Infectious diseases

Doctors working in infectious diseases diagnose, investigate and treat infections caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. 

You’ll combine your clinical and laboratory skills to diagnose and provide effective treatment for a wide range of infectious diseases. 

Screening for Ebola

Life in infectious diseases 

There are four distinct but interdependent infection specialties: infectious diseases, medical microbiology, medical virology and tropical medicine.  

So, among other conditions, you could treat:  

  • bone infections 
  • HIV 
  • pneumonia 
  • viral hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) 

The role is rapidly changing due to: 

  • an increase in resistance to antibiotics 
  • an increase in the severity of infections particularly in an ageing and more frail population  
  • the growing popularity of global travel heightening the need for expertise in the prevention and treatment of ‘international’ diseases 

You’ll regularly deliver: 

  • drug prescription 
  • insertion of a central venous catheter – a thin flexible hollow tube is inserted into a large vein for the introduction of fluids including medication 
  • lumbar puncture - a hollow needle is inserted into the lower part of the spinal canal to withdraw cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis or to inject medication 
  • sigmoidoscopy (examination of part of the intestine using a very small camera) 

How much can I earn? 

You’ll first earn a salary when you start your foundation training after medical school. The basic salary ranges from £32,398 to £37,303. Once you start your specialty training in the NHS, you can expect to earn a salary of at least £43,923, which can increase to between £93,666 and £126,281 as a consultant.

How about the benefits? 

  • make a difference 
  • flexible and part-time working 
  • high income early in your career  
  • work anywhere in the world  
  • excellent pension scheme 
  • good holiday entitlement 
  • NHS discounts in shops and restaurants 

Must-have skills 

  • excellent communication skills to manage a wide range of relationships with colleagues, and patients and their families  
  • emotional resilience, a calm temperament and the ability to work well under pressure  
  • teamwork and the capacity to lead multidisciplinary teams  
  • problem-solving and diagnostic skills  
  • outstanding organisational ability and effective decision-making skills  
  • first-class time and resource management for the benefit of patients  

Entry requirements 

Your first step is medical school. Typically, you’ll need excellent GCSEs and three A or A* passes at A level including chemistry for a five-year undergraduate degree in medicine. Many medical schools also ask for biology and others may require maths or physics.   

If you already have a degree, you could study for a four-year postgraduate degree in medicine.  

You’ll need to pass an interview and admissions test. You’ll be asked to show how you demonstrate the NHS values such as compassion and respect.  

Some medical schools look to recruit a mix of students from different backgrounds and geographical areas, so your educational and economic background and family circumstances could be considered as part of your application. 

What are my chances of starting a career in infectious diseases? 

There are approximately 130 consultants working in infectious diseases in the NHS in England.  

How to become an infectious diseases doctor 

After medical school, you’ll join the paid two-year foundation programme where you’ll work in six placements in different settings.  

After your foundation programme, you can apply for paid specialty training to become a doctor in infectious diseases, which will take a minimum of seven or eight years. 

You may be able to train part time, for example for health reasons or if you have family or caring responsibilities. 

Where a career in infectious diseases can take you 

Infectious diseases is a wide and varied area and you’ll have many opportunities to specialise.  

You can also combine your training with either general internal medicine or with medical microbiology (or virology) and tropical medicine.

You’ll also have opportunities to conduct research and teach. 

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