Students in practical class in medical school

Work in medicine

Advice, information and resources to help you progress your career in medicine

Medicine offers many opportunities such as being part of a respected profession, being of service to your community and saving lives.

Most doctors work in hospitals or general practice,. Others work in areas such as industry, the armed forces, academic medicine and full-time research. You should want to make a real difference and have a concern for the welfare of others as well as good communication and teamwork skills.

Medical training is intellectually and emotionally challenging. You'll need a lot of drive and self-motivation. Work as a doctor is demanding and requires you to be able to cope with pressure every day. It's important at the outset to consider what you're letting yourself in for.

You should convince yourself, and a prospective medical school, that you know what you're facing and show you have the necessary skills and attributes.

Investigate what medical work is really like by talking to professionals including junior doctors and GPs. Ask them about the rewards of the work, their working hours, life-style, and the pressures they face. Speak to graduates studying medicine to find out how they find it.

Applying to study medicine as a graduate

Applications to medical schools are made through UCAS. The closing date is mid-October for entry the following autumn.

There are 3 options for graduates.

A shortened graduate entry course (GEM)

Usually 4 years. Designed specifically for graduates. Some are only open to graduates with a science degree and others are open to graduates with any degree. Some medical schools require specific subjects at A-Level, so visit their websites to find out more.

University Approximate number of places Required aptitude test

Barts (QMUL)

40

UKCAT

Birmingham

60

None

Cambridge

41

BMAT (if applying to standard course as well. Otherwise, none

Cardiff

N/A - Places are only available for those currently on a Feeder Stream course

 

Dundee/St Andrews

55

UKCAT - Situational Judgement Test

Imperial

45

BMAT

King's College London

28

UKCAT

Liverpool

29

GAMSAT

Newcastle

25

UKCAT

Nottingham

93

GAMSAT

Oxford

30

BMAT

Southampton

48

UKCAT

St George's

50-70

GAMSAT

Swansea

70

GAMSAT

Warwick

193

UKCAT

 

A standard undergraduate course

Usually 5 years. Designed for school leavers but open to graduates with any degree background and the required science A-levels.

A standard undergraduate course with foundation year

Usually 6 years. Designed for school leavers or graduates without the required science background.

For details of all Medical School courses go to the UCAS website.

Entry requirements

Medical schools vary in entry requirements, in the number of places for graduates and in fees. Most fast track courses have admission tests. To have a reasonable chance of success you would usually have to meet the following criteria:

  • a minimum 2:1 with good academic references
  • written guarantee of your ability to fund yourself through the training
  • evidence of motivation
  • knowledge of medicine (preferably with relevant work experience)
  • an understanding of the demands of the course

Medical schools

Medical schools vary in their ethos and atmosphere and in the structure of their course. For example, some use clinical teaching in the early years. So you should research courses carefully as well as checking your eligibility to apply.

Most medical schools are happy to respond to informed queries. Most also offer open days where you can find out more about the course and meet current graduate medical students.

Things to consider when choosing a course

Things to consider

Check entry requirements early. Identify gaps so you can work to acquire the skills, experience and knowledge needed.

The physical location of the medical school includes the experience you might get. Training in a London hospital might be very different to training in a less urban environment. Your choice might come down to personal preferences so be clear about what each of your choices can offer you. You may need to justify your choice.

Check each institution to see how the course is structured and what will be expected of you as your progress through the course. It is likely that you will be exposed to a range of different teaching methods ranging from problem based learning (PBL), lectures, clinical placements, tutorials, practical sessions, projects, to e-learning and skills training but the mix and emphasis may be different in different institutions.

Some courses may have more applications than others. You might want to apply to schools at different levels of competition.

Think about the catchment area of each medical school. Are there specialist hospitals that might give you experience not on offer elsewhere? Does the medical school have any unique facilities or research?

Pre-entry tests

Most graduate medical schools use standard tests in their application process. These tests are test aptitude rather than educational achievement. Ask each medical school which test they require you to sit. There are 3 main tests:

You'll take these tests under time constraints so consider this when you practise. Network with current graduate medical students and ask them for advice about preparing for admissions tests.

You may find other students' opinions on medical discussion forum websites helpful. The UCAS website also has additional information on admissions tests.

Medical school application process

  • Applications are made through UCAS and the closing date is 15 October each year for courses beginning the following autumn
  • Choose no more than 4 courses – the course code for most of the GEM courses is A101 and it's possible to have a mix of undergraduate and GEM courses within your choices
  • Apply through UCAS as an ‘Individual’
  • Allow at least 2 weeks for your references to be submitted by the deadline – contact your referees to help them provide a relevant reference
  • Explain your reasons for wanting to study the course and why you think that you would make a good doctor in your personal statement – show that you understand what a medical career involves and are aware of current developments
  • Show that you understand what it would be like to work as a doctor and try to get experience in a healthcare setting – this doesn't have to be in a hospital working with doctors as medical schools recognise that this may not be available to all applicants
  • Show an insight into medicine and healthcare gained from general reading and be aware of current issues related to medicine – it might be useful to attend medical careers conferences, or to talk to doctors or current medical students
  • It's essential that you can demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to explain complex information simply and coherently
  • You'll need a logical mind to formulate questions and solve problems
  • You'll need to be self-motivated and able to set your own goals and show independence of thought – you'll also need to work well in a team
  • Show a strong interest in human affairs, and a concern for the welfare of others – can you reassure people, in order to put them at their ease?
  • Be prepared to share what you do in your spare time – not as a list but as a way of highlighting your relevant skills and attributes.
  • You need to be able to communicate, empathise and work well with others – having interests which help you wind down can demonstrate resilience
  • Doctors must demonstrate a high standard of professional responsibility – you should show that you are a reliable and conscientious person

Medical school interview process

The type of interview structure varies between medical schools. You may experience a traditional panel interview or a multi-mini interview (MMI) format which is being adopted by more and more UK medical schools.

Panel interviews

You may be interviewed by a panel of academics, clinicians and lay people. You may experience more than 1 interview and the length of it can vary from 20 minutes to an hour.

Multi-mini interviews

This format involves a series of stations or rooms where you'll find a scenario or an interviewer to assess a specific attribute. Each station lasts a short amount of time (often 5 minutes). Interviewers will expect you to cover your motivation for medicine, your commitment, your previous caring experience and your ability to reason around an ethical/social issue.

Some medical schools will ask you to work with other interviewees on a group task as part of the selection process. Your personal attributes relevant to studying medicine will be assessed by means of different tasks.

Types of tasks include:

  • A short interview around your motivation to be a doctor
  • An interactive task or role play
  • Data interpretation – for example, interpreting a graph or explaining a numerical concept
  • A Debate task
  • A group task - you may be asked to work with other interviewees

Funding medical school

The funding for the 3 types of courses differs significantly. UK graduate students are currently eligible for more financial support if entering a specific graduate entry programme rather than an undergraduate programme.

Shortened graduate entry course

  • In year one, graduate entry students have to self-fund the first third of their tuition costs and a Student Finance England* loan is available to cover the remaining costs to a maximum charge of £9,250
  • In years 2 to 4, the NHS Bursary pays the first third of tuition costs with a loan from Student Finance England to bridge the remaining costs
  • Graduates can apply to Student Finance England for a full maintenance loan in their first year
  • In the remaining years of the course, you can apply to the NHS Student Bursaries Unit or a means-tested NHS bursary to cover maintenance costs – you can apply for a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England

Undergraduate standard entry course (with or without foundation)

  • Graduate students are not eligible to receive a tuition fee loan or maintenance grant regardless of whether or not they have previously received funding
  • Students may be able to apply to Student Finance England for a full, income based, maintenance loan
  • From year 5 onwards, tuition fees will be paid by the NHS Bursary Scheme
  • Students will be eligible to apply for a means-tested NHS bursary to cover maintenance costs from the NHS Student Bursaries Unit, and a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England (equivalent to approximately half the full rate)

*Information based on Student Finance England. Wales and Scotland have their own funding arrangements.

Further funding advice

The information here is a guide only. You should seek up-to-date information relevant to your particular circumstances from the sources listed below and check your eligibility against the criteria for bursaries and loans.

Useful resources

Entrance tests

Funding

Careers information

Organisations

Forums and application resources

  • The Medic Portal – advice and resources for everyone interested in a career in medicine
  • MedStudent – medical discussion forum
  • Student BMJ – a monthly medical journal
  • Med School Success – includes free UKCAT sample questions
  • Medify – includes free UKCAT and BMAT sample questions and tips for getting into medical school
  • The Student Room – includes forums on medical schools and medicine

Get more guidance on further study after graduation

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