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Surgery Training Pathway

  • August 09, 2018

As your career progresses from a medical school student through to a Surgeon, you will go through a number of different stages that will all have a competitive entry. In today’s post we outline the ways in which you can enter and follow a surgical career specifically mentioning the:

  • The training pathway
  • Career grades

The Training Pathway

The training pathway is the most direct route through surgical training.

Please note that following each training stage, particularly in the early years, you will need to be selected into the next stage.

We advise for you to always make a contingency plan throughout your career, so you are prepared for the unexpected.

Below are the stages you will pass during your training:

Step 1: Foundation Training

Duration: 2 years
Content: A paid training job within a hospital which will cover a range of medical specialties, including surgery.
Application Method: You can apply via the Foundation Programme. Medical students will be matched to places based on their application form.
Entry Requirements: Successful completion of approved medical degree

Our advice for Foundation Trainees to succeed and go onto Core Surgical Training:

  • Attend courses such as those offered by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh – topics include surgical skills, interview skills for core surgical training and career planning.
  • Ensure your e-portfolio has plenty of surgery evidence that this is kept properly up-to-date
  • Try and gain teaching and management experience

Step 2: Core Surgical Training

Once you have completed your FY1 and FY2 training you can then go on to begin your Core Surgical Training = ST1/ST2/CT1/CT2.

During this time, you must sit various examinations to give your membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS).

Duration: 2 years
Content: A paid training job within a hospital which will cover a range of surgical specialties. Your Core Surgical Training may be themed towards one Surgery specialty.
Application Method: Applications will need to be made directly to deaneries, via forms and interview/assessment etc.
Entry Requirements: 1) GMC Registration 2) Complete foundation competencies

Our advice for Core Surgical Trainees to succeed and go onto Specialty Training:

  • Study for the examinations for the membership of the Royal College of Surgeons
  • Continue to develop your practical and academic expertise
  • Undertake a surgical research project
  • Try and get some of your work published and present at national and international meetings
  • Teach junior colleagues
  • Take on any management opportunities you are offered

Step 3: Specialty Training

Duration: 6 years
Content: A paid training job within a hospital focusing on one of ten surgical specialties (a list of specialties can be found below)
Application Method: Applications will have to be made via Health Education England via forms and interviews/assessments etc.
Entry Requirements: You must have completed your core training competencies, passed MRCS Part A&B, and other mandatory courses. The courses will vary by specialty.

 Specialty surgical training from ST3-8 will last for six years.

During higher training, you must take examinations which leads to the fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS).

The NHS persona specification states that applicants with prior surgical experience are more likely to be offered a training place at ST3 than those who apply from core training.

At ST3 level you will need at least two years’ experience in surgery (excluding foundation modules). At least 12 months of this experience must have been in elective general surgery and at least 12 months on-call for emergency general surgery. This experience can be gained in any country.

Completion of other training courses such as Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS), Basic Surgical Skills and Care of the Critically Ill Surgical Patient (CCrISP) is essential for your application for specialist general surgery training at ST3 level.

During your ST3-8 training, you will be employed as a Specialty Trainee.  At the end of this stage of training, you will then be eligible to apply for Consultant posts. However, before you can do this you must pass the Intercollegiate Specialty Examination (FRCS (SN)). You will also need a portfolio of experience which includes formal teaching, leadership, management, research and audit.

Once you have passed the above you will receive a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT)) and you will be eligible to be on the GMC Specialist Register.

Please note that entry is highly competitive, so you will need achievements relevant to general surgery. Completion of an elective in general surgery will demonstrate your commitment to the selection panel.

Step 4: Senior Medical Appointment

Once you are on the GMC’s Specialist Register you will then be eligible to apply for Consultant level posts.

Please note that if you are an international doctor who is working as a Consultant in your home country – you will not have to go through all UK training to become a Consultant in the UK. The most popular route for IMG’s to become a Consultant in the UK is to join at a Speciality Doctor level (ST3-ST8) and use the CESR programme route.

Please click here for more information on CESR.

Please click here for more information on FRCR.

Surgical Specialties

  1. General Surgery
  2. Neurosurgery
  3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  4. Cardiothoracic Surgery
  5. Otolaryngology (ENT)
  6. Paediatric Surgery
  7. Plastic Surgery
  8. Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery
  9. Urology
  10. Vascular Surgery
  11. Academic Surgery

If you are an IMG who is interested in relocating to the UK and working within the NHS send your CV to [email protected] - and one of our Specialist Advisers will be happy to help you.


Royal College of Surgeons. (2018). Surgery Career Paths — Royal College of Surgeons. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018].

Health Careers. (2018). Training and development (general surgery). [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018].


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