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How to find your first NHS job as an IMG

Post date: 18/11/2022 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 21/11/2022

If you are looking for your first job as an IMG doctor in the UK, Dr Kimberley Tan from The Savvy IMG has some tips to help you succeed.

If you want to enjoy a long medical career in the UK, it’s important to start off on the right foot. Ideally, this means working in a specialty that you enjoy, at an appropriate level, in a supportive department.

In this article we discuss what kind of jobs you should be looking for, and where to find them.

Narrow down your choices

There are so many different types of roles for doctors in the NHS, but they won’t all be appropriate for your individual circumstances. By being more selective in the beginning, you will maximise your chance of finding a role where you can truly thrive.

The main factors to consider are:

  • Specialty
  • Level
  • Support

If you have already completed postgraduate training in a particular specialty, or have more than three years’ experience in one specialty, the choice is obvious - apply for jobs in the specialty you have a background in.

But what do you do if you haven’t completed any specialist training yet?The emergency department and acute medical ward are usually good specialties to start in because they manage patients with a diverse range of conditions and tend to be well supported. However, you’re not limited to those specialties. In most cases, you can actually work in any specialty you’re interested in provided you work at a junior level.

There are three main levels of jobs for doctors: junior, middle and senior.

Junior level jobs are suitable for more recent graduates or those who have yet to specialise. In this role, you will manage the more common urgent medical conditions. Decisions about specialist management and carrying out advanced procedures will have to be deferred to a senior.

Middle grade jobs are best for those who have completed specialty training or have more than three years’ experience in the specialty. Since this is a more senior role, you will be responsible for supervising juniors and taking on the more complex decision making.

Senior grades include consultants and locum consultants. This may be suitable for you if you have a decade of experience in your specialty. As a consultant you will be responsible for supervising the junior and middle grade doctors, making the difficult decisions, carrying out the complex procedures, and ensuring the smooth running of the service. For a more detailed breakdown on the different job titles you might come across for each level, I recommend this article over at the Savvy IMG.

Having the right level of support from your seniors and your hospital when you first start working in the NHS is crucial. IMGs face several challenges both inside and outside  work, and many hospitals have done well to anticipate these challenges and assist IMGs in successfully making the transition to the UK.

So, what kind of support should you be looking for in a first job? Here is a brief list of things I would recommend looking for:

  • Formal induction before starting any clinical role (not four weeks later, after you have struggled for a whole month!)
  • Adjustment period of at least four weeks where you will not be on-call until you have settled in and shadowed another doctor working in a similar role to you
  • Some form of IMG network or mentorship programme in the hospital or region
  • Educational support such as an educational supervisor, access to study leave or study budget to sit exams or attend courses and conferences
  • Support to complete any competences or certificates you might need to apply for specialty training if that’s your goal.

You can find out whether certain departments or hospitals offer this type of support by simply asking at the interview, or by asking around in the IMG community.

Look in the right places

Once you have a good idea about the type of job that you’re looking for, it’s time to search for vacancies. There are several websites that you can use to search for jobs, and we’ll review some of them here.

NHS jobs
Most NHS vacancies are listed on one of the several official NHS jobs websites. Here you can search for roles by job title, specialty and location.

Hospital websites

If you are set on working at a particular hospital, it’s worth checking out their official website where they will maintain a list of up-to-date vacancies. Just search “name of hospital + jobs” and select the category “Medical and Dental”.

Here are some examples of available jobs listed in some well-known hospitals.

Recruitment agencies

These organisations typically focus on jobs for doctors who already have some specialist experience under their belt, although some can also help with more inexperienced recent graduates. Examples of some recruitment agencies include: 


In this guide, we looked at how to identify the type of job that would be suitable for your first role in the NHS, and where to find it. Filtering through all the available vacancies and finding the positions that are suited to you is key to job hunting success. Once you have found all the suitable jobs (and there may be many!), it’s time to write up your CV and prepare for the interview.

About the author

Dr Kimberley Tan is from The Savvy IMG, an online resource for IMGs, written by IMGs. The website now offers 80+ free guides, two online courses with more to come, and an IMG coaching service. Visit thesavvyimg.co.uk for more information. 

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