The Savvy IMG

How to find the UK training pathway for your specialty

A guide on how to find information about the UK training pathway for any specialty.

Table of Contents

What if my internship experience is rejected by the GMC
Updated: April 8, 2020 There are three main sources of information to find the UK training pathways for specific specialties:
  1. GMC curricula
  2. Health Careers NHS
  3. Royal College or Faculty websites
This is the order you should read these in to avoid getting information overload! In this blog post I’ll briefly explain what information you can find on each website and guide you through how to interpret the GMC curricula. I hope this will make understanding the pathways clearer for you.

For a general overview of the structure of specialty training in the UK including how applications works, you may want to read this complete beginner’s guide first.

1. GMC curricula

Through the GMC website, you will find the training pathways for every recognised specialty. There is usually a diagram (which I will explain next), and a full document containing the curriculum of each training programme. Sometimes there will be a link to the relevant Royal College website instead of a document. For now, forget about the curriculum and just study the diagram.

Here’s an example of a training pathway diagram. This one is for Dermatology.

General Medical council training pathway for the specialty dermatology

Let’s break it down.

Foundation competences

Each diagram starts with a blue bar that says “Foundation Competences”. This means that you must complete the 2-year Foundation Programme or equivalent to start any training programme. For IMGs this usually means a 12-month internship plus 12 months clinical experience after internship.

Core training

All the pathways in the GMC website are split into core training and specialty training. The accepted core training programmes will be listed. 

Some specialties accept multiple types of core training programmes. For example in this Dermatology pathway, the following are accepted: 2 years of CMT (now known as IMT), 3 years of ACCS, or 3 years in Paediatrics.

In the following specialties (termed “uncoupled” specialties) you must apply for core training and then apply again for specialty training.

  • All surgical specialties except Neurosurgery and Cardiothoracic surgery
  • All medical specialties
  • Anaesthetics
  • Psychiatry

In the following specialties (termed “run-through” specialties), progression from core training to higher specialty training is direct and automatic therefore you only need to apply once. You do not to re-apply for higher specialty training.

  • Neurosurgery
  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Ophthalmology
  • Paediatrics
  • Obstetrics & Gynaecology
  • Radiology

Although the GMC curricula splits all specialties into core training and specialty training, in practice there is actually no such thing as core training or a core trainee in a run-through programme.

If you tell someone you want to apply to Ophthalmology core training or you are Radiology core trainee, no one will know what you’re talking about! They will also probably think you have no idea what you’re talking about. Not a good first impression!

This is why in run-through specialties, specialty training starts from year 1 hence it is called ST1 not CT1.

Core Medical Training has now been replaced with Internal Medical Training. Instead of 2 years duration for all medical specialties, it is now 3 years for acute hospital-based specialties (Group 1), and 2 years for non-acute clinic-based specialties (Group 2).

Group 1: 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

Group 2: 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

Midway exams

Between core training and specialty training there is usually a blue bar indicating that an exam needs to be passed in order to progress. The type of exams accepted are indicated at the bottom of the diagram. Please note that passing the exam earlier does not mean you can progress to specialty training earlier.

Exit exams

Prior to completion of the training programme, you must complete all specialty exams. These can be sat at anytime during training, not after. The required exam is named at the bottom of the diagram.

Again, passing this exam sooner does not mean you can become a Consultant sooner – you still have to complete the programme.

Prior to completion of the training programme, you must complete all specialty exams. These can be sat at anytime during training but not after.

Certificate of Completion of Training

Upon completion of the training programme, and once all exams have been cleared, doctors are awarded a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT).

If a doctor does not complete a GMC approved core training programme (for example an IMG who has done the equivalent abroad), but completes the higher specialty training years, they may still be able to obtain a CCT.

Related: CESR-CP soon to be recognised as CCT

2. Health Careers NHS

Now you have the overall gist from the GMC website, you’ll probably need more information about the pathways than just a diagram. The Health Careers NHS website is the next step.

To find the training pathways, click on the specialty you’re interested in and then click on “Training and Development” in the submenu. This page will show you the training pathway in a diagram (usually) with a brief one-page overview of the exams and entry requirements. There will also be some basic tips about improving your CV for that particular specialty.

An important point to remember about this website: the information may be outdated by a couple of years. I’ve seen some links on the website referring to 2017 documents, so always check the Royal College or GMC websites for the most up-to-date information.

Related: The best first job in the UK for overseas doctors

3. Royal College and Faculty websites

When you’re ready for more detailed information, you should check the relevant Royal College or Faculty websiteClick on the “Training” section in the main menu. It may also be called “Training and education” or “Careers and training”. Here you will find detailed information about many aspects of UK training including:

  • The pathways and different stages of training;
  • All the exams including syllabus, dates, fees, eligibility criteria and at what stage of training you need to pass each exam;
  • How to apply to training (known as specialty recruitment) including the requirements and timelines.

If you have any questions about the training pathways, the Royal Colleges are your first port of call. They usually reply within 3-5 working days. You can easily find their email address on the contact page.

You might also like

28 Responses

  1. Hi, I am preparing to write my plab2 exam in March and I also want to start my specialty in psychiatry and I need guidance on how to begin the process. Could you please be my guide?

  2. Hi I am Dr. Kunjan from India. Can someone tell me about direct offers into training bypassing interviews? Which specialities have this option?

    1. Hi there, the only specialties that do not have an interview are GP and Psychiatry. In place of interviews, you need to do well on the MSRA (multispecialty recruitment assessment). Radiology previously allowed applicants with high MSRA scores to bypass the interview but that seems to have been removed now. Best of luck!

  3. Hi, I am doing my final year (3rd Year) MD (Pediatrics) in India. . I have also done 1 year internship after MBBS. Will i be able to write MRCP CH while i am doing my final year. If it is possible how do i register for the same and how many years will it take to complete the course.

    1. Hi there! You can take the exams at any point. You can register on the RCPCH website. There is no course involved, you only need to sit the exams.

  4. Hello
    I’m a general surgeon and I recently got an offer to work as a spr in uk. I have plans to join a training program in future. In addition to mrcs and crest form what else would you advise me to do so that I might get into a training program. And can you please tell me how much does it take on an average for an IMG to get a training post?

  5. I’m currently a final year student at the University of the West Indies (Mona) in the Caribbean. I aspire to become a paediatrician; hence I have begun to research the routes to do so in the UK. However, I am a little puzzled as it relates to the pathway of accomplishing this goal. I see that the speciality lasts for 8 years in the UK, as there is a Medicine component. Is it possible to complete a single Pediatrics degree in 4 years (no Medicine component) ?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi there, I’m not sure what you mean by there being a medicine component. The eight years of paediatric training is all in paediatrics, No part of the program is spent in adult medicine. The exam required for paediatrics is MRCPCH not MRCP. MRCPCH which stands for membership of the Royal College of paediatrics and children’s health. While MRCP is for medicine and stands for membership of the Royal College of physicians. You do not need MRCP for Paediatics. I hope that clears things up! Please see our paediatrics guide here

  6. Hi there, I have two years of radiology experience overseas with part1 frcr. There has been a gap of few years now and if i wish to apply for st1/ct1 radiology in the UK , would i be overqualified? how to go about it as i want to start from the basic level of training in radiology in the UK. I have cleared PLAB1&2

  7. Hi, I’m Dr marium faisal from Pakistan. In 2014 I did my MBBS and 2015 1year house job.After that I gained 3 years of medical general practitioner experience . Should I go for mrcp/ mrcs or PLAB? Please guide. TIA

  8. Hi, I’m doing my medical degree in Europe. In my 6 year medicine course we already have 18 months of clinical rotations, much like the FY1 and FY2 in the UK. Is is still necessary for me to go through the FY1 and FY2 or can I apply immediately to enter specialty training?

    1. Hi there, it depends on your nationality and whether or not you are eligible for full GMC registration or provisional registration. Usually EU nationals are eligible for full GMC registration with that pattern of medical school so they do not need to repeat FY1 but they do need FY2, but non-EU nationals are only eligible for provisional registration and need both FY1 and FY2. However this may change with Brexit so we have to wait and see.

  9. good morning
    I am a board certified dermatologist in my country which pathway would be the best for me to work as a dermatologist in uk

  10. Hi,
    I have completed graduation followed by 2 yrs of clinicals then completed MD Dermatology abroad.
    Should i go for MRCP (Dermatology) ?
    My college is WHO Listed

  11. Hello, I trained in Ireland and I’m starting an SHO job next week but hoping to apply to a surgical scheme in the UK for 2021. Any idea how to go about this?

  12. Hello, I have MRCS and finished OET recently but didn’t register yet.
    I also have 5 years of experience in urosurgery, when I ask around my friends they tell me to apply for SHO first to “get into the system” or apply for an MTI but when looking into tasks of SHO I find most of it non relevant to my career as a urologist, also the MTI takes alot of time then I will go on a tier 5 visa which I don’t prefer.

    I don’t mind getting into a service job first but as long as I can get a training post in urology later.

    I would appreciate if you could tell me which grade to apply for as a service job ?
    and how can I get enrolled in the training system in urology? should I use ORIEL or NHS jobs?

  13. So if we have completed our internship and 4 yrs of clinical experience in gynae n mrcog part1 , can we directly apply for st1 or st2? But due to new competence form it seems impossible to strt at higher level because we have no experience of QIPs and research during our training back home?

    1. Hi Rubina, with 4 years of OBGYN experience you cannot apply for ST1. With more than 24 months of experience, you are overqualified for ST1. You can apply for ST2 if you meet the requirements, however it is not advisable for IMGs to start in a training job. Also, it’s not possible for most IMGs to start training directly at a higher level (ST3/4) as their first UK job for several reasons. The general strategy is to work in a non-training job first, complete all the requirements for a training job, work on your portfolio etc, then apply for training. Best of luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Meet the Team

Hi, we’re Drs Nick & Kimberly Tan, the two IMGs behind The Savvy IMG. We write comprehensive guides, create courses, and provide one-to-one guidance to help other overseas qualified doctors on their journey to the UK.
We have scoured the official guidance to put these posts together, but we can make mistakes! If you spot anything that is incorrect, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
Photo of Dr Nicholas Tan