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.

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What if my internship experience is rejected by the GMC

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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.

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Looking for a step-by-step guide?

Subscribe to the Savvy IMG and grab your FREE 2-year roadmap to UK residency as an IMG.


Looking for a step-by-step guide?

Subscribe to the Savvy IMG and grab your FREE 2-year roadmap to UK residency as an IMG.


30 Responses

  1. hey iam fatima i have completed mbbs and 1 year internship. is mrcpuk required for Dermatology specialty. Iam so much confused should i go for plab and come to uk ASAP or sit here and complete mrcpuk then apply for uk .what benefits will i get if i do mrcpuk from my home country or do plab early and come uk for further process.kindly guide me im so stressed 😫

    1. Hi Fatima, eligibility for Dermatology is a complex topic! There are many routes including medical, paediatric, and now surgical. If you choose the medical route, you need MRCP and you also need 2 years of clinical experience after internship, including 1 year of managing acutely unwell inpatients. Please see our Dermatology guide for more details.

      It can get quite confusing so if you are looking for one-to-one guidance for your specific personal circumstances, you can book a session to discuss your options here:

      I look forward to speaking with you and helping you gain clarity with your UK journey!

  2. 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?

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

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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.
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