- GMC curricula
- Health Careers NHS
- Royal College or Faculty websites
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.
Let’s break it down.
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.
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
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.
- Cardiothoracic surgery
- Obstetrics & Gynaecology
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
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.
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.
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.
3. Royal College and Faculty websites
When you’re ready for more detailed information, you should check the relevant Royal College or Faculty website. Click 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.
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.