How Much Do Doctors Earn In The UK? (Real Figures)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

We all know that doctors are generally well paid. But just how well paid? How much do doctors earn in the UK?

The average salary for a doctor working in the UK is approximately £76,000. NHS basic pay starts at £29,000 for a newly qualified doctor and goes all the way up to £114,000 for an experienced consultant. In addition to experience, the field a doctor works in as well as their hours will have bearings on their pay.

There are just so many factors that go into how much doctors earn it can be difficult to put a single figure on the ‘average’ amount.

The average earnings of a ‘doctor’ has to encompass the newly minted graduate all the way up to the 20+ year plastic surgeon who works most of their time in their London private practice.

£76,000 was, at the time of my writing this article, the best estimate of an average salary from a number of different medical job sites. However, there’s a lot more to this answer than just a single number.

To have the figures make a bit more sense, as well as looking at an overall view, I’ve broken the question down into a few different parts: looking at junior doctors, surgeons and finally GPs.

What Is The Average Salary For A Doctor?

As I say, because of the wide variety of work within the medical field, it can be difficult for a single average salary to be representative for all doctors.

In this table, I’ve roughly divided doctors into a few different categories so we can look at their average salaries respectively:

Type of DoctorAverage Salary
Junior Doctor (FY1/FY2)£31,500
Middle Grade Doctor£51,000
Figures from Medscape’s 2021 survey of over 1,000 doctors

The exact figures for these categories will always depend on who you ask. I’ve gone with those from Medscape’s 2021 survey, but as an example of the variance out there GP Online’s survey of their personal members found the average GP salary to be £100,700 in 2019/20.

These differences will always exist because of the variation in how we define different types of doctor as well as who actually responds to the survey.

Maybe all the top-earning GPs were too busy with their feet up on a beach with a cocktail in hand to answer Medscape’s survey!

How Much Does A Junior Doctor Earn?

If you’re thinking of going to medical school or you’re just curious, you’re probably wondering how much a junior doctor earns.

A junior doctor in the UK will earn an average of £31,500 per year. The salary for a doctor’s first year of work is £29,000 but this rises to £34,000 in their second year. A junior doctor’s salary will also increase if they’re working more weekends or out of hours shifts.

I’m using the term ‘junior doctor’ here to mean a doctor in their first two years of work following graduation. In these years they’re referred to as an FY1 (Foundation Year 1) or an FY2.

Foundation doctors have a set base pay that then is built upon depending on the type of work they’re doing.

You get paid more for doing out of hours shifts, such as weekends or nights, or just for working longer hours.

A junior doctor helps plaster a little boy’s broken arm

So a foundation doctor working in the Accident & Emergency department is likely to be earning more than their colleague in psychiatry.

A junior doctor’s pay will also vary depending on where they are in the country. For example, as compensation for the higher cost of living, junior doctors in London are generally paid two to three thousand pounds extra per year.

As a junior doctor, you also often have the option of taking on extra shifts for extra pay. These are called ‘locum’ shifts- it’s essentially being a temp doctor, similar to a temp teacher.

If the hospital needs more manpower for whatever reason (staff sickness, understaffed, particularly busy etc.) they’ll put out extra shifts that you can fill as a junior doctor.

By regularly doing locum shifts throughout the year, a junior doctor can substantially increase their salary.

How Much Does A Surgeon Earn?

Popular culture often depicts a surgeon driving away from the hospital in their fancy sports car after having just saved someone’s life on the operating table.

But can surgeons really afford to spend all their time at the golf club when not on the ward? How much does the average surgeon in the UK actually earn?

A surgeon earns an average of £110,000 per year in the UK. This figure will vary depending on their level of training and experience, as well as the specialty they work in. Many surgeons also have a private practice that can significantly increase their take-home income.

The answer of how much a ‘surgeon’ earns also largely depends on who you define to be a ‘surgeon.’

Surgical training pathways are some of the longest in medicine. Maxillofacial surgery for example takes a whopping 11-13 years of training after graduating from medical school!

A surgeon in training will be earning a lot less than their consultant counterparts, despite how long the pathway takes.

Although technically ‘trainees,’ these doctors are more than capable of performing operations on their own and towards the end of their training are practically at the same level as the consultants.

Years of Being a Surgical TraineeSalary
Figures from BMA pay scales for junior doctors

What type of surgeon the doctor is can also have an impact on their earnings. Not so much on their base salary, this remains £84,559 – £114,003 depending on how long they’ve been a consultant in the NHS, but rather their private earning potential.

Particular types of surgeons are able to make a lot more money in the private sector than others- which I go into more detail on in this article exclusively about how much surgeons make.

How Much Does A GP Earn?

Approximately a third of all doctors go on to become GPs. Being the most popular individual specialty, how much do GPs earn?

A GP earns an average of £108,000 per year in the UK. NHS salaried GPs’ basic pay ranges from £65,000 to £98,000. However, many GPs are partners in their own practices- meaning they’re in charge of running their practice as a business and can take home significantly larger salaries.

GP practices are a somewhat unique part of the NHS because they’re largely run like private businesses. As a GP partner, you’re essentially becoming a partner in this business- meaning if the practice is doing well you’ll get paid more, but conversely, if things go wrong then you’re on the hook.

A GP sat at his desk in the consulting room

As a broad rule of thumb, a GP partner will get paid more than their salaried counterparts. But, they do have the additional stress of running the operation- including hiring, maintenance, taxes… instead of just turning up as a doctor and seeing patients.

NHS Digital’s GP Earnings and Expenses Estimates seemed to back up this generalisation:

The estimated average income before tax of GPs in either a General Medical Services or a Primary Medical Services practice in 2022 was:

£142,800 for contractor GPs
£64,900 for salaried GPs

Aside from being a partner or salaried GP, a third option is to become a locum GP.

These GPs normally just have short-term to zero-hours contracts with local GP practices- meaning they’re able to plug gaps when extra doctors are needed at the practice. For example, when partners go off sick or want to take leave.

Locum GPs often don’t work full-time, so don’t have impressively large annual incomes, but can command very high hourly rates (potentially >£100/hour).

Find a more detailed breakdown of salaried vs partner vs locum GPs in this article all about how much a GP in the UK can earn.

What Are The Highest Paid Medical Specialties?

In the world of medicine, as in the wider world, all things are not equal.

Doctors in certain specialties can earn significantly more than others- which often has nothing to do with the level of skill required or experience of the doctor.

So, if you’re after the big bucks, you may want to know what the highest paying medical specialties are…

The top three highest-paid medical specialties are plastic surgery, trauma and orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery. Despite having roughly the same basic pay in the NHS, doctors in these specialties are able to develop incredibly lucrative private practices.

Although slightly out of date now, this paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine was an analysis of consultants’ NHS and private incomes in England in 2003/4 and gives valuable insight into the top-earning doctors:

SpecialtyNHS IncomePrivate IncomeTotal Income
Plastic Surgery£75,004£142,723£217,727
Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery£74,157£103,759£177,915

As you can see, the private earnings of doctors in these specialties often dwarf their NHS salary. By being able to offer private operations to patients they’re able to supplement their NHS work with sometimes staggeringly large private paychecks.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, there is a huge variation in what a ‘doctor’ can be earning. Which really just reflects the huge variety of work open to doctors within the field of medicine.

I’d never recommend someone to go to medical school with the aim of making a lot of money. Honestly, there are just far easier ways of doing it out there.

But, if you’re passionate about improving the lives of your patients it can be reassuring to know that you’ll be well rewarded for it.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.