the Surgical Royal Colleges of Great Britain and Ireland (the MRCS).

4) Undertake Specialty Training

Once you have completed CST, you will then have to apply for a specialty training programme. There are ten recognised surgical specialties in the UK and the duration of training is usually between five and six years. Upon completion of the programme, you must take examinations leading to fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS).

5) Continuous Professional Development

As a medical professional you will never stop learning. Even after you attain your qualifications, you will need to keep building up your knowledge through Continuous Professional Development (CPD). This could involve attending conferences and completing courses.

What are the Different Surgical Specialties?

SpecialtyDescriptionTraining Duration
General SurgeryThis focuses on abdominal contents such as the colon, liver, oesophagus and stomach.6 years
Plastic SurgeryThis involves reconstructive surgery after an illness or trauma.6 years
Paediatric SurgeryThese surgeons treat infants, children and teenagers.6 years
Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgery (T&O)This involves treating musculoskeletal system conditions.6 years
Cardiothoracic SurgeryThese surgeons deal with heart and lung problems.6-8 years
Otorhinolaryngology (ENT)This encompasses ear, nose and throat surgery.6 years
NeurosurgeryThis involves the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders.8 years
Oral & Maxillofacial SurgeryThese surgeons work to diagnose and treat diseases affecting the mouth, jaw, face and neck.5 years
UrologyThis involves performing surgery on the female urinary system and the male genitourinary tract.5 years
Vascular SurgeryThis refers to the performance of surgery to treat circulation conditions.6 years

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

Do you dream of becoming a surgeon in the UK? If so, Study Medicine Europe can help you. We help students secure places in prestigious medical schools across Europe. Our partner medical universities are fully-accredited and offer a very high standard of education. What’s more, many universities across Europe offer guaranteed entry and do not have mandatory entrance exams. With their lower tuition fees and living costs, these programmes less expensive than those in the UK meaning that you can start your career without the burden of debt holding you down. Our team offer support throughout your studies and will even help you apply to register for a license to practice medicine so you can continue your surgical studies in the UK.

Liked this? Read our guide on how to become a doctor in the UK.