Training and development (cardiothoracic surgery)

This page provides useful information on the training and development for this specialty and also has tips for people at all stages of their career including medical school.   

Please download the full cardiothoracic training pathway here

Training to be a cardiothoracic surgeon involves core training (CT) and specialty training (ST). If entry is at CT1, core training forms the first two years. If applying for ST3 entry, there is an expectation that this will have been preceded by two years of core-training (CT1-2).

Core surgical training CT1-2 or ST1-2 lasts two years and provides training in hospitals in a range of surgical specialties. Six months should be in cardiothoracic surgery. During the first two years of your training you must pass the examination to give you membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS).

Specialty cardiothoracic training (ST3-8) lasts between six and eight years, although this can vary according to individual circumstances. During this time you will be employed as a specialty trainee.

At the end of this training you can then apply for consultant posts. However, before you can do this you must take further examinations leading to specialty fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. To work in the UK as a consultant you need a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). Many people proceed to a senior fellowship position or locum consultant position to get more protected senior experience before taking on a permanent consultant position.

Detailed entry requirements and all essential and desirable criteria are listed in the Person Specification 2017 for cardiothoracic surgery ST1 and ST3.

All 2017 person specifications can be found on the NHS specialty training website. Please note that these documents are updated every year in the autumn before the recruitment round opens.

*This information is correct at the time of writing. Full and accurate details of training pathways are available from medical royal collegeslocal education and training boards (LETBs) or the GMC.

Getting in tips

The Oriel website has detailed information on entry requirement, including the person specifications for ST1 and ST3 training in cardiothoracic surgery.

As cardiothoracic surgery (and surgery in general) is so competitive, it is important to develop your practical skills and interest in surgery as early as you can. This will also give you valuable experience to add to your CV. Here are some suggestions for people at different stages of their career:

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