HOW TO BECOME A DOCTOR IN THE UK

Applying to medical school is a fiercely competitive process.  The main reason why students fail is because of a lack of guidance with the application. Medic Mentor offers a fantastic support network of doctors and medical students that provide detailed careers guidance to ensure that you achieve your goal of getting into medical school without compromising on your own well-being and mental health. We help students to work smart, not hard, by providing them with a range of resources that save them time, help them to stand-out, and ensure they are making the best decisions.  Applying to medical school should be fun and exciting – not stressful!  

LEARN HOW TO BECOME A DOCTOR WITH MEDIC MENTOR

How long does it take to become a doctor?

To become a doctor, you need to have a medical degree.  A standard medical degree takes 5 years.  This is for students who apply successfully straight out of secondary school or college.  Some students do an undergraduate degree first (this can be in anything) and then go on to study a post-graduate medical degree which may only take 4 years.  Most new medical graduates also decide to intercalate (do an extra degree in the middle of their medical degree) which adds another year.  So you could spend a minimum of 5 years getting your medical degree at university or a maximum of 8 years (if you choose to do a 3 year undergraduate degree and then a 5-year medical degree as a post-graduate).  Most students, on average, spend 6 years at university.

Once you graduate from medical school, you can start working and earning a junior doctor.  You are a qualified doctor at this point.  However, in order to become a Consultant (an expert) in a medical field, this will take longer.  The length of time depends on which career specialty you decide on.  All doctors have to spend 2 years rotating around various specialties first.  This is refered to as the Foundation Training Programme.  Following this, you can decide to become a GP (which usually takes 3 years), a surgeon (which takes 6-12 years) or a hospital physician (can take 5-9 years).  Many doctors take breaks during their training to start a family or do an extra degree or PhD.  This will extend the time it takes to become a Consultant.  However, is important to note that there is no race to become a Consultant as quickly as possible. You will be working as a doctor from the moment you graduate, which will provide you with a stable income.  A medical career, is something that you can enjoy and explore as you take your time learning and developing during your training.  This is why it is an excellent career for people who want to be lifelong learners, because it is ever-evolving and you will never learn everything that there is to know!

The best place to start is by attending the ‘Get into Medicine’ conferences!

What do doctors do?

Many people believe that doctors go to the hospital, see sick patients and come home.  Although, treating patients is at the core of everything that we do, we acheive this in a variety of ways.

Caring for sick patients

For example, doctors who work in hospitals will be conducting ward rounds, which involve taking clinical histories, examining patients, requesting tests and diagnosing patients.  We also review medications and do our best to ensure that patients are making informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.  Ward rounds are fantastic for ‘in-patients’ (patients who have been admitted to hospital), because it allows doctors to monitor their progress whilst they are very unwell.  Eventually, as patients get better they are often ‘discharged’ (sent home from hospital) back into their community, where their GPs will take care of them.  Sometimes, a hospital doctor will ask to see them again in hospital at a ‘clinic’ for ‘out-patients’ (these are patients who have been sent home from the hospital).  GPs also have the opportunity to conduct ‘home-visits’, for patients who struggle to come to the GP surgery for an appointment.  This also gives the GP a chance to see what the patient’s home enviroment is like, because it might give them clues which help with the diagnosis.

Working as a Team  

All doctors require the assistance of a variety of healthcare professionals to care for patients.  Therefore, excellent team-work skills are needed, to ensure that we can work together to deliver the best care for our patients.

Leadership Skills

As well as being a team player, doctors must be excellent leaders.  They are often responsible for the overall medical management of a patient, and have to effectively co-ordinate a team of healthcare professionals to provide good care.  For example, a surgeon will be responsible for leading a surgical team during a procedure.  You will have doctors in managerial roles too such as the Chief Medical Officer in a hospital or a GP Partner who is involved in running a GP practice.

Research

Doctors are also scientists and research is what drives innovation and opportunities to improve our care and treatment for patients.  All doctors are required to have excellent research skills and undertake research projects throughout their careers.  Doctors may go on to present their work at local or international conferences, in order to educate colleagues and learn from others.

Teaching

The word Doctor is a latin work which means teacher.  Teaching is absolutely essential in medicine because we are constantly teaching throughout the day.  For example, we teach and educate our patients about their conditions, we teach junior colleagues and medical students, and we also teach one another through research and publications.

Practical Skills

All doctors must have the ability to perform clinical skills.  These can range from simple things like taking blood pressure to complex surgical procedures.  Depending on what sort of doctor you are, will define how much hands-on practical work you will undertake.  So you need to have the manual dexterity to perform these tasks effectively.

Travel

Doctors do engage in international work too.  Many doctors often volunteer abroad for a short time or travel around the world to attend conferences and present their research.  This is a wonderful opportunity to experience and learn about health systems in different countries.  You can do this as part of a 6-8 week ‘elective’ placement as part of your medical degree.  This is an opportunity for medical students to arrange their own clinical placements anywhere in the world and start building their international network of contacts.

Again, the best place to learn more about what doctors do and to speak to doctors, is by attending the ‘Get into Medicine’ conferences!

 

Is it hard to become a doctor?

Yes.  Applying to medical school is fiercely competitive and on average there are 10 applications per place.  This gives you a 1 in 10 or 10% chance of obtaining an offer from that particular instituion.  However this does vary significantly, and often not in the way that most people think.  Ultimately, if you do want to become a doctor, and you are prepared to put in the hard work and you have access to the best advice, then you have a very good chance of getting into medical school.  Over 80% of our summer school students get an offer every year, so it is very possible to come out with multple offers from medical schools, if you know what you are doing.  The hardest part of become a doctor is getting into medical school.  The UK is in urgent need of doctors, so it is not difficult to get a job as a doctor and work in the UK, it is just difficult to get into medical school.

If you would like to get some help with this, get in touch by ringing 01530 417 299 or emailing admin@medicmentor.org

How can I stand-out as an applicant?

The important thing is to ensure that you are doing things that you geneuinely enjoy and not because everyone else is doing it.  Examples of this include the Duke of Edinburgh Award or EPQs.  So many students do these, so how does it help you to stand out?

The key is to undertake extra-curricular activities that you enjoy (and help you to de-stress) as well as trying to keep them as medically-relevant as possible.  For example, if you do decide to do an EPQ, then pick a medical subject to research.

You should also be trying to prove to admissions tutors that you have what it takes to be an amazing medical student and future doctor.  So make this easy for them by doing things that doctors do.  Aim to have evidence of the following:

  1. Leadership
  2. Teaching
  3. Presenting
  4. Team-work
  5. Communication
  6. Evidence of Prizes, Awards and Grants
  7. Publications
  8. Community involvement (such as volunteering or work-experience)

How Can Medic Mentor Help with this?

We have a huge range of CV boosting opportunities that tick all of these criteria.  We run a Medical Awards Programme, Leadership Programme, and give students an opportunity to present and volunteer at medical conferences, conduct research and publish in the Mentor Magazine (which is a national publication).  We also run national medical essay competitions and leadership prizes that students can apply for.  These are only available for Medic Mentor students, and in order to become a Medic Mentor student, you must attend a Get Into Medicine Conference or be enrolled onto the Medical Awards Programme.  With so many opportunities, it is no wonder that Medic Mentor students are successful with their applications to medical school.

You can enrol onto the Awards Programme here:

Is it expensive to become a doctor?

Yes and no.  You will be studying at university for (sometimes) double the length of time as other BSc students.  This can be expensive because that’s an extra 2-3 years where you are not earning, and instead, paying your tuition fees and living expenses. When you add up your tuition fees and living expenses it costs roughly £100,000 to study medicine at university.  However, bear in mind that the government also invests roughly £100,000 training each doctor.  Although this sounds like a lot, if you consider that the average wage of a GP working in the UK is roughly £114,000 per year, by comparison it is a worthwhile investment.

You are not expected to pay this upfront.  There are tuition fee and maintanance loans available from student finance to help you with this.  The NHS also provides a bursary to help you with your living expenses for your 5th year of study onwards.  There is also an NHS grant to cover the cost of your tuition fees from the 5th year onwards too.  These are grants that you do not have to repay.  So in terms of the tution fees, you would effectively be getting a 5 or 6 year degree for the price of 4, which is not bad.  Only doctors and dentists currently have access to this type of scheme, which is amazing.

There are also scholarships, prizes, awards and grants that are offerred by Royal Colleges and medical organisations, that savvy medical students can access.  For example, Medic Mentor offer students the opportunity to be awarded a £12,000 scholarship to study at medical school.  This is linked to the Medicine Awards Programme.

How much does it cost to apply to medical school?

There are some unavoidable costs such as your UCAS application fee (£25) and UCAT or BMAT exams (usually £55-80).  The rest will depend on how much additional support you want.  There are some students who want to do the research themselves and apply to medical school, and then there are others who want as much advice and guidance as possible.  Investing in your medical application can really range from doing nothing, or attending 1 or 2 courses right the way through to paying for expensive residential summer schools which can cost over £5000.  Is it worth it?  Well, only you can decide this.  Is it worth spending a few thousand pounds to ensure that you have the best chance of applying to a medical degree that is going to cost you £100,000?  We think that investing in your education is always a good thing, and as doctors we continue to do this when we graduate, but only if the courses that you attend are actually any good.  The best thing to do is some research, read testimonials and (very importantly) look at their success rates.  If you are considering paying for a course, ask yourself, ‘is this going to get me into medical school or give me a better chance of applying?’ The best way to decide this is to look at the course programme and decide if it is worth attending.  You want to look for things which are very UCAS-specific, because ultimately, it is your UCAS application that is going to get you in.

Medic Mentor offers a range of programmes from a 1 day ‘Get into Medicine’ Conference for beginners to a 6-day UCAS Residential Summer School for serious applicants.  Students can make their own choices about how much support that they feel they need.

Is there any help with costs?

If you are from a low-income background there are a huge range of Widening Access Programmes that are run by medical schools.  We strongly encourage you to apply and access these.  We also provide funding for students to access Medic Mentor programmes too.  Please visit the funding page for more details on this.

How do I apply to medical school?

To get into medical school you need to apply through UCAS.  Medical schools will judge your application alongside other applicants based on your UCAS application which includes:

1. Your grades

2. Some additional qualifications such as music grades, EPQ

3. Part-time Jobs

4. Summer School that you have attended

5. Your personal statement

6. Teacher Reference

7. Your prediced Grades

In addition to your UCAS application form, you will be expected to sit an entrance exam, the UCAT/BMAT or both.  You will also be invited to attend an interview.  A handful of medical schools also have additional forms that they will invite you to complete after you have submitted your UCAS application.  These are medical school specific and ask for you to provide more information on your extra-curricular, work-experience and volunteerinf activities and evidence of these.  Based on your performance in all of these tasks, you will or will not be given a medical school offer.  Given the number of applications to medical school, most applications are rejected.

You UCAS application has to be submitted by 5pm on the 15th October each year.

You can only apply to 4 medical schools.  You cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge medical schools, it has to be one or the other.

If you attend the ‘Get into Medicine’ conferences you will gain in-depth knowledge of the application process and how to make a successful application.

How can I get work and volunteering experience?

It is not compulsory for students to get clinical observational work-experience shadowing doctors and heathcare professionals.  Medical schools know that this is very challenging and that there are limited opportunities to do this.  They are very keen on students obtaining volunteering experience.

You can apply for work-experience at any of the following places:

1. hospitals

2. GP surgeries

3. Hospices

4. Pharmacies (shadowing a pharmacist is still useful)

5. Walk-in clinics

6. Community Hospitals

7. Private Hospitals (this can be very challenging).

You must not pay for work-experience and be aware that medical schools will not accept work placements abroad, unless you are an international student.  This is detailed in their info-sheet on work experience placements, that states the following:

‘Medical schools do not generally support or encourage overseas clinical work experience. They want you to have an understanding of the UK health service, either by undertaking clinical work experience or by talking to UK doctors or other health professionals.’

You can undertake volunteering placements by contacting:

1. The hospital volunteering department

2. Nursing or residential homes

3. Nurseries or schools with students who have additional needs

4. Charities (especially health or medicine related)

5. Clubs or societies like St John’s Ambulance

Volunteering gives you an opportunity to develop your skills to become a doctor, compared with work-experience where you are observing how to be a doctor.  This is why volunteering has a greater emphasis in the application compared with work-experience.  If you are able to get work-experience too that is great, but remember, that you don’t get extra points for doing the work experience. Instead, you will get points for how you have actually reflected on it in your personal statement, and how well you answer your interview questions.

We teach students how to effectively apply for work and volunteering experience at the ‘Get into Medicine’ conferences!

What is it like at Medical School?

There are over 40 medical schools that you can choose from.  Selecting your 4 medical schools tactically is a skill in itself.  Becoming a medical student is a wonderful experience.  Although it is very challenging academically, it is also a great place to make lifelong friends and experiences new things.  As a medical student you will be expected to:

  • attend lectures and problem-based learning (PBL) learning sessions
  • undertake anatomy dissection at some medical schools
  • participate in clinical placements
  • sit written exams, complete coursework and do practical exams
  • complete research projects that could be lab-based, clinical, or a literature review
  • go on elective (usually an international placement)
  • consider intercalating (most medical students do this)
  • participate in clubs and societies (the medical societies tend to be the biggest in each university because the medical student cohorts are so big)
  • present at conferences
  • win prizes
  • meet inspirational people
  • have an amazing social life too

It is always a challenge to juggle all of these things, whilst developing your independence.  However, most doctors will agree that the years spent at medical school are often where their best memories come from too.

You can access our Medical School Directory to find details about individual medical schools.

You can also learn how to tactically select your medical school by attending  the ‘Get into Medicine’ conferences!