Surgeons specialise in operating on particular parts of the body or to address specific injuries, diseases or degenerative conditions.

Surgical Training in Ireland has recently gone through a process of change with the introduction of the National Surgical Training Programme (July 2013) which allows for a continuum of training from Core Training (ST1-ST2) to Specialty Training (ST3-ST8)  and ultimately the shortening of the training pathway to 8 years

The following summarises the principal elements the new Surgical Pathway:

  • The opportunity to complete surgical training within a continuous 8 year structured programme with no ‘re-selection’ to a separate higher training programme
  • A two year ‘core’ training period (ST1 – ST2)
  • Progression to specialist training after year two, based on competitive ranking and performance/suitability metrics (ST3-ST8)
  • Structured assessment & progression structures throughout

The training pathway for surgery:

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4
Training Level Medical School Intern Year Core Training in Surgery Higher Specialist Training
Duration 4-6 years 1 year 2 years 6 years
Entry Process Graduate or direct entry Entry through the HSE Intern Match Entry based on competitive interview Entry based on on-going assessment (CAPA), successful completion of the MRCS exam and Specialty Interview
Mandatory Examinations As per curriculum N/A MRCS exam FRCS exam
Application Date CAO process opens in November Application process opens in October Application process opens in November
Programme Operated by: Undergraduate Universities Intern Networks RCSI RCSI

The National Surgical Training Programme is administered by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Entry Requirements for Surgical Training Programme

Medical graduates wishing to pursue a career in Surgery must complete an internship and must competitively apply for a position on the National Surgical Training Programme, commencing at Core Surgical Training (ST1 – ST2) and progressing to Specialty Training (ST3-ST8) based on competitive metrics.

Appointed Trainees will be continuously assessed for progression to ST3 (first year of ‘higher’ Specialty Training through the CAPA (Competency Assessment Performance Appraisal) process, successful completion of the MRCS exam and Specialty interview. Those trainees on core training will compete to progress to ST3 in their selected specialty towards the end of ST2.

Duration & Organisation of Training

Core Training

The programme commences at Core Training for two years with competitive entry from Intern level into an ST1 appointment.  ST2 training is one year of Specialty Training.

Core Training is a common trunk of training which is undertaken by all surgical trainees, irrespective of their future specialty aspiration. It is intended to introduce trainees to the principles of surgery in general and give them the knowledge, skills and attitudes which are required by all surgical specialities in preparation for Specialty Training (ST3- ST8) .

Throughout the two years trainees are assessed via the Competency Assessment and Performance Appraisal (CAPA) process.

Click here for more information about core surgical training.

Specialty Training

ST3 – ST8 is entry level into Specialty Training this is based on your on-going assessment (CAPA), successful completion of the MRCS exam and Specialty Interview.

Each specialty has a defined curriculum and the Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Programme ( is used to track progression throughout ST3 – ST8.

Trainees need to complete the curriculum and the relevant fellowship examination in order to achieve a Certificate of Completion of Surgical Training (CCST). Awarding of CCST deems eligibility for registration with Irish Medical Council.

Specialties in Surgery:

  1. Cardiothoracic Surgery
  2. General Surgery
  3. Neurosurgery
  4. Ophthalmic Surgery
  5. Oral & Maxillo Facial Surgery
  6. Otolaryngology
  7. Paediatric Surgery
  8. Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery
  9. Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgery
  10. Urology

More information on the National Surgical Training Programme can be found on

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Further Information
Please visit Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Surgical Affairs