How Long Does it Take to Become a Consultant Doctor?

Consultant specialties include surgery.
Consultant specialties include surgery. (Image: NA/ Images)

A consultant, or specialist physician, is the most highly trained of all medical personnel. Consultants can specialize in fields such as cardiology, gastroenterology, rheumatology, neurology and many more. To reach this level, you must undergo lengthy training even beyond medical school. The total number of years of study can vary depending on the specialty you wish to practice.

Undergraduate and Medical School

The first steps toward a consultant’s career begin with an appropriate undergraduate degree. Usually this will entail a four-year degree with a science based major. Following this, you will spend a further four years in medical school.

Hospital Training

All doctors, even those who do not intend to become consulting physicians, must undergo further training once they graduate medical school. This mandatory, hospital-based training – called a residency -- usually lasts three years, and includes rotations around all of the major practice areas.


Once this initial hospital training is finished, doctors who wish to reach the highest level in one specialty or another will continue to study and practice just in this area. For some specialties, this further training can last another four or five years until they reach the pinnacle of their profession. It will include both advanced clinical practice and original research. For this kind of doctor his college-level education and beyond has lasted around 16 years.

Salary and Expectations

Just as they are the most highly trained medical personnel, consultants or specialists are also the most highly compensated. According to a 2008 study by the Medical Group Management Association, specialists make an average of $339,738 annually. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the outlook for employment for specialist physicians is good, with job openings expected to grow much faster than the average for all careers through 2018, with a projected 22 percent increase in demand.

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