A Microbiologist’s Route to the UK
There are several routes a microbiologist can take to register with the GMC and practice in the UK.
Microbiologists looking to secure a job in the NHS must satisfy certain criteria before to be eligible for GMC registration, which is a requirement to work in the UK. This generally depends on where you received your training, and the qualifications you hold.
In this blog, we’ll be giving you a snapshot of the steps you need to take to begin your journey to the UK as an overseas microbiologist. We’ll be covering the following:
Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you’re looking for.
The General Medical Council
The GMC is the body in the UK which is responsible for licensing and revalidating every doctor. Therefore, for every doctor practicing in the UK, GMC registration is essential – you cannot practice in the UK without full GMC registration with a license to practise.
The primary responsibility of the General Medical Council is to ‘protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public’ in addition to improving medical education and practice across the UK.
Requirements for GMC Registration
Registering with the GMC is a multi-stage process, including key timings, actions and documents. For full GMC registration, international doctors must provide evidence of:
Skills & Knowledge for EEA Microbiologists
For microbiologists who trained in an EEA country (all countries inside the EU, also Lichtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland & Norway), you may be able to use your primary medical qualification (PMQ) or specialist qualification to register with the GMC.
Basic Medical Training
If you meet the requirements for basic medical training, you would be eligible for full registration.
You will not need to demonstrate your medical knowledge and skills to work as a doctor in the UK and would therefore not need to complete any additional skills and knowledge tests to register for a license to practice.
Specialist Training / Residency
If you meet the criteria for entry onto the Specialist Register, then once you have completed the GMC application process, you would be granted Specialist Registration in microbiology and can be appointed as a substantive or permanent consultant in the NHS.
Therefore, for European microbiologists, using your primary medical qualification (PMQ) or specialist qualification is most likely the easiest route to becoming GMC-registered and being able to practice microbiology in the UK.
To find out if your country’s qualifications will allow you to register for either GMC registration; check the relevant GMC page here.
If your training does not meet the GMC requirements for general or specialist registration, other routes you may consider to GMC registration as listed below.
Skills & Knowledge for non-EEA Microbiologists
If you qualified as a microbiologist outside the EEA, then you will have to demonstrate that both your medical knowledge and skills meet the level required to practice safely in the UK.
IMG microbiologists can demonstrate skills and knowledge through three main routes:
PLAB or the Professional & Linguistics Assessment Board is a two-part exam that assesses a doctor’s ability to work safely as an SHO in the NHS, as such it does not demonstrate ability in microbiology specifically. For this reason, PLAB tends to be a route for junior doctors who have not already chosen their field of specialisation in medicine.
That said, for some senior doctors PLAB can be an attractive option, offering a quicker route to the UK, whilst still securing competitive salaries. If taking this option, microbiologists can then take up training or a more senior post once they have established themselves in the NHS. Take a look through our comprehensive guides on PLAB.
The Royal College of Pathologists is the professional body that regulates the specialism of microbiology in the UK, and Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath) is the full qualification attainable by examination.
For overseas doctors, attaining FRCPath will satisfy the knowledge & skill criteria for GMC registration and facilitate application for more senior roles in UK pathology. Take a look at IMG Resources library for a complete guide to FRCPath to learn more.
GMC-recognised or equivalent qualifications
Some overseas qualifications and licensing exams are recognised by the GMC and accepted for registration purposes.
To find out if your qualification is accepted by the GMC, take a look at our blog: GMC-accepted postgraduate qualifications.
English Language Testing
Both EEA and non-EEA microbiologists, regardless of experience and country of origin, must demonstrate that they have a sufficient grasp and competence of the English language. This can be done by passing either the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or the OET (OET – Occupational English Test). Detailed guides to these tests can be found below:
IELTS – a guide for overseas doctors
OET – a guide for overseas doctors
Exemption from English tests
For doctors who have at least two years of their most recent experience in an English-speaking country, you can use a reference from your current employer or employers over these two or more years to demonstrate competence of the English language. This would exempt you from sitting an English language exam.
Certificate of Good Standing
All doctors registering with the GMC must provide a certificate of good standing from each medical regulatory authority they’ve been registered or licensed with in the last five years.
The medical regulatory authority may send you a certificate of past good standing if you're not currently registered or licensed with them. You can find out which medical regulatory authority to contact via the GMC website here.
If there's no medical regulatory authority in the country to issue a certificate, the GMC will give you further advice once your application has been assessed.
Please note that each certificate is only valid for three months from the date it's signed and must be valid when we approve your application.
Applying for GMC Registration
Once you’ve completed your English language exam, you can now apply for full GMC registration with a license to practice. For registration, you must provide evidence of:
English language capabilities - either your IELTS, OET or an approved reference from your current employer
Certificate of good standing – the certificate from your medical regulatory authority which demonstrates good standing
(EEA microbiologists) Sufficient skill and knowledge – as an EEA microbiologist, this would either be your recognised EEA qualification
(Non-EEA microbiologist) Sufficient skill and knowledge – as a non-EEA microbiologist, this would either be PLAB, FRCPath or a GMC-approved qualification.
To understand the registration process more fully, read our article on GMC registration for overseas doctors here.
IMGs relocating to the UK will need to apply for a visa from the Home Office.
A Tier 2 visa is the document given to a skilled worker by the UK Home Office following a job offer from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 Sponsorship License. The list of valid Tier 2 Sponsors can be found here.
Understand Tier 2 visas and Certificates of Sponsorship in depth by taking a look at our article: Tier 2 Visa application process & documents needed.
Wondering whether you can relocate with your family? Take a look at our blog on the Tier 2 dependent visa below: Tier 2 Dependent visa - Can I bring my family with me to the UK?
There you have it! Hopefully this clarifies any worries or doubts you may have on your route to the UK as a microbiologist planning a career in the NHS. If you have any questions or wish to know more about the microbiology job market, then get in touch with our team.
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