How Many Years To Become a Doctor

Updated on 20/01/2023 in
How many years to become a doctor

“Whenever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity.”


Medical students must take the Hippocratic Oath as part of becoming doctors. Save human lives, curing diseases, and return the smile on someone's face are the greatest privilege you can have.

To be a physician is neither a gift nor a talent. It is a lifelong commitment to helping others. And to be frank, the road to becoming one is quite challenging and takes time.

First, you need to graduate from a medical university. After that, you will be required to undergo a foundation programme/internship. Lastly, you must complete 3 to 7 years of a residency programme or speciality training. In other words, being a fully certified specialist might take anywhere from 10 to 14 years.

This article clarifies all uncertainties regarding how long it takes to become a doctor, specifically if you study medicine in Europe and want to return to work in the UK.

How long does it take to become a doctor in the UK vs Europe?

UK medical graduate pathway

As an applicant to study medicine in the UK, most medical universities will require you to have the following:

  • High GCSEs grades (7 GCSEs, including sciences, with 5 subjects in grades 9 to 7 (A* or A) and English and Mathematics at least grade 6 to 5 (B) )
  • 3 A-levels at grade A in Chemistry plus one of the following: Biology, Physics, or Mathematics and one more academic subject

If you meet the academic requirements, you can choose the medical schools to which you want to apply. Therefore, you should sit either the UCAT or BMAT exam.

You can apply to only 4 medical universities in the UK on your UCAS application. It will be great if you are among the accepted students because the applicant-to-position ratio is around 3:1. This implies that entrance to UK medical school is extremely competitive.

UK medical students get their degrees after completing a 5-year medical programme. The next step is provisional GMC registration, followed by Foundation year 1 training (F1). After completion of F1, junior doctors are eligible to apply for full GMC registration, followed by Foundation year 2 (F2).

After successful completion of both foundation years and obtaining CCT (Certificate of Completion of Training), students have two choices:

  • The general practice vocational training programme lasts 3 years and turns junior doctors into General practitioners.
  • Other speciality training programmes. They usually last between 4 and 7 years. Successful candidates are rewarded with the title consultant (specialist).

Europe medical graduate pathway

Suppose you choose to pursue an MD degree in Europe. In that case, you can benefit from many things, such as a worldwide recognised degree, various medical schools, less entry competition, and affordable tuition fees. Let's dive in a little bit more.

Unlike UK medical universities, European ones have more flexible entry requirements. What do we mean?

You don't need to sit either the UCAT or BMAT exam. An entrance exam may be required in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Mathematics. Simple multiple-choice questions may appear in specific tests. However, other exams may include open-ended or a combination of both questions. Your high school science grades may or may not be taken into consideration.

After being accepted into medical school in Europe, you will get your MD degree in 6 years. Your 6th year in the medical faculty in Europe is an internship. In most cases, your last year may be considered equal to F1.

So you have your MD degree and want to start practising in the UK. Easy! All you have to do is to sit the PLAB or, in the future, UKMLA (we will bring light to it later) and apply straight for full GMC registration.

From there on, there is no difference in the career path for European and UK junior doctors.

Steps to becoming a medical practitioner

So let's summarise each milestone in your future as a physician who has studied:

In Europe:

  1. Accepted into medical school
    • As an undergraduate student - 6 years
    • As a graduate student - 4 years or less
  2. Getting your MD degree
  3. Taking the PLAB/UKMLA exam
  4. Full GMC registration
  5. Speciality training - 3 to 7 years

In the UK:

  1. UCAT or BMAT exam
  2. Accepted into medical school
    • As an undergraduate student - 5 years
    • As a graduate student - 4 years
  3. Getting your MD degree
  4. Taking the UKMLA (for students who graduate in the academic year 2024-2025)
  5. Provisional GMC registration
  6. Foundation year 1 - 1 year
  7. Full GMC registration
  8. Foundation year 2 (1 year) or working in unsupervised medical practice in the NHS or UK private practice
  9. Speciality training - 3 to 7 years

To learn more about medicine courses in Europe, read our article "How long is a medical school in Europe".

“Health is the greatest of human blessings.”


We would like to include that doctors are the greatest heroes.

Medlink Students encourage you to embrace yourself with patience, self-motivation, and courage and go after your dream. We will be right next to you until you wear your white coat!

Article written by Dr Sam El Mais
Dr Sam El Mais, MD, MSc, BSc, graduated from a renowned medical school in Romania in 2019. He uses his professional knowledge and personal experience to guide students on crucial aspects such as university selection, admissions processes, and cultural adjustments.
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