How to pursue a career in medicine in the UK

Medicine is an extremely rewarding line of work demanding dedication, resilience, and a genuine passion for healthcare. Whether you’re a secondary school student contemplating your future or an individual seeking a career change, the path to becoming a medical professional can be both challenging and fulfilling.

This article will serve as a comprehensive guide, outlining the key steps, prerequisites, and invaluable insights to navigating the intricate process of pursuing medicine. From academic milestones to extracurricular activities, admissions exams, and the importance of gaining hands-on experience, we’ll explore the holistic approach required to pursue a career in the field, step by step.

If you are deciding to pursue a career in Medicine, we can help you! We at The Profs are experts in getting people into medical school, with over 95% of our undergraduate applicants receiving offers from their first and second-choice universities. So, if you’re ready to take the first step towards a fulfilling and impactful career in Medicine, why not get in touch? We will maximise your chances of success!

Applying to medical school

Embarking on the journey to medical school is a thrilling yet demanding pursuit, requiring a strategic approach and unwavering determination. Doctors are well-respected, however every decision made on the way to becoming one is crucial. Here are some valuable insights for those ready to become a doctor, starting with their medical school application.

Don’t let your GCSEs limit you

Every job out there requires a basic level of competency in Mathematics and English Language. For 14-to-16-year-olds around the world, these subjects are compulsory, but if you are aiming for a career in Medicine, you will want to aim for top grades. Unsurprisingly, Science subjects are especially important to do well in!

The majority of medical schools in the UK stipulate that a GCSE English Language grade of 6 or above is necessary for application, however, a few universities allow applications with a grade of 4 or 5. Typically, GCSE English Literature is not specified as a requirement for medical school applications, except for some universities such as the University of Birmingham, which notes, “English Literature is not required but is one of the identified subjects that we will score.”

Most universities specify a GCSE Maths grade of 6 or higher as a prerequisite for Medicine applications. A very small number of medical schools indicate that an application can be made with a grade 4 or 5. It’s worth noting that some medical schools may have distinct GCSE Maths requirements for applicants studying the subject at A level.

A levels are always required to show that you have a strong knowledge of Science. However, good Science GCSEs make for an especially strong application, particularly if you are taking the Triple Science GCSE route.

For instance, certain universities refrain from explicitly specifying GCSE requirements for Biology/Chemistry, presuming that applicants are already engaged in an A level in that subject. If this is the case, universities may request higher grades in any science subjects that have not been pursued at the A level. For example, Lancaster University states that if an applicant does not have an A level in Chemistry, they must have a minimum of a grade 7 at GCSE level.

If you haven’t studied separate sciences at GCSE, numerous universities state on their websites that they will consider Dual Award Science or Double Science as an acceptable alternative. Some medical schools ask for additional subjects at GCSE level, so make sure you know the specific requirements for each medical school to see what else they might require.

If you are studying for your GCSEs and need some extra help with your revision, you can reach out to one of our expert GCSE tutors, who will ensure that you get the grades you deserve! 

Aim high in your A levels

Whilst GCSEs count towards your applications to Medicine, the right choice of A levels is arguably more important. It is essential to choose the right A levels to maximise your chances of being admitted to medical school. Most, if not all, medical degrees ask that you take at least two sciences at A level, although it is best to have as many sciences as possible under your belt so that you truly stand out from the crowd.

One A level you must take is Chemistry. Not taking this subject will severely hurt your chances of getting into medical school, so you must take this A level if you want to be admitted. After this, you can choose one other subject from either Mathematics, Biology, or Physics as part of a standard medical school application (unsurprisingly, Biology is also a very good choice!). 

Non-standard sciences such as Psychology and Environmental Science may also be accepted depending on the university.

Some universities, like the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge, require you to take even more sciences at A level. Oxbridge’s specific grade requirements can vary depending on your choice of college. 

In all of your medical school applications, you should be aiming for A’s and A*’s across the board, but once again requirements can vary based on where you are applying.

If you are studying for the International Baccalaureate (IB), you should study Higher Level Biology and Chemistry alongside Mathematics or another Science. The required IB scores can range from 32 with institutions such as the University of Birmingham, to 40-42 with the University of Cambridge depending on your choice of college.

Applicants to UK medical schools (especially those living outside of the UK) with qualifications other than A levels, should contact the individual medical schools or UCAS for details on equivalent entry requirements. The earlier you do this, the better!

If you need help with studying for A level or IB, look no further! We have an amazing track record of securing success for our high school students. After all, we’ve helped over 13,000 students boost their grades by an average of 13% in their final examinations, and that number is still growing!

Additional entry requirements

Applications to UK medical schools are made through UCAS. On top of having good grades at school, you must also produce an exceptional personal statement, expressing why you deserve to study Medicine. In addition to having some good references from your teachers, this will make a big impact on whether or not you get admitted to medical school.

Your personal statement must be perfect

The personal statement is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your passion for Medicine and why attending medical school is absolutely necessary! It therefore must be flawless – you need to showcase the best of what you can offer, by demonstrating that you are the perfect candidate! 

Medical schools will seek information not only regarding your academic grades but also your interests, hobbies, sporting accomplishments, academic awards, projects you’ve undertaken, and the social groups you’ve engaged with. 

It’s very important that your extracurriculars are included in your personal statement. Some good examples include the Duke of Edinburgh Award, participation in sports and music clubs, and winning an award in a competition such as the International Biology Olympiad (IBO).

You may even consider taking some additional online courses in anatomy and physiology to deepen your understanding of human biology, discuss your active reading of a particular book on epidemiology, or even attend a Summer course in medicine at a prestigious university.

Ideally, you want to be doing as much of the above as possible, to provide you with plenty of amazing material for your personal statement. You also show your engagement with the community, academic prowess, and with some incredible work experience, your understanding of the healthcare industry.  

Crafting the best version of your personal statement requires lots of drafting and redrafting! It also requires a lot of planning so that you know exactly what you will be talking about. Hence, it’s absolutely vital to start working on your personal statement as soon as possible!

To better understand how you can create a stand-out personal statement that universities will love, watch this video which tells you exactly where to start! You can also get in touch with our team of online personal statement tutors to kick off your future success this instant.  

Your resume of experience

We previously mentioned the need for strong and relevant work experience to create a stand-out application for Medicine. This is so important, that we’ve given this topic its own section!

Medical volunteering is particularly valued, as it shows your development in placement-specific and interpersonal skills. Your local care home or GP surgery make for some excellent choices given their direct relevance to your chosen subject.

Work experience and volunteering that is not directly related to Medicine can still be useful as long as you can strongly relate it to your desire to work in that industry. For instance, volunteering to be a teaching assistant for young children with special needs can look incredibly good if you want to eventually work as a paediatrician.

If you are 16-18, you may also be able to gain a one-week or two-week work experience placement with a pharmaceutical company over the school holidays, although these are rarely advertised. The best course of action is to contact the companies directly and see what opportunities will be available to you.

You could even do a research project with a university or industry. For instance, the British Science Association offers CREST awards and the Nuffield Foundation offers the Nuffield Bursary research placements. By having a project to focus on, you get a better insight into what it’s actually like to work within the healthcare industry. 

Don’t leave your application to chance! If you want to secure the perfect application, contact our medical admissions tutors, who are experts at getting into medical school.

Know what to expect from your admissions test?

Most medical schools will also require a high score on an admissions test. The choice of test depends on the university, but medical schools in countries such as the UK, Australia, and New Zealand will require a high score on the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT).

The UCAT is scored out of 3600. Marks are divided equally across four sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Decision Making. No cut-off score for this test will guarantee an offer or rejection, however, a score of over 700 in each section will place you in the top third of applicants and will make you eligible for most medical schools.

Many medical schools do accept high scores in other entrance examinations, sometimes instead of the UCAT. For instance, there exists the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), as well as the Situational Judgement Test (SJT). 

Another popular option used to be the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) which has been discontinued from 2024. It has since been confirmed that no UK medical school will be using an alternative admissions test, hence the standard UCAT will be required by all universities.

Our UCAT tutors are here to help you smash your UCAT exam! But if you want to make a head start, read this article on the UCAT to ensure you pass with flying colours.

Medicine interviews: Ready for the final step?

Shortlisted candidates will then be asked to attend an interview or two with their chosen medical school. There are two types of interviews you may have to attend depending on your choice of university, the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) or the traditional panel interviews. 

The traditional panel interviews focus more on the contents of your personal statement. You will also be asked questions covering your understanding of medical ethics, professional judgment, and knowledge of the medical school you are applying for. You also want to show you understand the NHS and the roles of a junior doctor.

Make sure you prepare some questions for this in advance and come up with your own answers to them. You also want to make some time to practice for your interview with the help of your school (your friends and family might also be a good shout). Just make sure it is someone that you trust and will make time for you when you need it.

Whilst the traditional panel interviews involve deep and lengthy discussions regarding your motivations and potential to study Medicine, the MMIs are based more on your to work with unfamiliar and high-pressure situations. 

Before each mini interview, you will be provided with a scenario and some time to prepare your answer. The interviewer then observes you engaging in this scenario with an actor. Each mini-interview lasts for approximately 10 minutes or less, and is approximately 2 hours long in total.

Speak to one of our interview consultants if you want to guarantee your best possible interview peformance! Whether it’s UCAS applications or interview practice, we offer a wealth of experience in successfully securing students with the university of their choice. 

Mature and postgraduate students

One question you may be asking is whether it is possible to transition into the field of medicine from a different industry. The answer is yes, although it is much easier to transition into Medicine with a science-related degree, especially if you have engaged in academic studies within the last five years. In these cases, you might be eligible to join an accelerated course at a medical school with the intention of one day becoming a junior doctor.

If this is not the case for you for whatever reason, many medical schools offer foundation or pre-clinical courses to get you adjusted to the subject. Otherwise, you may be able to take some A level courses at your local college if you are still deciding on whether becoming a medical doctor is the right career for you. They may even be offered at reduced fees depending on your background.

Whether through volunteering or in paid employment, possessing experience in a caring role holds significant value. It may therefore be a good idea to contact your local hospital or nursing home to explore potential placement opportunities.

Consider reaching out to doctors who have been a source of inspiration or contacting your local GP to inquire about the possibility of gaining work experience with them. Acquiring hands-on experience will provide valuable insights into the everyday aspects of being a doctor and demonstrate your dedication to pursuing a career in medicine.

Remember that there are many ways that someone can enter the field of medicine, and whilst some of what we recommend is not strictly compulsory, you should put yourself in the best possible position to receive an offer!

If you are a mature student in need of some extra guidance on university applications, this article will help you get started. Or if you are a postgraduate student looking for a change of career, be sure to get in touch with one of our university admissions tutors.

On the other hand, check out this article, if you need some advice on what medical schools are best for your future!

Surviving medical school

You’ve now proved that you are committed to studying Medicine (congratulations!). After winning your spot on a medical course, your next task is studying as hard as you can to earn your medical degree. Your degree title could be Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, or Bachelor of Medical Sciences through an MBBS, BMMS, or MBChB course.

But what is the best way for you to study, and how do you sustain your momentum over such a long degree? More importantly, how should you develop your skills to become the best medical doctor you can be? In order to answer these questions and offer further insight, we first need to understand what your journey into Medicine will look like. 

Structure of an undergraduate Medicine degree

Whilst undergraduate Medicine degrees vary between institutions, these courses all follow the same general structure, although it’s important to check the specific curriculum and structure of individual medical schools, as there may be variations in the programme structure and content. Despite this, according to the General Medical Council (GMC), university medical courses normally last five years, or four years for a graduate entry programme. 

The first two years of a medical degree in the UK often focus on foundational knowledge in basic medical sciences, anatomy, physiology, and introduction to clinical skills.

During these first few years of pre-clinical studies, students may also have early exposure to patient care through simulated scenarios or visits to clinical settings and are assessed through written exams, practical assessments, and presentations.

The third and fourth year involves clinical placements, where students spend more time in hospitals and healthcare settings. Clinical years provide hands-on experience in various medical specialities, allowing students to apply theoretical knowledge to real patient care.

Core clinical rotations may include internal medicine, surgery, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, psychiatry, and others. Students may also have the opportunity to choose elective placements based on their interests. In addition to written exams, Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) are also taken at this stage.

Finally, your last year of medical school will involve consolidating clinical skills and knowledge. Students at this stage can undertake a variety of elective courses and are usually expected to engage in a research project or produce a dissertation. Upon completion, students will then earn their bachelor’s degree in Medicine.

Some institutions like the University of Exeter, offer students the opportunity to study for an intercalated degree. Whilst this often requires an additional year of study, it grants you the opportunity to obtain credits in additional subjects, allowing you the opportunity to make your degree even better! 

Our professional undergraduate tutors are always on hand to help out with your studies! That’s why 93% of our undergraduate students receive a grade improvement. Don’t let academic hurdles hold you back—reach out today and unlock your full potential.

Five top tips to do well in your studies

At the Profs, we’ve compiled a list of five suggestions for how to thrive in your undergraduate degree:

  • Stay organised: Effective organisation is key to managing the demanding workload of medical school. Keep a well-structured schedule, use planners or digital tools, and allocate dedicated time for studying, attending lectures, and personal activities. Being organised will help you stay on top of your coursework and deadlines.
  • Active engagement in lectures: Actively participate and engage in lectures. Take thorough notes, ask questions, and seek clarification on any concepts you find challenging. Active participation not only enhances your understanding but also helps you retain information more effectively.
  • Effective time management: Develop strong time management skills. Prioritise tasks, set realistic goals, and create a study routine that suits your learning style. Balancing academic commitments with personal well-being is crucial for long-term success in medical school.
  • Build strong study habits: Establish effective study habits early on. Find a quiet and comfortable study environment, break down complex topics into manageable segments, and utilise active learning techniques such as flashcards, group discussions, and self-testing. Consistent and focused study habits contribute to better academic performance.
  • Take care of your well-being: It’s essential to maintain your physical and mental well-being. Ensure you get enough sleep, maintain a balanced diet, and engage in regular physical activity. Additionally, seek support from friends, family, or mental health services if needed. A healthy mind and body contribute to better academic performance and overall success in medical school.

Remember, medical school is a challenging but rewarding journey. Developing a balanced approach that combines academic diligence with self-care will contribute to your success in this demanding field.

Make sure to contact one of our medical tutors, if you want guaranteed expert 1-on-1 support throughout your time at university! Don’t gamble with your future, lay the groundwork to achieve your best outcome.

After medical school

Embarking on a medical career is a significant achievement, but the journey doesn’t conclude with graduation! The post-graduation phase ushers in a crucial transition, presenting graduates with a myriad of options and decisions. Whilst becoming a doctor is now within your reach, further commitment needs to be made if you want to specialise in a specific area.

Along the way, you will very likely encounter many different types of doctors based on superiority, so it is important to know where you stand when entering a professional clinical practice.

The traditional training ladder

In the UK, doctors are classified in terms of a ladder scheme provided by the NHS. This is seen as the traditional route of career progression for working doctors. 

Graduates of medical schools must first embark on a two-year foundation programme and are commonly denoted as FY1s or FY2s. This will involve completing six work placements in different settings.

During the initial year, you will hold provisional registration with a licence to practise, and full registration is granted upon successful completion of the first year, officially making you a doctor. These were previously known as house officers or senior house officers respectively.

If you wish to take a break from the traditional training ladder, you can do so after your foundation programme and become an F3 doctor. The term is generally used to describe doctors who’ve taken a year out from the traditional training ladder to have more control of their working hours, often taking advantage of this freedom to travel.

Once you have completed your foundation programme, you can look at becoming a core trainee. Core trainees embark on an additional two-to-three-year training programme with either a ‘medical’ or a ‘surgical’ focus, which are the two broadest categories of Medicine one can define. This is crucial in defining your choice of specialty later on.

From here you can become a registrar. A registrar is a doctor engaged in specialty training for a specific area of medicine. Registrars are frequently experienced professionals, positioned just below the senior consultant level. Typically, doctors serve as registrars for 4-6 years before concluding their clinical training.

There are numerous specialties to choose from, offering doctors the chance to refine their interests further through sub-specialties via postgraduate courses. The training and registration for each specialty are overseen by an institution under The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC).

Currently, the UK offers 24 such institutions, including The Royal College of Radiologists, The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and The Royal College of Physicians of London. This can take several years but the exact amount of time will vary depending on who you choose to continue your studies with. You can explore the different specialties and sub-specialties in medicine on the NHS Health Careers website.

And finally, we have the consultant. A consultant is a senior doctor who has successfully finished their entire clinical training. They are specialists in a particular field of medicine or surgery. Consultants bear the ultimate responsibility for the care of their patients and oversee the work of junior doctors under their guidance.

Whether you’re navigating career choices, preparing to ace interviews, or seeking support with projects, our dedicated team is committed to your success. Don’t leave your future to chance – partner with our skilled tutors today and take control of your professional journey.

Other titles of doctor

Whilst hospitals are a typical destination for doctors to work in, other doctors work in alternative healthcare settings. For instance, GPs (general practitioners) are specialised in community general medicine and are considered to be a jack of all trades rather than a master of few. However, this still involves completing your medical degree, a foundation programme, and 2-3 years of training in general medicine.

By becoming a locum doctor you also can work part-time across several departments to fill a last-minute vacancy. Locum doctors can either be full-time locums or they might just be doing it for a bit of extra money. By working in this manner, locums can have far more control over their working hours and are generally paid a higher hourly rate than their regular counterparts, even though their hours are guaranteed.

There are also titles of other doctors that differ depending on the country. For instance, in the US, physicians refer to anyone who has a medical degree, whilst, in the UK, it refers to a doctor with a medical specialty. It is important to be aware of subtle differences like these, especially if you are deciding to pursue a career in Medicine.

Get 1-to-1 support

The journey to becoming a doctor is no doubt a tough one, but it’s also incredibly exciting and fulfilling. From hitting the books to diving into hands-on experience, aspiring doctors dive into a world that requires hard work, resilience, and a genuine love for helping others. It’s not just about cramming facts; it’s about learning to connect with people, communicate effectively, and team up with a diverse group of healthcare heroes.

Being such a well-respected profession also comes with great financial security and many opportunities to progress further within your career. Yet regardless of the reward you seek, the road to becoming a doctor is a long one, difficult yet well-travelled.

For all you future doctors out there, remember that each step will bring you closer to living your dream and making a real impact in the world of healthcare. However, you can always rely on The Profs if you ever need a helping hand! That’s why 95% of our students obtain offers from their first and second-choice universities. 

Whatever you need help with, we’ve got you covered. We have expert:

So, take your pick! There’s no reason you shouldn’t achieve your dream results. Make sure you don’t miss out on our amazing services!

FAQs

Why study Medicine?

Individuals may choose to pursue a career in medicine for various reasons, such as a genuine desire to help others, the intellectual challenge it offers, diverse career opportunities, the potential for global impact, and personal fulfilment derived from making a positive impact on patients’ lives.

Is pursuing medicine worth it?

The worthiness of pursuing medicine depends on individual values, goals, and passion for healthcare. For many, the significant impact on patients’ lives and the sense of purpose make the journey and challenges associated with a medical career worthwhile.

Can I study Medicine after Engineering?

Yes, it is possible to transition from Engineering to Medicine. However, individuals considering this path should be aware that additional prerequisites and exams may be required to meet the entry requirements for medical school.

Is medicine a good career for the future?

Yes, medicine is considered a good career for the future. The demand for healthcare professionals is expected to remain high, providing stability and opportunities for those pursuing a career in the medical field.

Is studying Medicine expensive?

Yes, studying medicine can be expensive. The costs associated with medical education include tuition fees, living expenses, and other fees, making financial planning an essential aspect for individuals aspiring to become healthcare professionals. 

However, there are many government and private funding schemes in place. You’ll have to apply to these and you should note that you will automatically qualify for some of these, whereas others are to be competed for.

You can visit the NHS website or the Medical Schools Council for further guidance on how to seek out financial support for either your degree or your medical training.