Career outlook for surgeon

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would carry out operations on patients who need them. They may be injured, have a worsening health condition, or wish to have plastic surgery.

Patients would be referred to you by other hospital doctors and GPs, or would come to you from an accident and emergency department. They may be anxious and upset, and you would need to calm them down.

This job comes with a lot of responsibility, as your patients would be putting complete trust in you. Your work could help change their lives. Sometimes, you could be helping to save a life. 

You would:

  • Meet the patient before the operation to choose the best option
  • Explain the process and risks
  • Take tests and arrange X-rays
  • Carry out the operation with a team of people such as other surgeons, anaesthetists, technicians and nurses
  • Meet with nurses and junior doctors after the operation
  • Carry out daily ward visits to check on all your patients
  • Write to GPs about your patients’ health and treatments
  • Train and look after junior doctors and other medical staff

You would specialise in one surgical area, such as working with children or trauma patients.

You might sometimes carry out research and publish papers.

There's more information about NHS roles on the Surgery page on the NHS Careers website.

Working conditions


You would work long hours including nights and weekends, and you would be part of an out-of-hours rota system. European legislation has reduced the number of hours you can do to no more than 48 per week.


You will spend time in a variety of settings such as consulting rooms, wards, operating theatres and special units like accident and emergency.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Resilience
  • Verbal communication
  • Problem solving
  • Researching
  • Empathising
  • Attention to detail
  • Concentrating
  • Developing a plan
  • Making decisions
  • Taking responsibility

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You need an honours degree in medicine (SCQF level 10) recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC) and a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) which will allow you to join the GMC Specialist Register.

To enter a medical degree (SCQF level 10) requires National 5 qualifications and at least are five Highers at AAAAB or above, usually achieved at one sitting, Advanced Highers in science subjects are recommended.

You must apply to UCAS by 15 October of the year prior to when the course commences.

Glasgow Kelvin College offers an Access to Medical Studies (SWAP) for adults who do not have the required qualifications.

Perth College and the University of Highlands and Islands offer a Higher National Certificate (SCFQ level 7) Pathways to Medicine course requiring National 5 qualifications and at least one Higher. 

If you have five good Highers but do not have all the science subjects, Dundee University runs a six-year course which includes a pre-medical year (SCQF level 10).

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by most courses)
  • Chemistry (required by most courses)
  • Biology (required by most courses)
  • Physics (required by most courses)
  • Human biology (required by some courses)
  • English
  • Care
  • Social subjects such as psychology

You will also need

Before applying to medical school you must sit the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT).

After your degree you do a two-year foundation training programme, which gives you registration with the GMC, which you need to work as a surgeon.

To be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland

You should be fit and healthy.

You must provide evidence that you do not have, and have been immunised against, Hepatitis B.

Helpful to have

A driving licence.