What’s the difference between a junior doctor and a consultant?

June 20, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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In the United Kingdom, a junior doctor is a qualified medical practitioner who is in post-graduate training to become a general practitioner or a consultant.

A consultant is a fully qualified doctor who is solely responsible for the medical treatment and outcome of their patients’ care. The role carries a great deal more personal responsibility. You may choose to become a general practitioner without becoming a consultant.

Junior Doctor

A junior doctor is a postgraduate medical student who may be interested in becoming a General Practitioner and is beginning or has already begun the academic training to do so. A medical student may hold the position of junior doctor anywhere from five to fifteen years.

A junior doctor must begin examination preparation to become a member of one of the Royal Medical Colleges. The student may choose to begin post-graduate training as a General Practitioner, who specializes in family health or a Consultant, who may have a specific area they prefer to deal with.

The term ‘junior’ belies the responsibilities that these doctors shoulder. In any setting, junior doctors are qualified to perform tasks that are almost similar to licensed physicians and they often also make managerial decision such as team leadership decisions.

Most of the junior doctors in the UK are employed by hospitals. Junior doctors earn an average annual income of £22,600 during Foundation Year 1. This goes up to about £28,000 for Foundation Year 2 practitioners.


A consultant is the title of a senior hospital-based physician or surgeon who has completed all specialist training and licensure requirements and who has registered themselves as such in their chosen medical specialty. Their role in the medical field is distinct from that of a general practitioner.

A consultant is someone who has taken their training and medical skill set beyond that of a general practitioner. The time to complete consultancy specialisations depends upon the choice of specialisation.

Many consultants work on a contractual basis through one or more hospital trusts. These are known as substantive consultant positions. They may also lead a team of hospital doctors, Foundation doctors, clinical assistants and Associate doctors in research and clinical practices.

Consultants often work with the National Health Services and some may choose to also begin a private practice. On average, these professionals earn higher salaries than junior doctors or General Practitioners, which is commensurate with the longer period of time spent in specialty training as well as the higher levels of responsibilities they are expected to shoulder on the job.

Is a career as a consultant right for you?

In deciding whether you should consider practising as a consultant, there are several factors you will need to take into consideration. Your earning potential may be significantly higher as a consultant but you must be prepared to spend that extra time in training. You must also be prepared to shoulder the additional responsibility that comes with the job.

A huge decision you will have to make is which field you would like to specialise in as a consultant as that will impact your entire career, from the training time to your work hours and your responsibilities on the job.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.