Which Specialty makes the happiest doctors?

In this article, we explore which specialties are rated highest for overall satisfaction and workload. This is based on ratings given by doctors across the country for all specialties at Core and Specialty levels in the GMC 2018 Survey. It is important to note that this is a trainee survey only – no opinions or ratings by Consultants are taken into account.

We hope that this snapshot will provide an interesting and thought-provoking overview to kickstart your research.

Messly wants to help doctors make evidence-based decisions about their careers. We’ve put together a short guides to all UK foundation schools to help you rank your rotation programmes. Sign up to Messly to learn more – we’ve got over 40,000 junior doctor ratings for you to explore.

Here are the results of our number crunching for the 2018 data on which Specialty makes the happiest doctors:

Graph showing Overall Satisfaction against Workload for the following specialties: General Practice, Histopathology, Clinical Radiology, Anaesthetics, Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Neonatal Medicine, Intensive Care Medicine, Urology, Rheumatology, General Psychiatry, Clinical Oncology, Plastic Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, ENT, Endocrinology and Diabetes Mellitus, Paediatrics, Haematology, General Surgery, Renal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Respiratory Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Neurology, Medical Oncology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Geriatric Medicine, Cardiology, General (Internal) Medicine, Acute Internal Medicine. They are listed in order of decreasing Overall Satisfaction.

Key Takeaways

1. General Practice stands out for satisfaction

It may come as no surprise that General Practice leads the way for the most satisfied doctors in the UK. They rate their workload as one of the most manageable, although there is significant regional and practice variation in this. These findings echo a trend that has remained true over the last few years.


Read our interview with Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the current Chair of RCGP, about her top tips for junior doctors considering the field and how she expects training to change in the coming years.


More so than in most specialties, GPs have a huge breadth of choice in what they choose to do in their career – have a read of our interviews with a GP trainee, Portfolio GP, and academic GP to find out more.


2. Radiology, Pathology and Anaesthetics are the best hospital specialities

These top three specialties are closely followed by Dermatology and Ophthalmology. Many doctors will have heard of the ROAD acronym that lists the professions associated with a better work/life balance. Our data supports this view with some of the best workload and satisfaction ratings for these specialties. 

At the other end of the spectrum the Medical specialties feature heavily, with General Medicine, Cardiology and Geriatrics having the worst satisfaction and workload ratings across the board. Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Oncology and Emergency Medicine are close behind.

We’ve interviewed a huge range of specialty doctors about their working lives, from Anaesthetic Registrars and Radiology Trainees to Geriatric Consultants – head over to our My Life as a Doctor collection to read further insights into the different specialties.


3. There is a very close correlation with the workload and overall satisfaction

It’s clear from our analysis that doctors who are most satisfied with their specialities tend to be the ones with the most manageable workload. This suggests that picking specialities with a better work-life balance is wise.


4. This is only part of the picture – sign up to Messly to explore our Training Navigator

The figures in this blog are blended for all the UK’s regions. There will be variation between different regions and different grades. Our Training Navigator will help you deep dive into the quality of training, clinical supervision and workload at specific rotations within these regions. These are the most comprehensive and up-to-date ratings for individual NHS hospital rotations, with five-star ratings based on the results of the 2018 GMC National Training Survey. To read how trainee satisfaction varies across the Core Pathways head here.

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Notes: We have only included specialties which offered rotations at over 30 hospitals across the UK in 2018. Other sites have been excluded. Data is sourced from the GMC National Training Survey 2018. Please head to http://www.gmc-uk.org/education/surveys.asp to access the source data in full and read a full explanation of the methodology used by the GMC.

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