Information about the relative strengths of scholars is needed for the efficient running of knowledge systems. Since academic research requires many skills, more experienced researchers might produce better research and attract more citations. This article assesses career citation impact changes 2001-2016 for domestic researchers (definition: first and last Scopus journal article in the same country) from the twelve nations with most Scopus documents. Careers are analysed longitudinally, so that changes are not due to personnel evolution, such as researchers leaving or entering a country. The results show that long term domestic researchers do not tend to improve their citation impact over time but tend to achieve their average citation impact by their first or second Scopus journal article. In some countries, this citation impact subsequently declines. These longer-term domestic researchers have higher citation impact than the national average in all countries, however, whereas scholars publishing only one journal article have substantially lower citation impact in all countries. The results are consistent with an efficiently functioning researcher selection system but cast slight doubt on the long-term citation impact potential of long-term domestic researchers. Research and funding policies may need to accommodate these patterns when citation impact is a relevant indicator.