Your GP career options

The following guidance has been written with newly qualified GPs in mind, though GPs at all stages of their career may find it useful.

When it comes to choosing how you progress your career, there are many options to pick from. Sometimes it can be hard to know which path to take. However, making a decision that sits comfortably with you and complements your personal life will stand you in good stead. Talk to your family and friends, and if you’re not sure what to do or where to live then take the time to explore different options.

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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

Locum GP

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.  

Top tips for being a locum GP

  • A notice of cancellation on both sides should be agreed to maintain a professional approach.
  • Agreed terms from the outset help the practice and you to know what’s expected and what to do when problems occur.
  • After 6 months of being a locum at one practice, then it’s time to have a conversation about becoming a salaried member of staff and receiving the benefits of this. These could include employer pension contribution, annual and sick leave, and CPD time if agreed.
  • If you’re not sure whether being a locum is for you, why not take on a couple of sessions initially to try it out?
  • You could ask your Training Programme Director (TPD) to send your CV out to practices in your area which often brings in offers of work.

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.

Salaried GP

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

Top tips for being a salaried GP

Your salary can be negotiated. The BMA can check your contract and you can discuss local rates.

See the salaried GP pay range webpage on the BMA website for more information.


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.

Portfolio career

Portfolio careers can have a lot of benefits for GPs and their employers. A portfolio career can bring balance along with vast personal satisfaction by enriching your skill base, presenting new challenges and reducing the risk of burnout.

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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
  • Commissioning
  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health policy and leadership
  • Media and journalism
  • Medico-legal
  • RCGP opportunities

Plus many more.

You can get further advice from the BMA's GP practices page and the BMA's contracts page.

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.

The RCGP is currently exploring the following areas for framework development:

  • Population health and health inequalities
  • Sustainable health
  • Child and young persons' mental health
  • Diabetes, metabolic medicine and prevention of diabetes
  • Palliative care
  • Emergency medicine
  • Lifestyle medicine
  • Research in primary care.

GP fellowships

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.

See more information about fellowships on the Health Education England site, fellowships on the Scotland Deanery site, or fellowships on the Health Education and Improvement Wales website.

Looking for a job

Search and apply for the latest GP jobs, including vacancies for Salaried GPs, GP Locums, GP Partners, and other practice staff vacancies across the UK using RCGP Jobs. You can submit your CV or set up job alerts for the latest general practice vacancies, including full-time and part-time positions.

Explore RCGP Jobs
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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.

Top tips for building your CV

  • Tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for.
  • Short and snappy is best for Locum applications – two sides of A4 is usually enough.
  • Think about your unique selling points.
  • Be personable – they want to know if you’ll be a good fit.
  • Include your relevant experience for the post.
  • Your personal statement is your chance to tell them why you’d suit the job.
  • See the BMA's advice on writing a medical CV.

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.

About the writers

The RCGP membership value team is here to support you across your membership, your career, and your wellbeing.