How to become an air ambulance doctor: Matt's story

Meet Matt, 38, and find out about life on the frontline of emergency medical care. Matt splits his time between working in A&E and attending the most serious medical incidents by helicopter. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

I spend my whole day just trying to make people feel better and get better.

  • Matt's role as a HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) doctor is very varied. He splits his time between treating patients in A&E and flying by helicopter to provide hospital-level care at the scene of major incidents like stabbings and road traffic accidents
  • His journey hasn't been easy. At school, he found it difficult to concentrate. Realising he wanted to be a doctor gave him something to focus on and he turned his grades around thanks to a lot of hard work
  • The success rates in recovery from pre-hospital intervention are why Matt loves working on the air ambulance.
Watch Matt and his colleagues in action on BBC One's Ambulance.

What to expect if you want to become an air ambulance doctor

  • Doctor salary: Your salary as a doctor depends on a number of factors, for example your career stage (ie how far along you are in your training) and whether you work full-time in the NHS. As a doctor in training (sometimes referred to as a junior doctor) you can expect to earn between an average of £26,000 and £47,000 per year but it will vary depending on where in the UK you work and what stage you are at in your training. Once you become a consultant, you can expect to earn much more.

  • Doctor working hours: Doctors in training work in shifts and you will be expected to work during the evenings and overnight (also known as "on-call"). A typical shift for a junior doctor during the week is 7am to 7pm but it is likely you will need to be flexible.

What qualifications do you need to be an air ambulance doctor?

  • Typical entry requirements: To become a hospital doctor you'll need to complete:
    • a five-year degree in Medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)
    • a two-year foundation programme of general training
    • two-year core medical training (CMT) or Acute Care Common Stem (ACCS)
    • specialist training – the length of this stage depends on the area of medicine you choose, but will usually take between four and six years.

If you don't have qualifications in Science, you may be able to join a six-year degree course in Medicine. This includes a one-year pre-medical or foundation year.

The British Medical Association (BMA) – is a professional body that supports doctors in the UK. They have lots of information and advice about becoming a hospital doctor, from getting in to medical school to working life as a doctor.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service, BMA)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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