Your GP career options
Publication date: 06 September 2023
The following guidance has been written with newly qualified GPs in mind, though GPs at all stages of their career may find it useful.
Every GP practice is different, and so are the services they offer. Knowing which way of working suits you best will help you to make a decision that works for you and helps you to work to your strengths.
Here, we’ve summarised some of the most common career choices. We've also signposted sources of help, so that you get the support you need during your transition from trainee to practising GP.
- Different roles and pathways
- Looking for a job
Different roles and pathways
If you’re looking for variety and to experience different types of practices before settling, then being a locum can be a great choice.
As a locum you'll have the opportunity to experience a diverse range of settings. These can range from rural, inner city or split site, to branch and dispensing practices. It allows you to work in different locations, getting a feel for the local area before you decide if you want to take on a salaried GP role or become a partner.
Pros of being a locum:
- Work in multiple locations
- Work in a variety of practices
- Explore other medical interests
- Flexible hours and days
Cons of being a locum:
- Unpredictability of available work
- Impact on sick and holiday pay entitlement
- Impact on your indemnity
- Ability to get a mortgage
Different surgeries will want you to do different things. Some will want you to solely carry out face-to-face consultations. Others may want you to do telephone consultations, home visits, sign scripts, deal with results or even be on-call. It’s important that you’re clear about what will be involved in your session, and what you will or won't agree to do.
At the moment, there’s plenty of locum work available. If you’re interested in giving it a try, the opportunities are there for you to explore.
Colleagues may prefer the option of a salaried GP role for a number of reasons. Only having to get to grips with one system of working is a bonus for a lot of people. Meanwhile, the perks of being employed and not having the hassle of being self-employed is a driver for others.
Your responsibilities will vary from practice to practice, but wherever you are, you'll be an integral member of the team.
Pros of being a salaried GP:
- Regular salary
- Entitled to annual, sick and maternity/paternity pay and death inservice
- Compatible alongside family responsibilities
- Paid by PAYE
Cons of being a salaried GP:
- Less involvement in business decisions
- Contracted duties and hours
- You may have less autonomy
- Less opportunity to learn new skills
As a partner, you’re self-employed and essentially own and run the practice along with your other partners. Most practices have more than one partner so it goes without saying that it’s important you get on with each other as you’ll be making important business decisions.
Many GPs like this approach because:
- You have a say in how the practice is run
- You choose what additional services you offer
- You decide how you want to organise your day
However, opting for a partnership is not something to be done without understanding the risks. If you want to be a partner, then consider the following:
- Is this the right practice for you?
- Is it a practice where partners and staff support each other?
- Is it a robust and future-proof business?
- Is it a good financial investment?
- What will it be like in 10 years’ time?
- Are you happy with the partnership agreement being offered?
Becoming a partner holds a lot of responsibility. You’re effectively running a business, so you’re responsible for making business critical decisions and looking after the welfare of your staff and your patients.
In a nutshell, a portfolio career is a combination of several different roles which make up your working week. As a GP you have the ability to design a career to suit your needs and interests. You could choose to take on clinical roles such as:
- Becoming GP Becoming a GP with an Extended Role (GPwER)
- Out of Hours (OOH)
- Working in a hospital setting e.g. A&E
- Leading specialist clinics in the community e.g. women's health, minor surgery
- Working for the police or in a secure environment
Plus many more.
You could also choose to take on roles outside of the traditional practice environment, such as:
- Charity work
- Health policy and leadership
- Media and journalism
- RCGP opportunities
Plus many more.
GPs with extended role (GPwERs) - formerly GPwSIs
As well as being a GP, you can choose to specialise in an array of other fields. Bringing your experience with you from outside your GP training will help you to develop your skills in practice.
Some GPs choose to undertake extended roles for the benefit of their personal development and their practice. By undertaking an extended role, you are bringing a new skill which might help deliver high quality care to patients in a local setting.
You can find opportunities to specialise inside and outside your practice, so explore your options and check your local primary care provision for areas where there may be shortages. Explore the RCGP's GPwER section for more information.
It can be difficult to find time to get hands-on experience with different techniques and procedures during our GP training. Fellowships offer intensive training opportunities in a sub-specialty of general practice. They're perfect if you’re looking for focused training with plenty of exposure to your area of special interest.
Often, fellowships are for a fixed period. They can be clinical, non-clinical or a combination of both. Your local NHS Trust or Health Board is your best starting point for fellowship opportunities, and they're often funded or partly funded.
Looking for a job
Available jobs for the area you live in, or want to move to, are also listed on local GPST schemes and LMC websites, plus others such as BMJ Careers.
It's not uncommon for ST3s to inquire about working at a practice they have trained at. Often, your local training scheme administrator will know of vacancies local to you.
Getting your CV in shape
Help is close at hand! Your Educational Supervisor (ES) is the best person to help you with this. After all, they've spent a lot of time getting to know you and your work. Your ES is probably involved in recruitment at their practice, and they will have seen hundreds of CVs during their career. Asking them for a tutorial on CV writing is a great way of getting expert eyes to look it over.
Next steps for your career
As a GP, you really can design a career to suit you. When obtaining your CCT you're able to embark on a flexible, diverse and fulfilling career. You can build a career around the needs of your patients and your personal lives. Perhaps you'll develop a portfolio career, an extended role, or work in a variety of settings throughout your career.
As your professional home, we're here to help you transition with confidence into life as an independent GP, giving you the tools to make the most of the career that awaits you.