The Average Age Of Doctors: From Medical School To Retirement

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.

A career in medicine is a long old road that can take you from a fresh-faced student all the way to retirement age.

In this article, I’ve broken down the average age of doctors at every stage of their career- starting with their first year at medical school.

I remember trying to calculate how old I’d be after finishing my GP training and thinking how old I’d be… and now I’m nearly there!

What Is The Average Age Of Students Going To Medical School?

If you’re considering applying to medical school but you’re not a direct school leaver, you may be trying to suss out the average age of a medical student in the UK.

No one wants to be that weird old guy or girl sat at the back of the class…

The average age of students going to medical school in the UK is 20. Direct school leavers make up the majority of a medical school’s intake, at approximately 42%. However, a significant portion of students apply to medicine slightly later in life, with the average age of graduate entry medicine students being 23.

Unable to find any relevant data on the web, to get these figures I conducted a small poll of my own.

I asked over 750 people how old they were in their first year of medical school. Here are the results:

AgePercentage of Respondents
23 and above21%

Although as you can see the largest proportion of respondents were 18 in their first year of medical school, over 1 in 5 people were aged 23 and above.

You won’t be in a tiny minority if you’re coming to medical school later in life.

What I can say from my time at Leicester Medical School is that age really won’t play much of a part in your medical school experience.

Leicester’s undergraduate and graduate entry medicine courses are initially taught in a combined stream and in day-to-day university life, there was no discernible difference between direct school leavers and older students.

A group of medical students working together on a project

And that includes graduates who were actually on the undergraduate course- you won’t be singled out because of your age!

If you’re considering studying medicine but are hesitant because of this reservation, I’d totally say you should go for it.

After all, you always have the option of only applying to graduate entry medicine courses…

The Average Age Of Graduate Entry Medicine Students

Having already done a degree, the average age of graduate entry medicine students is always going to be a bit older than on the undergraduate courses.

In this analysis of graduate entry medicine admission statistics, the ages of GEM students were as follows:

AgePercentage of Students

So although the modal age range is 22-24, a whopping 39.5% of graduate entry medicine students are aged 25 and over.

So statistically, you’re very likely to be in good company if you’re an older applicant looking at graduate-entry courses.

If you’re still on the fence about whether you’re too old to apply, check out this guide where I answer how old is too old to go to medical school.

How Old Is A Newly Qualified Doctor In The UK?

I’m certain my patients must think newly qualified doctors are getting younger and younger.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last two years I’ve been told I look too young to be a doctor!

Newly qualified doctors in the UK are, on average, 25 years old. Their age will depend on the length of time they spent at medical school, with courses varying from 4-6 years long, and their age at enrolment. If a student had done a previous degree before studying medicine they will also be significantly older.

Because of how many different factors come into play, by just quoting one average it’s difficult to capture the full age range at which doctors qualify.

In this table, I’ve tried to capture the most common circumstances from which junior doctors qualify and their age at graduation.

GEM Course5 Year A1006 Year A100
Direct School Leaver2324
Gap Year Student2425
Postgraduate Plus26+27+28+

From it we can see a newly qualified doctor might have just had their 23rd birthday or be at the tail end of their 20s!

As a note, ‘Postgraduate Plus’ refers to someone who might have done a previous degree as well as having had a gap year or indeed spent a couple of years in the world of work before coming back to medical school.

Although 23-year-olds will make up the majority of fresh-faced junior doctors, a significant portion will have a bit more life experience under their belt.

What Age Is The Youngest Doctor?

So, we’ve covered the average age at which medical students qualify, but what’s the youngest anyone has ever become a doctor?

The youngest person ever to become a doctor was 17 years old. Balamurali Ambati, an Indian American ophthalmologist, entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1995 when he graduated from Mount Sinai School of Medicine at 17 years and 294 days old.

After graduating from New York University at age 13, he enrolled in Mount Sinai medical school at the ripe old age of 14!

Child prodigies aside then, what’s the youngest you could reasonably graduate from a UK medical school?

A not too uncommon scenario is a student completing their Scottish Highers (A-level equivalent) at only 17.

Although some UK medical schools have a minimum age of 18, many don’t have any restrictions on the age of their students.

Therefore, if you went to medical straight after finishing school at 17, you could be a qualified doctor at only 22.

How Old Are Junior Doctors In The UK?

You’ll likely have heard ‘junior doctors’ referred to on the news, on the ward, or maybe even by friends who are doctors.

But how old actually are junior doctors?

The majority of junior doctors in the UK are between 23 and 35 years old. You become a junior doctor immediately after graduating from medical school, with people generally qualifying between the ages of 23 and 27. There is in fact no upper limit on how old a junior doctor can be.

The term is actually quite misleading as ‘junior doctor’ refers to any doctor who hasn’t completed their clinical training in its entirety.

Therefore, the older ‘junior doctors’ will actually be significantly experienced doctors in their own right.

Colloquially, a junior doctor would be a doctor in their first two years of work following graduation- i.e. in the foundation programme so an FY1 or FY2.

Doctors at this stage of their career are generally 23 to 29 years old, depending on how old they were when they went to medical school.

As I mentioned above, there is in fact no upper age limit on being a ‘junior’ doctor. Just as there’s no upper age limit on going to medical school!

To confuse matters, some doctors never choose to take up a consultancy post.

Thus, they could be considered a ‘junior’ doctor for their entire careers! (This is, admittedly, a rare scenario.)

If you’re interested in learning more about the phases of medical training, my guide on how long it takes to become a doctor explores a full timeline and approximate ages for the different stages of a career in medicine.

What Age Do Doctors Start Making Money?

The reality of life is that everyone needs money- for rent, for food and for holidays!

So, if you’re considering a career in medicine, you may be wondering at what age doctors actually start making money?

Doctors start making money as soon as they graduate from medical school, so at approximately 25 years old. Their salary will keep increasing with age as they progress up the training ladder until they’re in their late 30s. From this point, doctors may choose to supplement their income with private work.

You will receive a paycheck after your first month’s work as a doctor!

A doctor using their laptop in between cases

The exact age you receive this money will of course depend on how old you were when you went to medical school and how long a course you enrolled in.

Admittedly, for the first few years of work in the NHS as a doctor, your salary won’t be much to write home about.

For their level of education, length in training and demands of the job, junior doctors in the UK are relatively underpaid.

However, it can be argued that this is offset by their earning potential later in their careers.

You could say doctors really start making money after they’ve completed their clinical training and are in a position to start doing some private work or make partner in a GP practice.

For a GP this could be as young as 28, or in their early thirties for hospital doctors.

What Age Do Most Doctors Retire?

The age people choose to retire from a profession can reflect a number of different things- how well paid the work is, how much they enjoy the work and how demanding the job is.

Which is why you may be wondering at what age most doctors retire…

The average age of retirement in the UK for doctors is 59.6 years old. This age varies by specialty, with GPs retiring on average earlier than their hospital-based counterparts. A significant portion of doctors also choose to retire from full-time jobs but continue with some part-time medical work.

Being approximately five years earlier than the national average, it certainly seems to indicate that doctors are able to make a good living whilst also saving effectively for retirement.

Interestingly, in this paper published in 2018, from which the above retirement statistics were drawn, over one-quarter of retired doctors they surveyed had returned for some medical work.

I think this is a really positive sign that doctors do actually enjoy their work!

The breakdown by specialty of retirement ages from the paper was also incredibly interesting:

  • Psychiatrists retired the earliest at 58.3 years old
  • Next were GPs at 59.5 years old
  • Then, radiologists at 60.4
  • Hospital specialists retired at an average of 60.0 years old
  • While surgeons were the last to leave the party at 60.1

So, if you’re looking for the quickest route to relaxing your golden years away on a beach with a cocktail in hand, choose psychiatry!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you’ve now got a good understanding of the average ages of doctors throughout their careers.

The thing with medicine is people come at it from many different directions- so there’s rarely a standard age at which doctors do stuff.

But now you’ve read this guide, you should be well aware of that!

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.