Hospital doctor job profile

What do hospital doctors do?

Hospital doctors examine patients so that they can diagnose and treat health conditions and diseases. GPs (general practitioners) and other health professionals refer patients to hospital doctors. 

Medicine is a very wide field with many possible specialisms. Some doctors work in general medicine. Others may specialise in an area such as:

  • Anaesthetics – numbing areas of the body to relieve pain or putting people to sleep for operations 
  • Cardiology – the heart
  • Dermatology – the skin
  • Emergency medicine – treating patients in A&E (the accident and emergency department)
  • Neurology – the brain
  • Obstetrics and gynaecology – pregnancy and childbirth
  • Ophthalmology – the eyes
  • Paediatrics – sick and injured children 
  • Pathology – investigating the cause and effect of disease
  • Psychiatry – mental health 
  • Radiology – X-ray diagnosis
  • Surgery – performing operations
  • Trauma and orthopaedics – problems with bones and joints, which have happened in an accident or developed over time

The roles and responsibilities of a doctor depend on the specialism. For example, a surgeon’s job is very different to a psychiatrist’s job.

Duties of a doctor

  • Monitoring and caring for patients in hospitals and clinics
  • Investigating, diagnosing and treating the health conditions of patients
  • Prescribing and reviewing patients’ medication
  • Taking accurate notes, as a legal record and for other healthcare professionals to use
  • Working with other doctors, healthcare professionals and management staff
  • Educating people about their health
  • Teaching and supervising trainee doctors.

More senior doctors may also:

  • Manage a team or department and organise workloads
  • Research and review processes.

Working environment and hours

Doctors work in a range of different environments, including:

  • Consulting rooms
  • Hospital wards
  • Outpatient clinics (where patients don’t stay overnight)
  • Operating theatres
  • Special departments, like A&E (Accident and Emergency).

Doctors in the UK mainly work in the public sector, for the NHS (National Health Service). Some work in the private sector.

They work long hours. Their shifts are planned on a rota system, and it includes overnight and weekend work.

The National Careers Service says that doctors in hospitals tend to work 48 hours per week, but this will depend on the specialism.

Some doctors also need to be available in case of emergency, when they are not at work. This is called being ‘on-call’. 

Key skills

A hospital doctor job description is likely to include some or all of the following skills. 


Doctors need to be good communicators, so they can explain choices and procedures to patients.

Working under pressure

It is important for doctors in hospitals to be able to make the right decision quickly. They often have to work in highly pressurised environments, where a patient’s life could be in danger.

Bedside manner

All medical professionals need to be able to put patients at ease. Often, patients are dealing with situations that are distressing or painful. They need to be able to trust that they are in safe hands.


Doctors often have to manage a team of other doctors or health professionals. They need to earn the respect of the people they are managing by having good leadership and management skills.

Problem solving and initiative

Doctors need to review all of the symptoms and needs of each patient. They do this to work out what is wrong with the patient and decide on the right course of action. 

Time management and organisation

It is essential that doctors thoroughly check their rota and arrive at work on time. Sick and injured people depend on them every day, to cure diseases and save lives.

Attention to detail

Doctors need to be careful not to overlook any detail of a patient’s care. They must be sure to give the right dose of medicine and course of treatment to each patient. 


How much do doctors make a year?

A doctor’s salary depends on their experience and specialism. 

Starting salaries for trainee doctors range between £26,350 and £45,750 per year.

Experienced specialists are paid between £37,500 and £70,000.

Highly experienced doctors may earn more than £76,000 per year. This figure may rise to over £100,000 for highly experienced consultants. Surgeons working for private sector healthcare providers may earn even more. (Guideline salary information from National Careers Service)

Qualifications and training

The qualifications needed to be a doctor take many years to complete. Firstly a five-year medical degree, secondly a two-year foundation and finally a further four to six years for specialist training.

Find more information on how to become a hospital doctor here.

Medical pathways for international students


Qualifications and training

The qualifications needed to be a doctor take several years to complete.

Medicine degree pathways for international students

Bellerbys College provides international students with all the support they need to access an undergraduate medical degree in the UK. Programmes leading to undergraduate study include:

1. Undergraduate degree

In the UK, doctors must complete a five-year undergraduate medical degree. The degree must be recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC).

UK universities providing medical degrees often check the mental abilities and behaviour of applicants as well as their academic abilities and experience. They use the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) to do this. It can be an important step in deciding whether someone should be allowed to follow the doctor career path.

Doctors also need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. This check makes sure a person doesn’t have a criminal record that could affect their suitability to practice medicine.

2. Foundation

The next step is to pass a foundation programme of general training. This programme takes two years to complete. It builds on the knowledge, skills and competencies developed in undergraduate training.

3. Specialist training

Doctors usually spend between four and six years gaining a specialist qualification after they graduate.

Hospital doctor career paths

When a doctor becomes more experienced, he or she may become a team leader or the head of a department. 

In the UK, experienced doctors who are listed on the General Medical Council (GMC) Specialist Register may apply for senior positions. They are called consultants.

Consultants are responsible for their own workload. They also supervise the work and training of the other doctors on their team. Manager-level job roles for consultants include clinical lead within a team, clinical director of a department, and medical director within a trust (an organisation that runs a hospital on behalf of the NHS).

As a doctor progresses in their career, they need to complete more training and CPD (continuing professional development).

Some doctors go on to teach and train medical students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals.