Undergraduate medical training in Ireland will be 5-6 years depending on the college you attend, and postgraduate medical training (i.e. having already done another degree) will usually last 4 years. Once you finish medical school you will officially be a doctor and onto the next exciting steps of your journey.
All newly qualified doctors in Ireland will start off by completing an Intern year. This comprises 4 x 3-month jobs. This will include Medical and Surgical rotations, and may include other areas such as General Practice, Emergency Department, Paediatrics and others. Your intern year gives you an idea of what being a doctor is like and a chance to try different specialties.
After Intern year, you can progress to the level of Senior House Officer (SHO). This can be in any area. You may be applying for Basic Specialist Training (BST) which is a 2-year training programme in either Medicine, Surgery, Paediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynaecology or Pathology. After completion of BST you can apply for Higher Specialist Training (HST) in a more specialized area (e.g. Cardiology, Microbiology, Nephrology, Plastic Surgery, Public Health and many more), during which time you will be a Registrar. Most HSTs are 4-5 years. There are exceptions to this system, for example anaesthetics is a 6-year course that combines BST and HST into one. For ED, BST is 3 years and HST is 4 years. For Psychiatry, BST is 4 years and HST is 3 years.
After completion of HST, plus potentially fellowship or experience abroad, you can apply to become a Consultant, if that is the route you are planning to take. Not all hospital doctors will become Consultants, but that is essentially the highest level you can reach.
Alternatively, you may apply to the GP training scheme which is 4 years total and this is the most common profession for doctors in Ireland.
It is not mandatory to be on a training scheme all the time. Once you have finished Intern year, you have the option of applying for BST, or working in “stand-alone” roles not linked to a scheme, working as a locum where you have more control over your hours, taking time for further education or volunteering, or emigrating abroad for a while or for good. The world really is your oyster at this point, as doctors are always in demand so there are plenty of opportunities.
For example, I graduated from UCD in 2018, completed Intern year in Galway, worked as an SHO in Australia for 2 years, completed a 3-month diploma in Liverpool, spent 3 months volunteering in Zambia, and then commenced the Paediatrics BST in 2022. I plan to apply for Public Health HST and become a Public Health Specialist in Child Health.
The great thing about studying medicine is that it opens up so many doors to really diverse career opportunities. Even if you might not enjoy certain aspects of medical training or the jobs you do in the first few years after you graduate, the huge range of options should mean everyone can find something they enjoy and can excel at.
More information about training pathways is available at the websites below:
• Royal College of Physicians Ireland https://www.rcpi.ie/
• Royal College of Surgeons Ireland https://www.rcsi.com/dublin/
• Irish College of General Practitioners https://www.icgp.ie/
• College of Psychiatrists of Ireland https://www.irishpsychiatry.ie/
• College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland https://www.anaesthesia.ie/