Updated: April 8, 2020
Answer: It varies from 3-8 years.
Specialty training in the UK can only start once you have 2 years of postgraduate clinical experience. This includes an internship of at least 12 months duration, and a minimum of 12 months experience post-internship.
After those initial 2 years, this is how long the different specialty training programmes last:
|Specialty||Minimum duration of training|
Cardiothoracic Surgery, ENT, General Surgery, Neurosurgery, Paediatric Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedics, Urology, Vascular Surgery
|Oral and maxillofacial surgery||Dental degree + medical degree + foundation training + 6 years specialty training|
Medicine (Group 1: hospital based acute specialties)
Acute Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Endocrinology & Diabetes Mellitus, Gastroenterology, Genitourinary Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Medical Oncology, Neurology, Palliative Medicine, Renal Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Rheumatology and Tropical Medicine
|3 years core training|
4-5 years higher specialty training
Medicine (Group 2: clinic based non-acute specialties)
Allergy, Audiovestibular Medicine, Aviation & Space Medicine, Clinical Genetics, Clinical Neurophysiology, Dermatology, Haematology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases (when combined with Medical Microbiology or Virology), Medical Ophthalmology, Nuclear Medicine, Paediatric Cardiology, Pharmaceutical Medicine, Rehabilitation Medicine and Sport and Exercise Medicine
|2-3 years core training|
4 years higher specialty training
|Anaesthetics||2-3 years core training + 5 years higher specialty training|
|Emergency Medicine||6 years|
|General Practice||3 years|
|Obstetrics and Gynaecology||7 years|
|Oncology (Clinical) includes Radiotherapy||2-3 years core training in medicine|
5 years higher specialty training
Factors that can lengthen the duration of training
- Delayed start. It can take more than a single attempt to successfully secure a training job thereby adding to the total number of years. Also, some doctors deliberately delay specialty training in order to gain broader clinical experience first.
- Different lengths of core training. Some higher specialty training jobs (ST3+) will accept multiples types of core training programmes which can differ in duration.
- For example Dermatology accepts 2 years IMT, OR 3 years ACCS, OR 2-3 years paediatrics and usually 1 year adult medicine.
- Dual accreditation. It’s very common for Consultants in medical specialties to pursue dual accreditation, for example Respiratory Medicine & Acute Internal Medicine. Dual accreditation requires an additional year of training.
- Failed postgraduate exams. In the UK, postgraduate exams are sat during the years of specialty training, not after. Failing an exam can result in extension of training, while multiple failures can result in loss of a training job.
- Post-CCT fellowship. After completing a training programme you will be awarded a Certificate of Completion (CCT). You are eligible to register as a Consultant with this but some doctors pursue further fellowship training before taking on a Consultant post. This will inevitably add years to the total training duration.
- Switching specialty. Your interests can change over time. Obviously if you switch specialty it can take longer to complete training.
- Maternity leave.
- Read about the other perks of working in the NHS
- Working part-time aka Less Than Full Time (LTFT) training. This can be to care for children, elderly parents, disabled family members, or to pursue other interests while training such as a second career.
- Taking time out for further education (Masters, PhD etc), research or teaching.
Need more detailed information about the training pathway?
Use this short guide to find reliable information about the UK training pathways for specific specialties.
Need guidance for a specific specialty?
We are working on comprehensive guides for all major specialties! From GMC registration, to how to become a UK Consultant.