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Where to start  

Medicine is an intellectually stimulating and varied career path. Many make the decision to explore a medical career after their first degree, or even after a period in the workplace. The common motivation for a medical career is a desire to help people. While life as a doctor can be fulfilling and rewarding, it also has many challenging aspects.

It's essential that you find out what you'd be letting yourself in for before you apply for Graduate Entry Medicine. Organising relevant work experience or volunteering will give you some insight and provide useful evidence to convince prospective medical schools of your motivation and suitability. Speaking to current graduate entry medical students, junior doctors, and those more advanced in their careers can help you to understand what the work is really like.

How to know if you’re suited to this sector

You’ll need to be compassionate, empathetic, and resilient, and have excellent communication skills to work with patients, their families and other healthcare professionals. You’ll also need to be adaptable and able to work calmly under pressure.

You’ll need to be realistic about the fact that you won’t always be able to help people. You should have the resilience to deal with difficult circumstances, particularly seeing people in pain.

How to get the experience to be credible

Applicants for graduate entry medicine are expected to show a demonstrable commitment to become a doctor via longer-term volunteering, shadowing health professionals, and undertaking paid work in the health sector. Relevant experience includes:

  • Hospital volunteering or paid work as a Healthcare Assistant
  • Volunteer or paid roles in residential care homes, hospices, Nightline, Samaritans, homelessness charities, or holiday playschemes
Further study or certification required

If you already have an undergraduate degree, you will need to complete an accelerated graduate entry medicine course to become a doctor. Some courses will require a relevant Life Sciences subject, whereas others are open to students from any discipline. Check the entry requirements carefully. You will usually need a minimum of a 2:1 in your degree, and if you have not studied a Life Science subject you may need A Levels in Biology and/or Chemistry.

How to find employers or training courses

A full list of Medical Schools (including their courses and entry requirements) is available from the Medical Schools Council.

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Your personal statement will need to clearly articulate your motivation for becoming a doctor, reflecting on what you have learned from your experiences and how they have informed your decision to pursue this career path. You will need to provide evidence that you have the skills to work with patients and multi-disciplinary professionals in clinical practice.

You should also show that you have the academic capability and skills to balance the academic workload of the accelerated course with clinical placements and other demands.

Some institutions will ask applicants to complete additional, institution-specific forms after applying via UCAS. It is common for them to include a section on work experience. In most cases, it is expected that you will reflect on your experience, going beyond a basic description of your tasks.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career
  • Student Community Action offers a range of volunteering opportunities that provide good experience for Medicine applications
  • Using the Community option on Handshake, you can find and network with graduate medical students, junior doctors, and experienced clinicians with links to Cambridge. This will supply you with advice and insights about graduate medical courses, and medical careers in general.
  • A Careers Service blog post details the experiences of two alumni who moved into medicine as a career change.
Other things you should know

At the time of writing, students taking graduate entry medicine can apply for partial-tuition fee and maintenance loans, along with NHS bursaries to fund their training. Further details are available from the Medical Schools Council.

There are numerous roles in the healthcare sector, many of which provide patient interaction, intellectual stimulation, and the opportunity to work as part of a multi-disciplinary healthcare team. Use the HealthCareers role explorer to find out about over 350 NHS roles. The Physician Associate role may be of particular interest: this role provides crucial support to doctors in both GP practices and hospital settings.