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Junior Doctor Definition

Updated on June 13, 2013

© 2013 by Aurelio Locsin.

In the United Kingdom, junior doctors refer to those who have graduated from medical schools and are undergoing their residencies and internships, according to the British Medical Journal. In the United States, junior doctors are more commonly called residents and interns. Technically, they receive no salaries. However, their medical facility pays them a stipend, equivalent to a living wage.


Becoming a junior doctor requires the same qualities as a regular physician.

  • Interpersonal skills are paramount because health-care is about diagnosing and treating individuals. Junior doctors must have the empathy to see where a patient is coming from and the communication skills to listen to his concerns and explain treatments.
  • Physical stamina helps with standing throughout most of the shift, and lifting or turning patients.
  • Manual dexterity is necessary for manipulating medical tools and performing procedures.
  • Junior doctors usually see several patients in one day and must be organized.
  • They also need the problem-solving expertise to evaluate symptoms and decide on course of treatment.


Junior doctors spend much of their time observing and learning from licensed physicians. Their shifts can span 30 to 36 hours with no little to no sleep, as well as require being on-call every two-to-four days. When starting their residencies, junior doctors may begin with simple tasks, such as interviewing patients and measuring vital signs. Because they are the lowest rung on the professional ladder, they perform menial, unpleasant work, such tracking down old medical records. They also observe procedures and perform them. As they gain more experience and confidence, they perform more complex treatments focusing on their specialty areas.


Becoming a junior doctor starts with at least a bachelor’s degree. Pre-med programs are common because they provide the prerequisites for medical school. However, no specific major is necessary. Students must then pass the Medical College Admission Test to enter medical school, which is highly competitive. This higher level of training typically takes four years. It covers laboratory and classroom subjects during the first half, and provides practical experience in the second half, with supervised work in hospitals and clinics. Graduates can then become junior doctors in internships and residencies that last from three to eight years.


After completing their residencies, junior doctors must pass written and practical exams to qualify for state-required licenses. They can then practice as full physicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for the profession will increase by 24 percent, which is greater than the 14 percent growth expected for all jobs in all industries. The aging baby-boom population will provide much of the demand because they require more medical diagnoses and treatment to live long and healthy lives. The best opportunities will arise in rural and low-income areas because they have difficulty attracting and keeping medical staff.


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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I also did not know that they were called junior doctors in some places. They certainly do put in long tiring hours. I often wonder if this does not cause mistakes to be made. It would seem that interns (junior doctors) should get their needed rest just like the rest of us. Crazy system if you ask me! UUI votes.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hello Alocsin. Interestng Hub - I tend to gravitate toward Medical information. Hope you are doing well. Sharing.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      I didn't know that interns are called "junior" doctors in the UK. Very interesting. I am often amazed by the long hours interns work, but it's the best way to gain valuable skills and experience. Voted up!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Interesting hub. I wonder why no national figures for salaries of junior doctors are available.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Alas, MsDora, there are no national figures for intern salaries that I could find.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Alocsin, shorter hub because salary is missing, eh? I wasn't aware of that. I'm sure they keep in mind their coming salaries. I appreciate them. Thanks for the information.