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Proof of professional specific academic attainment is embedded within the Joint Committee on Surgical Training 2013 general surgery curriculum, mandating that all higher general surgical trainees (HST) obtain three peer-reviewed publications to qualify for Certification of Completion of Training. Yet, Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) has been associated with a trend away from the gold standard postgraduate credentials of higher degrees by research. This study aimed to evaluate the academic achievements of a post-MMC UK Deanery HST cohort to determine what additional benefits higher degree study might confer.The Scopus bibliographic database (Elsevier, RELX Group) was used to characterise the academic profiles of 101 consecutive HSTs and supplemented with Intercollegiate Surgical Programme Curriculum data. Primary outcome measures were numbers of publications, citations and Hirsch indices (HI).Thirty-seven HSTs (36.6%) had been awarded higher degrees (29 Doctor of Medicine, 8 Doctor of Philosophy). Academic profiles of HSTs with higher degrees were stronger than those of HSTs without, specifically: median (range) publication numbers 16 (2–57) vs 2 (0–11, P<0.001), citations 93 (0–1600) vs 6 (0–132, P<0.001), first author publications 6 (0–33) vs 3 (0–106, P<0.001), communications to learnt societies 30 (5–79) vs 8 (2–35, P<0.001) and HI 6 (1–26) vs 1 (0–6, P<0.001).Proof of academic reach by higher degree was associated with important enhanced professional credentials, strengthening HIs sixfold. Trainers and trainees alike should be aware of the relative magnitude of such benefits when planning educational programmes.