Doctor (general practitioner, GP): job description

Last updated: 7 Jul 2023, 12:42

General practitioners provide confidential patient consultations and initial medical care.

Image of a GP's stethoscope

What does a GP do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

General practitioners (GPs) have knowledge of a broad range of conditions, and diagnose and treat patients of all ages. They also refer patients to specialists when more detailed investigation is needed.

Typical duties include:

  • patient consultations at home, within the surgery, by phone and in community venues
  • monitoring patients’ conditions and wellbeing
  • discussing treatment options with patients
  • carrying out clinical examinations
  • diagnosing and treating illnesses/ailments
  • minor surgery
  • carrying out tests to diagnose (eg urine sample testing)
  • prescribing medication
  • providing health education
  • practice management and administration
  • liaising with other healthcare professionals (eg midwives, pharmacists, health visitors and psychiatrists) as part of multidisciplinary teams.

With the pressure to spot worrying symptoms and make correct decisions during appointments that last just ten minutes, the job of a GP can be demanding. However, it also offers more opportunities for flexible or part-time work than other medical specialisms.

Graduate salaries

Once you have graduated, you’ll need to complete foundation training, for which you’ll be paid from £29,384, according to You’ll then progress onto a specialist general practice course, during which you’ll earn from £40,257. Once you have met the various standards needed to become a GP, you could either work as a salaried member of staff or as a partner in a practice. Earnings for qualified GPs vary widely as they as are set by individual practices. The average salary for a salaried GP in England is around £64,000, according to Partners take a share of the profits of their practice.

Typical employers

  • GPs’ practices
  • Private healthcare organisations
  • Locum agencies.

In the NHS, GP partners are self-employed and work for the NHS as independent contractors. Salaried GPs, on the other hand, are employed by GPs’ practices.

GP vacancies are advertised by the British Medical Journal. You’ll also find them advertised on and specialist jobs boards such as Individual practices may also advertise GP positions.

Qualifications and training

You can only qualify as a GP with a medical degree and further training.

Qualification as a GP is a lengthy process. First you will need to complete a five-year medical degree that is approved by the General Medical Council. You’ll need a minimum of three A levels, including chemistry and either biology, physics or maths, plus another academic subject. You will also be expected to have at least five GCSEs at grades 9 to 7 (A* or A). You may also be asked to complete an aptitude test, such as the biomedical aptitude test (BMAT) or the university clinical aptitude test (UCAT).

The medical degree is followed by compulsory hospital and general practice-based vocational training through the two-year foundation programme. After this comes speciality training for general practice, which takes a minimum of three years. At the end of this period of training, you’ll need to pass exams for entry into the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Within general practice, you can choose to specialise by completing further study – for example, in sports medicine or women’s health.

If you already have a degree, you may be able to take a shorter, more intensive graduate medical degree. Most universities ask for graduates to possess at least a 2.1 degree, preferably in a scientific subject. Alternatively, you could apply after an access to medicine course.

Key skills

GPs should demonstrate:

  • the ability to work under pressure
  • excellent communication skills, including sensitivity and the ability to provide clear explanations
  • listening skills
  • the ability to spot and solve problems quickly and sometimes with minimal information
  • business management skills
  • the ability to work efficiently
  • organisational ability
  • attention to detail.

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