Should I do a Medicine Degree?

A trio of surgeons carrying out an operation

Studying medicine is a dream of many, but a reality for a very lucky few. This is a career which requires a lot of commitment and those coming into it solely for financial gain will surely be expelled when the tough gets going.

In the U.K, for instance, it takes:
5 years to study a medicine degree.
Then another 2 years of foundation training.
At this point, you would now be a Junior Doctor.
Now, once you have completed the foundation programme – you have a choice of the type of specialty registrar route you want to take.

Have a look at the timeline we’ve made below. (Numbers stated are minimum years)

A timeline on how to become a consultant doctor or a General Practitioner.

Why study Medicine?

A doctor holding a model of DNA

When you study Medicine, you are studying in one of the most competitive and prestigious fields in the world – placing you in the highest ranks of society. It will be a chance to fulfil your potential as it is a field with no roof – sky is the limit when it comes to medical knowledge. In most communities, there are a select few amount of doctors – but they are the real community leaders.

You will be a doctor in the hospital, and outside. Many people would love to help someone who is in need of urgent medical care – whether it happens at work or on the street. However, they realise they are incapable of doing so. You will have the expertise to help anyone in danger.

If you enjoy studying Chemistry, Biology or Psychology – Medicine will allow you to make practical use of those subjects. Not many other careers can provide such a deep level of mental stimulation where all the information you absorb is essentially to help and progress humanity.

Keep in mind that medicine is a very broad field. There is a speciality for everyone. If you’re a surgeon, you will perform surgery in high-stake situations with lots of pressure, whereas a paediatrician gets to work with kids which has a totally different dynamic.

It’s a hard decision to make, but if you love a challenge and you have a passion for science – it’s worth it.

Skills Needed to Study Medicine

Three archers hitting bullseye

• Compassion

The first skill you need to be an excellent doctor is compassion. As is the nature of human genetic makeup, patients tend to respond positively to a doctor who proves that he or she feels and understands the pain of the patient. The more you interact with patients, the better your empathy gets. A great physician will be patient and understand all the needs of a patient.

• Ideal Professionalism

Professionalism means that you will be able to distinguish between job satisfaction and career settling. You can be deemed as a great professional in the medical field of life by sticking to all rules and regulations that have been laid forth.

• Work Ethic

Ideal work ethic is comprehending the value of separating personal from professional lives. All this while, you must depict abilities and expertise to work effectively without subjecting patients to any form of prejudice.

• Humility

Humble doctors are willing to acknowledge failures, as this will create more room for growth in the future.

• Passion

The final requirement is passion. You have to love what you are doing for you to produce the best results. As a professional doctor, the desire to help, treat, and safeguard the sick or anyone in help should come naturally. It would be a misinformed decision for you to settle into the healthcare industry of life simply because most family members followed in the same pattern.

Typical Salaries

After graduating University as a Junior Doctor, you will participate in a Foundation Programme (essentially work-based training).
This will include a paid salary between £20,000 and £30,000.

After these two years, you will be a Specialty Registrar studying and practising the:
General Practice Specialty Training Programme if you want to become a GP, which means you’ll be a GP Trainee.
• Or a Hospital Specialty Training Programme which means you’ll be a Surgical Trainee or a Clinician Trainee, depending on the hospital specialty you choose.
Typical salaries will be between £40,000 to £75,000 (depending on experience).

After you have passed the Specialty Certificate Examinations and depending on what route you have taken (GP or Consultant) you will be earning £80,000 and above.

Step 1: Admission to Medical School (Undergraduate Medicine Degree)

There are two primary methods that you can use to get into medical school to become a doctor. The first way is getting in as an undergraduate. Each medical school has its admission criteria using GCSEs, and A levels.

The other method is getting in as a graduate. You can readily get admitted to medical school if you have a Bachelor of Science degree in a related subject.

Medicine Entry Requirements

To study a medicine degree, you need to have an A level, Advanced Higher or an equivalent qualification in:

• Chemistry
• At least one other science from biology, physics or maths
• A third subject.

As you can see, you have to study chemistry.

The other subjects really depend on the university. Here’s a good idea of what might work:

• Chemistry, Biology and either Maths or Physics (or both) will keep all the medical schools open to you

• If you don’t take Maths or Physics but do take chemistry and biology, it will keep open the vast majority

• If you don’t take biology, but do take chemistry and one from maths or physics, fewer medical schools will accept you

What grades do you need to study medicine?

Typical offers range from ABB–A*A*A. A fourth AS level and a set number of GCSEs at a certain grade or above may also be required depending on the university

If you’re studying in Scotland, typical offers range from AAAAB to AAAAA at Higher level. You will also need two or three As at Advanced Higher level.

Admissions Tests – the UCAT and BMAT

UK medical schools require applicants to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), but some ask applicants to sit the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) instead. The scores are recorded in points and goes towards your UCAS application.

The Best Universities to Study Medicine in the United Kingdom

Choosing the right learning institution will be reflected in the quality of education that you possess by the end of the studying duration. Below are the top 10 best universities to enrol for a medicine degree in the United Kingdom.

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. Imperial College London
  4. University College London (UCL)
  5. King’s College London
  6. University of Edinburgh
  7. University of Glasgow
  8. University of Liverpool
  9. University of Manchester
  10. Queen Mary University of London
A picture of Guy's Hospital

Step 2: Graduating with a Medical Degree

The second step is graduation. While this may seem like the most natural step to accomplish, obtaining a medical degree is never as easy as it may sound. Several barriers are bound to occur while studying a medicine degree, and you should be well-prepared to handle them. For example, lack of adequate tuition fees or poor performance in fundamental medical practices.

Different universities in the U.K offer contrasting medical programs depending on the preferences of most students. After graduation, you can secure an M.B (Bachelor of Medicine) and MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine: Bachelor of Surgery).

Step 3: Apply for a Medical License

Soon after graduation and securing yourself an authentic medical degree, you have to coordinate with the government to get official authorisation to practice medicine.

The General Medical Council of the United Kingdom is solely responsible for issuing licenses to practice medicine. However, keep in mind the fact that this medical license acquisition will not come easy.

There are several written and oral exams that competent medical practitioners still need to excel before the license is deemed ideal for operation. Most importantly, remember that after graduating in medicine in the U.K past the year 2022, you will need to pass a new license exam; U.K Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA).

Step 4: Foundation Program

After graduation and obtaining a medical license, you can now find in-depth and personalised values of delivering professional healthcare services. This duration is termed as the foundation program because it helps you discover who you are in light of your selection of career preferences.

The foundation period marks a substantial transition period of studying medicine in the U.K. The duration takes a maximum of 2 years (the first year referred to as F1, second year referred to as F2). By the end of the 2 years, you will have mastered enough learning and working experience to initiate an official medical occupation. This is after exhausting all medical specialities, and you eventually decided to settle with one.

Step 5: Specialisation (Specialty Registrar)

The specialisation stage is the longest of all levels. It takes a maximum of 8 years. Soon after completing the foundation program of the last 2 years, you qualify to be a medical trainee. Specialisation allows you to decide between two significant options before proceeding.

The first is General Practitioner Training. Here, you will have to train and study for a minimum of 3 years before getting approval in the U.K. The General Medical Council is liable for providing all training for general practitioners. The second is Hospital Specialty Training. This can last 5-8 years.

There are two types of specialty training:

  • Run-through. This lasts from approximately three years for general practice and five to seven years in other specialties. It’s an “uninterrupted progression” style of training, 
  • Uncoupled model. This style of training consists of core training (to give a  rounded experience with lots of different medical/surgical specialties) for two to three years,  then competitive entry into higher specialty training.

Step 6: Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Like any other field of life, learning does not end with graduation. CPD allows you to learn while working. The experience that you will gain from CPD will go a long way in helping you relate with patients, shareholders, and global health policymakers without any difficulties.

The idea of continually building your knowledge and skills in medical care relies on your ability to maximise the potential prospects that each interaction is bound to offer. By the end of one and half a decade, there is no doubt that your medical expertise will be soaring higher than ever.

Specialty Fields in Medicine

A doctor choosing from a range of scissors.

One of the hardest decisions in your career begins after the degree, when you have to start thinking about which specialty to pursue. There are over 60 specialties and more than 30 subspecialties to consider after the two years of foundation training. Below we listed some popular specialties that many medics go into.

• Immunology

Immunologists treat allergies and immune system disorders. They can also treat autoimmune health complications. Additionally, immunologists treat eczema and asthma as well.

• Cardiology

Cardiologists have high knowledge of blood vessel and heart complications. They address many cardiac-related health issues.

These doctors also treat high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.

• Colorectal Surgery

Colon surgeons focus on large intestines. They can handle a wide variety of cancer, and are involved in the removal of parts of the colon. Rectal surgeons focus on disorders of the rectum and anus. They are well equipped and knowledgeable to conduct cancer tests.

• Neurology

Neurologists have immense expertise in the central nervous system. These professionals can solve any health complications revolving around the brain, nerves, and spinal cord.

Neurologists are the best at treating brain tumours, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases.

• Family Doctors

The objective of family physicians is to cater to the health and safety needs of all family members. They can do screening tests and routine checkups to keep a reliable medical history of the family. They are responsible for giving immunisation shots.

• Dermatology

Dermatologists are doctors of the skin, hair, and nails. They treat scars, acne, and different types of skin allergies. They can solve other mole issues as well.

There are several other categories of specialists in medicine. The above-listed fields consist of both the most and least influential specialities in medicine as an individual subject of research.

Final Word

It is already clear that medicine fields take more than a simple education process. It takes a calling to be part of the global community of healthcare provision. This career will be made easier if you pursue medicine for the right reasons, rather than focusing on the economies of scale that you will begin enjoying in the future.

Reading books about Doctors and hospitals can be really inspiring if you have some interest in the field. We recommend reading “When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery“. It’s a book that you will become engrossed in if Medicine is for you.

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Crazy how people who save lives have salaries that are minuscule compared to professions like investment banking. What a world we live in.The table does a really nice job of breaking down the different routes to becoming a doctor – will recommend this to friends!