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A Career Guide to Becoming a GP

Published: Friday 24th January 2020

The local GP (General Practitioner) is a respected and valued member part of any communityand it’s a career that many people aspire to, but becoming a medical doctor is a long journey demanding serious effort and commitment. However, there are more and more GP jobs becoming available as the number of people working in the doctor profession declines relative to increases in population growth in the UK. 

happy african male doctor with tablet computer

The GP is usually the first person a patient sees when it comes to a medical issue. As the name suggests, these medical professionals are general experts in health and treatment. Their main duties include diagnosing illness, promoting health awareness and recommending care and treatment, addressing the physical, social and psychological aspects of their patients’ well-being throughout their lives. 

A healthy career choice 

Becoming a fully qualified General Practitioner means acquiring a medical degree and completing five years of vocational training. Just to get started, you’ll need three good A-levels (min AAB). 

Old book in library with stethoscope on open textbook, stack piles of texts on reading desk, and aisle of bookshelves in study class room background for medical school education learning concept

The degree you follow must be recognised by the General Medical Council. Typically, this will take five years, followed by a two year foundation training course and three years specialist training in general practice. If you already have a first or 2:2 science degree, you can join an accelerated four year graduate entry programme. Alternatively, if you have no scientific qualifications you can take a six year degree in medicine with the first year acting as a pre-medical foundation year. 

When applying for a medical course, you’ll be asked to sit a University Clinical Aptitude Test or BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). This is where you’ll be tested on areas such as critical thinking, problem solving, data analysis and scientific knowledge. In addition, most medical schools will expect you to have some relevant practical experience, even if this is just voluntary.  

Medical workers working in conference room

Your training doesn’t end once you’ve qualified. You’ll be required to keep your knowledge and skills up to date through Continued Professional Development (CPD). The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) uses a credit-based system for measuring CPD and you’ll be required to undergo re-validation every five years. Some GP’s go on to specialise, becoming a General Practitioner with Special Interest (GPwSI). Specialist areas include sexual health, palliative care and substance abuse, among others.  

Soft skills in the doctor profession 

Being a GP isn’t an easy job. You’ll need to be empathetic, compassionate and have well developed interpersonal skills. At times, you’ll have to work under extreme pressure and prioritise your patients and your time. If you’re running your own practice, you’ll also need solid business skills and be prepared to deal with a lot of extra admin duties.  As a practising GP, hours are typically 8.30am to 6.30pm, but can be longer, as you may have to work at the weekends and be on call during the evening 

Banner of Soft Skills Word with Icon Set and keywords in Concept of Human Resource Management and Training

When it comes to earnings, junior doctors in foundation year one earn a basic of £26,614 rising to £30,805 in year two. Doctors in specialist training earn between £36,641 and £46,208. As a general practitioner you can expect anywhere between £56,525 and £85,298 with allowances for weekend and on-call work. You’ll find plenty of GP jobs and support roles on Zoek UK. 

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