|Sources of vacancies|
An approved degree is essential for work as a doctor. Graduate entry to medical school is possible. A 2:1 in a science based subject is usually required but some schools will consider graduates of other disciplines. There is the opportunity to specialise within medicine and further study may be necessary. For example it takes 9 years minimum to train as a GP and 12 years before being suitably qualified for hospital consultant positions.
AGCAS, the professional body for higher education careers advisory services, has produced an Industry Insight for Health which provides an overview of what it is like to work in this area.
Work experience is crucial if you want to demonstrate both your potential and commitment to prospective employers/course leaders. Your chances of being accepted on to a medical school programme, and ultimately attaining a position of employment, are greatly increased if you can demonstrate that you have relevant experience. Competition for entry to medicine is fierce and relevant pre-entry work experience is absolutely critical.
Structured work experience schemes within the health sector are rare; this is partly due to patient confidentiality. However, many NHS Foundation Trusts do run volunteering programmes; they may always not give you specific clinical experience but will provide excellent exposure to different types of patients. Occasionally Trusts do provide work placements; one local example is Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust who offer a medical shadowing work placement. It is possible to research NHS Foundations Trusts using an online directory (http://www.monitor-nhsft.gov.uk/about-nhs-foundation-trusts/nhs-foundation-trust-directory - Monitor is the independent regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts). A list of links to work experience opportunities is available at www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Medicine_Work_Experience_Directory.
If you are not successful in securing a volunteering post or a work experience placement with a Foundation Trust it is important that you explore other opportunities for relevant work experience. Outside of the trusts there are many other public, private (e.g. BUPA) and not-for-profit health care organisations that will provide opportunities for work experience or even short-term employment in the form of care or support work, particularly in residential care homes. Also consider the different client groups you will be dealing with in the context of medicine; this may open up other opportunities for people based experience outside of the health care sector.
Many work experience options within the sector go unadvertised. Often organisations are happy to take on volunteers, allow individuals to work shadow or even just speak to members of staff working within the profession. Guidestar is a useful online directory that will allow you to research healthcare charities (www.guidestar.org). If you are interested in relevant volunteering opportunities contact your local volunteering centre (www.volunteering.org.uk) or research opportunities on the 'Do-It' website (www.do-it.org.uk).
It is important to proactively identify opportunities and submit speculative applications using resources such as Yellow Pages (www.yell.com) or The National Health Service. Patient UK (www.patient.co.uk) is a useful resource with which to research both public and private healthcare providers.
Employment in the healthcare sector, whether it be during vacations or after graduation, represents an excellent means of developing experience relevant to a career in medicine. The majority of opportunities within healthcare require specific training, qualifications and experience but there is some scope to undertake incredibly important practical care and support but also clerical roles within hospitals, care homes, health centres and the wider community. Some of the most relevant job sites are highlighted below but also consider recruitment agencies that specialist in health and social care (www.rec.uk.com - website contains directory of recruitment agencies).
Useful job websites:
- NHS Jobs (www.jobs.nhs.uk)
- Randstad Care (www.randstadcare.co.uk)
- Medical Jobs (www.medicaljobs.co.uk)
- Community Care (www.communitycare.co.uk)
- Staff Nurse (www.staffnurse.com)
- Nuffield Health (www.nuffieldhealthcareers.com)
- Bupa (www.bupa.co.uk/jobs)
In order to practise medicine it is necessary to complete a second degree. The programmes combine practical clinical experience with academic study. There are notable differences between courses in the way that they are delivered so it is important to research your options carefully. Subject requirements vary between institutions in respect of both A-level and degree qualifications. An excellent place to start researching medical schools and the various study options available is the British Medical Association website (www.bma.org.uk/careers).
What are the study options?
Accelerated graduate programme
This is a shortened four year degree option for those who have a first degree. You normally need a 2:1 in a science subject but some medical schools, such as Newcastle, St Georges and Kings College London, do accept any degree. Application is via UCAS and the closing date is the 15th October; candidates also have to complete an aptitude test prior to applying. This is usually one of the following: UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or the Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT). Competition is fierce and consequently a strong academic record allied to relevant work experience is very important.
Standard medical degree
The 5 or 6 year standard medical degree can also be considered by graduates. It is possible to apply to both accelerated and standard programmes via the UCAS application system.
This is an option to consider if you lack the necessary science background to pursue the options highlighted above. The foundation degree, or pre-medical course, consists of one year of basic science before embarking on the medical degree. Seven institutions (Keele, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Manchester, Sheffield and Southampton) offer this degree option.
If you are concerned about the extent of your science knowledge it is feasible to consider taking A-levels in Chemistry and Biology or undertaking an 'Access to Medicine' course. Courses are usually one year in duration and could support your application to study medicine. University of Leeds is one example of an institution offering this type of programme; they do provide places on their medicine programme for a small number of students that have successfully completed the access course.
Studying medicine is a significant financial commitment, particularly if you are undertaking a standard degree or a foundation programme. Some financial support is available but it is essential that you approach the institutions that you are applying to in order to establish what you can be considered for. Money4MedStudents is a useful online resource with which to begin to research the financial options open to you (www.money4medstudents.org).
In respect of the accelerated degree, tuition fees will be paid by the Department for Health for years 2, 3 and 4 but not year 1. Students are eligible for a non-means tested reduced-rate maintenance loan. English and Welsh domiciled students are eligible for means-tested NHS bursaries, but these are not available to Scottish and Northern Irish students. EU students are eligible to apply for tuition fee grant only, and international students are not eligible for NHS funding.
For graduate students undertaking a standard medicine degree the situation is difficult. For the first four years graduate students are not eligible for tuition fee support from their Local Education Authority (LEA) if they have previously received LEA funding for more than two years of higher education. Students are eligible to apply for student loans for maintenance.
From the fifth year of their degree course, medical students enter the NHS Bursary Scheme under which tuition fees are paid by the Department of Health. Students are eligible for a reduced-rate non-means tested maintenance loan. English and Welsh domiciled students are eligible for means-tested NHS bursaries, but these are not available to Scottish and Northern Irish students. Arrangements for EU students and international students are complex and are depend on a number of factors including the intended country of study within the UK.
Further information can be found on the following websites:
- NHS Student Bursaries (www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/Students.aspx)
- England (www.direct.gov.uk)
- Wales (www.studentfinancewales.co.uk)
- Northern Ireland (www.studentfinanceni.co.uk)
- Scotland (www.saas.gov.uk)