Medical StudentThe College has developed information to help students understand what a physician is and does, and the future career potential when considering career options and paths.

Free College membership for medical students 

Did you know that medical students receive free membership of the College? This can be particularly useful whilst thinking about your career path in medicine. Benefits include access to a range of online medical education, regular news updates and the opportunity to become actively involved in the work of the College. Find out more and apply online.

What is a physician?

A physician is a non-surgical medical specialist working within the hospital sector. Physicians specialise in areas of internal medicine and there are currently 32 medical specialties including cardiology, gastroenterology, general and respiratory medicine etc. Physicians provide expert treatment for out-patients referred to them by General Practitioners and also treat in-patients within hospital settings.

Physician careers

Training to become a physician offers great career potential for medical graduates with the main goal of becoming Consultant Physician in a chosen specialty, but other career grades are also available. Physicians can enjoy very rewarding careers mastering their specialty, leading clinical teams, influencing clinical practice and training the next generation of doctors.

“Training to become a physician has provided me with an opportunity to develop my specialist knowledge and interest to a far greater extent than I could have in general practice. This has led to a professionally and financially rewarding career in which this knowledge is valued and can be used to influence current and future clinical practice for the benefit of patients”.


Postgraduate training takes an average of 8-10 years from entry to completion, depending on specialty. This comprises:

  • Foundation Years training (during which trainees are exposed to a range of specialties);
  • Internal Medical Training (during which all trainees receive training in core medical competencies); and
  • Specialty Training in the individual’s specialty of choice (during which individuals may take “time out” to participate in research and other activities)

Further detail regarding this process can be accessed in our specialty training guide.

Progress into Internal Medical Training and Specialty Training is by open competition. Competition ratios for recruitment into training vary greatly by specialty and early consideration of your future career and specialty area is strongly advised.

Further, information and advice about medical career options can be accessed on the NHS Medical Careers website.

How does the College support physicians?

The College is responsible for standard setting through the Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCPUK) Diploma examination, which is a mandatory requirement for entry into specialty training in the UK and also an internationally recognised standard of clinical excellence. We also oversee the medical curricula within specialty training. Both of these activities are undertaken nationally in conjunction with our sister Colleges. Our involvement in training is discharged to the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians’ Training Board (JRCPTB) with whom all trainees have to be enrolled to undergo medical training in the UK.

The College is also a professional membership organisation offering physicians a wide range of professional support, education and representation throughout their career. Our Fellows and Members contribute their time voluntarily to our standard-setting activities and the Royal Colleges play a very significant role in supporting the NHS and ensure that such areas remain professionally led.

As you progress in your medical career, the College can support you by enabling you to keep up to date with developments in your own and other specialties which may impact upon your practice. In the UK, we also support physicians through the revalidation process in which all doctors will be required to demonstrate their fitness to practice on an ongoing basis.

Our medical education for students

Students are welcome to attend our educational events. Our popular Evening Medical Updates may be of particular interest given their relevance to the Internal Medicine Training (IMT) curriculum. These are organised monthly during the academic year (September – June). Please visit our Events Calendar for details and all other upcoming educational events. Students who become members of our College can also access a wide range of digital education content through our Education Portal.

Representation of students’ interests

We recognise that medical students are the trainee doctors and consultants of the future. If you would like to contribute to this work please contact


Practical, unbiased information and advice on alternative sources of funding, tips on saving money, how to borrow sensibly and getting the most out of medical school on a budget. Money4MedStudents is your one-stop-advice-shop to help you manage your money whilst studying. Money4MedStudents is a project of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund.