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Career Planning for Specialty Trainees

Throughout your surgical training, you will be responsible for planning your career and making the most of your opportunities to move onto the next stage. Our tips below will help make your career path as smooth as possible.

  • self-assessment  
  • keep up-to-date records
  • surgical logbook
  • workplace-based assessments
  • inter-deanery transfers
  • flexible working
  • transferable skills 


You should regularly assess your current position and evaluate what you still need to do (in terms of acquiring skills and demonstrating that you have done so) in order to progress.

You are likely to have formal opportunities to do this, either with your educational supervisor or through the appraisal process (ARCP). These will be much more beneficial if you are already reflecting on your achievements, skills and any aspects of work you find difficult. 

Keep up-to-date records

We recommend that you regularly update your CV and portfolio – not just when you apply for a new job. Keep useful documentation to reinforce your achievements:

  • certificates of attendance at courses/conferences
  • copies of publications
  • copies of completed workplace-based assessment

Any gaps in your recorded skills and experience should be addressed with the help of your educational supervisor and the appraisal process. 

Surgical logbook

You will need to continuously update your logbook. Avoid completing it in retrospect; you will find it difficult to remember and include all of the operations you have completed. 

Workplace-based assessments

Ensure you undertake all of the required workplace-based assessments outlined in your appraisal; a full list of these is available on the ISCP website.

Assessments are designed to judge whether you have reached the required level as set out in the curriculum and sign-post what you still need to learn. As such, they are invaluable tools to help you realistically consider your progress.

Inter-deanery transfers

An inter-deanery transfer (IDT) allows you to move to a different geographical location while keeping your training job.

The national IDT process aims to support trainees who have had an unforeseen and significant change in circumstances since commencement of their current training programme. The process is managed by the National IDT team (Health Education South London) on behalf of the Conference of Postgraduate Medical Deans (COPMeD), Health Education England (HEE) and all UK regions.

If you are planning to apply for an IDT, please visit the HEE website for guidance.

Flexible working

Flexible training – or less than full time training (LTFT) - can help you achieve an alternative work-life balance, while still progressing in your career. Flexible and LTFT training options are available to all trainees at all grades. You can find out more about eligibility and the benefits of flexible training in our flexible working section.

Transferable skills

During your training, you may want or need to reconsider your original career plan. Should this be the case, you will need to identify which of your skills are transferable, whether to another specialty or beyond surgery and medicine entirely.

Non-clinical skills that are transferable to all careers include:

  • management of resources, time and people
  • communication
  • decision-making
  • negotiation/influencing skills
  • teamwork
  • research
  • an understanding of how complex organisations work

You will have gained a wealth of clinical skills and knowledge that will allow you to pursue either alternative specialties within surgery or alternative medical specialties. You may be particularly suited to a specialty that has strong links with surgery, such as accident and emergency, obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics or interventional radiology.

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