The SCAN Career Planning Model = Self Awareness - Career Exploration (this section) - Arriving at a decision - Next Steps 

Exploring medical specialties and other options post foundation training - key tips and resources 

In this section we identify some key considerations and research to undertake prior to making an application to specialty and also how to explore other options to undertake alongside or outside to medical training. 

  • How to explore the range of speciality options
  • Entry points for specialties 
  • Competition Ratios and demonstrating commitment to Speciality
  • Academic Clinical Fellowships (ACF)
  • Looking at all your options - exploring careers outside clinical medicine, and F3 options
  • Key Resources for making speciality applications 


What, Where and who can inform a realistic post-Foundation training options decision [NHSE PSU London Webinar]



How did you go about exploring your speciality training options? [Dr Kiara Vincent - EM Registrar & Dr. Ellen Adams - CSRH Registrar]

Dr Vincent and Dr Adams talk through how they explored different speciality training options



Where can I find out further information about each speciality?

Where can I find out further information about each speciality?

  • Researching the person specifications for each specility.
  • Use the BMA speciality explorer tool to support your research into the medical specialites.
  • Use Health Careers 'Explore roles' pages to get information on working life, training pathways and speciality specific case studies
  • As a foundation doctor you are entitled to up to career based 5 taster days to experience different specialties. Certain specialties even organise structured taster week programmes.
  • LinkedIn is an excellent way to find out about specialties and the different paths people have taken within these. 
What are the entry points for different specialties? Run-through or Core?

Core  Run-through 

NB Curriculum Changes!

Please check with Royal Colleges and NHS England 
  • ACCS Acute Medicine
  • ACCS Anaesthesia
  • ACCS Emergency Medicine
  • Core Anaesthetics (Feb intake)
  • Core Psychiatry
  • Core Surgical Training
  • Internal Medicine Training
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Chemical Pathology
  • Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Community Sexual & Reproductive Health
  • General Practice
  • General Surgery
  • Histopathology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Obstetrics & Gynaecology
  • •Ophthalmology
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Paediatrics
  • Public Health
  • Radiology
  • Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Urology Surgery
  • Vascular Surgery


How competitive is the application process for different specialities and how can I stand out?

Competition Ratios

Full data on competition for different specialities is given here . When using data we recommend that you look over a range of years to identify trends (eg growing or declining popularity).  


Demonstrating commitment to specialty

Rotations – whilst most of these will have already been decided – think about how can you use the experience to boost your CV – think about audits, QIPs, presentations etc you could do to demonstrate an interest in a particular area or interest in research. Consider also how the rotations you originally selected or were allocated may not necessarily reflect your interests now – but are there some aspects of these specialties which you may wish to include in your next career step. 

F3 – this may be one way to broaden your experience and build your portfolio – F3 Resources

Conferences/course  BMJ conference – a good way to meet specialists in areas you might be interested in usually October but no date given as yet for 2022  Last 2 years have been virtual

Other conferences/ courses at the Royal Colleges:


  • Discuss with your supervisor – send an email/arrange an appointment – we know it is sometimes difficult to arrange meetings but keep trying but have:
  • Clear objectives - make it quite clear what it is you wish to achieve in undertaking a taster - for presenting to your supervisor and for your first contact in the specialty you wish to taste.  Are you mainly interested in trying the specialty or working in another area – or perhaps both
  • Flexibility: on timings  not easy but be as flexible as possible – you may not necessarily get consecutive days; on content: is it the specialty or location that is your priority
  • Be realistic:  take account of the priorities of the team you wish to spend time in and what can be achieved.  This is important to discuss when you meet a contact that will be responsible for you during the taster
  • Use your networks – involving your supervisor has the added benefit of possibly being able to access their contacts but in a later slide we will consider how you can develop your own networks
  • Aim to stay local – you are more likely to be successful by sourcing through trusts where you have worked or hospitals in the locality.  Not impossible to access other locations – especially if you wish to move elsewhere after foundation but this be more difficult and will need more planning
  • Be Curious – embrace the unexpected opportunity that may not quite fit the picture of what you had in mind
  • Be persistent - Don’t give up at the first hurdle


Networking with other health clinicians can help you determine your career goals and set you up for lifelong success. It can help you assess where you are, where you’re going, and where you want to be, and it can introduce you to new friends that can become colleagues or research partners.

  • Practical Understanding - Effective networking can be imperative to inform your career planning. Utilising or developing your network will allow you to gain a greater clarity around the content and context of roles or specialities of interest. In addition, your network can widen your perspective of trust culture, politics and hierarchies which is often difficult to ascertain from purely web based research.
  • Opportunity Awareness/ Recruitment - Although many roles are advertised through national websites such as NHS Jobs  - many opportunities are highlighted through word of mouth or recommendation particularly in the areas of projects or research. Highlighting your interests to your networks is a way of raising your awareness and being open to these opportunities when they may arise. In addition, your network could provide you with particular knowledge of trust application and interview processes to aid your preparation.
  • Demonstrate or Develop Skills and Experience - Your network may also give you the opportunity to demonstrate or develop specific skills and experience e.g. leading or collaborating on a research project, audit, paper or presentation
  • Enhancing your profile and motivation - Being an active, supportive and flexible member of networks can also raise your profile in organisations of interest e.g. colleagues in your network who know your skillset, strengths, interests and motivations can make introductions or promote you to key individuals.


What is an Academic Clinical Fellowships and how can I find out more about this option?

An ACF is a three-year post (or four years for GPs) which combines specialist or core training with 25% protected research time.

- Junior post with entry at ST1, ST2 & ST3 level

- 25% research – aimed at Masters/PhD

- Clinical Benchmarking

 - NIHR (National Institute of Health Research) responsible for Academic Recruitment

- Opens around 1 month before regular specialty application

- Designed for trainees without a higher degree (PhD/MD)

 NIHR Academic Fellowships in Medicine 

What is the application process and timeline for applications?
What options exist outside of clinical medicine?

We suggest that you book an appointment with one of the careers team to discuss your options and how to make informed choices. Impartial career conversations can be booked here  . Visit the Self-awareness and Explore pages to get advice and exercises that can help you identify your best options. 

The following resources can assist you researching the wide range of alternatives. 

Non-Clinical jobs

Medic Footprints

Non-medical CV's and cover letters

Alternative careers for Doctors

F3/Gap Resources  - a variety of links including working abroad, further study & fellowships

Alternatives to Medicine  non-clinical career options

Key resources for making speciality applications

Speciality Recruitment - person specification/ competition ratios

NHS Health careers - key information by speciality area

BMJ Specialty Guides – ‘complete guides’ – on a range of specialties

BMA Speciality Explorer  - online questionnaire linking specialities to your preferences

ACF  - National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) - key ACF information

F3/Gap Resources  - a variety of links including working abroad, further study & fellowships

Alternatives to Medicine  non-clinical career options

Oriel  - speciality recruitment platform

IMT Recruitment

GP Recruitment