How do you get into medicine?

Posted on June, 2023

Why Medicine?  – Introduction

Students of medicine often make the best tutors of biology and chemistry, so I am always keen to hear their stories of why they take the thorny and difficult path to becoming a doctor.

Definitely watch our Education Lounge Podcast with Ibraheim and Fatima, who are training to be doctors:

There are many reasons why students may choose to study medicine. These can include:

  1. Passion for healing and helping others.
  2. Intellectual challenge and lifelong learning.
  3. Job security and stability.
  4. Varied career opportunities and specialisations.
  5. Making a positive difference in patients’ lives.
  6. Potential for financial rewards.
  7. Personal growth and professional development.
  8. Teamwork and collaboration.
  9. Prestige and respect are associated with the profession.
  10. Opportunities for global impact and addressing public health challenges.

It is, however, certainly not an easy path and this blog will go into some of the reasons why.

If you are still in the early stages of deciding which career is right for you, you might like to try our career quiz:

A Quick Career Quiz

Essential Steps and Requirements for Aspiring Doctors

Pursuing a career in medicine is a rewarding and noble endeavour. For aspiring doctors in the UK, the journey to entering medical school requires careful planning and dedication. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to get into medicine in the UK, outlining the key steps and considerations for prospective students.

  1. Academic Excellence: Academic achievement is crucial for aspiring medical students. Focus on obtaining excellent grades in key subjects such as biology and chemistry. Other difficult A-Levels are also worth considering, as these will set you apart. Aim for high scores in your A-level exams or equivalent qualifications. Most universities have very high entry requirements.
  2. Work Experience: Gaining relevant work experience in healthcare settings is essential. Seek opportunities to shadow doctors, volunteer at hospitals or clinics, and engage in community service activities. This firsthand exposure will demonstrate your commitment and understanding of the medical profession.
  3. Admissions Tests: Prepare for and take the required admissions tests. In the UK, this typically includes the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). Familiarise yourself with the test formats, practice sample questions, and allocate sufficient time for preparation. Each of these tests applies to different universities, so make sure to research carefully to establish which exam you will need to take.
  4. Personal Statement: Craft a compelling personal statement that highlights your motivation, relevant experiences, and unique qualities that make you suitable for a medical career. Showcase your commitment, empathy, communication skills, and ability to work in a team.
  5. Interviews: If shortlisted, be prepared for interviews, which may involve traditional, panel, or Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). Practice common interview questions, demonstrate critical thinking, and showcase your ethical understanding.

You might like to watch:

What are the pros of becoming a medic in the UK?

Becoming a medic in the UK can offer several advantages. Here are some potential pros of pursuing a career as a medic in the UK:

  1. Job stability: The healthcare sector in the UK is consistently in need of qualified medical professionals, including medics. There is generally a high demand for healthcare services, which means that job opportunities are often available, providing stability in your career.
  2. Rewarding and fulfilling work: Being a medic allows you to make a direct and positive impact on people’s lives. You have the opportunity to help patients, provide medical care, and potentially save lives. The sense of fulfilment that comes from helping others can be incredibly rewarding.
  3. Diverse career options: The field of medicine offers a wide range of specialities and career paths. As a medic, you can choose to work in various areas such as emergency medicine, primary care, surgery, paediatrics, psychiatry, and many more. This diversity allows you to explore different interests and find a specialisation that suits you.
  4. Competitive salary: Medical professionals, including medics, tend to earn competitive salaries in the UK. While the specific income may vary depending on factors such as experience, specialisation, and location, a career in medicine generally offers good earning potential.
  5. Continuous learning and professional development: Medicine is a field that requires lifelong learning and staying up to date with advancements in healthcare. As a medic in the UK, you will have access to opportunities for continuous education and professional development. This can include attending conferences, participating in training programs, and pursuing further qualifications to enhance your knowledge and skills.
  6. Strong healthcare system: The UK has a well-established and respected healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS). Working within the NHS as a medic provides access to resources, infrastructure, and support systems that can facilitate your work and provide a high standard of patient care.
  7. Job satisfaction and prestige: Being a medic is often regarded as a prestigious profession due to the expertise and responsibility it entails. The ability to help others, the trust and gratitude received from patients, and the respect from colleagues and the community can contribute to a high level of job satisfaction.

It’s important to note that while these are potential advantages, pursuing a career as a medic also comes with challenges, such as long hours, high levels of responsibility, and emotional demands. It’s crucial to thoroughly research and consider all aspects of the profession to ensure it aligns with your personal and professional goals.

What are the cons of a career in medicine?

While there are many benefits to becoming a medic in the UK, it’s important to consider the potential challenges and drawbacks of the profession. Here are some cons you should be aware of:

  1. Demanding workload: Working as a medic can involve long and irregular hours, including overnight shifts, weekends, and holidays. The healthcare sector often experiences high patient volumes and limited resources, which can lead to a heavy workload and a fast-paced working environment. This can result in physical and mental fatigue and may impact work-life balance.
  2. High levels of responsibility and stress: As a medic, you will bear significant responsibility for the health and well-being of your patients. Making critical decisions in high-pressure situations can be emotionally challenging and mentally demanding. The stress levels can be further exacerbated by the need to maintain accuracy, handle emergencies, and manage time constraints.
  3. Emotional demands and exposure to trauma: Medics often witness and deal with distressing and traumatic situations. This exposure to suffering, pain, and loss can have emotional and psychological impacts on healthcare professionals. It’s crucial to develop coping strategies and seek support to maintain your own well-being.
  4. Continuous education and training requirements: Medicine is an ever-evolving field, and staying up to date with advancements and best practices requires ongoing education and training. Continuous professional development and acquiring new qualifications may be necessary throughout your career. While this can be seen as a positive aspect, it also requires dedication and time commitment to keep up with the latest knowledge and skills.
  5. Potential for burnout: Due to the demanding nature of the profession, medics are at risk of experiencing burnout. The combination of long working hours, high-stress levels, emotional demands, and the need for constant attentiveness can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. It’s essential to prioritise self-care, seek support, and establish a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout.
  6. Workforce challenges: The UK healthcare system, like many others, faces workforce challenges such as staff shortages and heavy workloads. This can result in increased work pressure, and limited resources, and potentially impact the quality of patient care. It’s important to be aware of these systemic challenges and their potential impact on your work environment.
  7. Regulatory and legal complexities: Medical practice is heavily regulated, and healthcare professionals must comply with various guidelines, protocols, and legal requirements. This includes maintaining accurate medical records, adhering to ethical standards, and navigating complex healthcare policies. Staying compliant with these regulations adds an additional layer of responsibility and potential stress.

It’s crucial to thoroughly evaluate these potential drawbacks and challenges in light of your own abilities, interests, and personal circumstances before deciding to pursue a career as a medic.

A Brief Word on Junior Doctor Pay

Junior doctor pay in the UK has undergone significant changes and sparked debates in recent years. Historically, junior doctors’ salaries were determined by a structured pay scale, which considered experience and progression through training. However, in 2016, proposed changes to junior doctor contracts led to protests and strikes.

Following negotiations between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government, a revised contract was introduced. Under this contract, junior doctors receive a basic salary with additional payments for working nights, weekends, and bank holidays. Pay scales are divided into different bands based on training levels, reflecting the increasing responsibility as doctors progress through their careers.

Nevertheless, concerns about workload, work-life balance, and patient care persist within the junior doctor community. The nature of the medical profession often involves long hours, irregular shifts, and high levels of responsibility. Junior doctors frequently work beyond their contracted hours due to the demands of patient care and the need to gain practical experience.

Efforts have been made to address these concerns and improve the well-being of junior doctors. Safeguards have been implemented to monitor working hours, ensuring that doctors have adequate rest periods and are not excessively fatigued. There is an increasing recognition of the importance of work-life balance and the impact it has on the overall well-being of healthcare professionals.

The pay and working conditions of junior doctors continue to be an ongoing topic of discussion and negotiation between the BMA and the government. Balancing fair compensation for the skills and commitment required in the medical profession while ensuring safe and manageable workloads remains a challenge. The aim is to find a balance that meets the needs of both junior doctors and the healthcare system as a whole.

In conclusion, while significant changes have been made to junior doctor pay in the UK, concerns about workload and work-life balance persist. Efforts are being made to address these issues through contractual changes, monitoring of working hours, and a focus on well-being. However, continued dialogue and ongoing efforts are necessary to ensure that junior doctors are appropriately compensated for their vital contributions to the healthcare system while maintaining a sustainable and supportive working environment.

What Three Pieces of Advice Should Anyone Going Into Medicine Take?

  1. Gain exposure and experience: Before fully committing to a career in medicine, it’s beneficial to gain exposure to the field and gain relevant experience. This can include shadowing or volunteering in healthcare settings, participating in medical outreach programs, or engaging in research projects. Such experiences provide valuable insights into the day-to-day realities of medicine, help you understand different specialties, and allow you to assess whether it aligns with your interests and goals.
  2. Develop strong academic foundations: A career in medicine requires a solid academic foundation. Focus on excelling in the sciences, particularly biology, chemistry, and physics. Acquiring a strong understanding of these subjects during your high school and undergraduate years will provide a solid base for medical studies. Additionally, strive for excellence in other areas such as communication skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving, as these are crucial for effective patient care.
  3. Cultivate essential personal qualities: Beyond academic excellence, successful medical professionals often possess certain personal qualities. Develop and nurture traits such as empathy, compassion, resilience, and strong interpersonal skills. Medicine involves working closely with patients, their families, and multidisciplinary healthcare teams, so being able to connect with others, communicate effectively, and demonstrate empathy are crucial for providing quality care.

Additionally, it’s important to cultivate good time management and organisational skills, as medicine demands the ability to handle a high workload and meet deadlines. Being adaptable and open to continuous learning is also essential in a field that constantly evolves.

Remember, these three pieces of advice are general in nature, and the path to a medical career can vary depending on the specific requirements and educational system of your country. It’s crucial to research and understand the specific academic and professional requirements for pursuing medicine in the region where you intend to practice.


In conclusion, embarking on a medical career is an exciting and rewarding journey that requires careful consideration and preparation. The path to becoming a medical professional is filled with academic challenges, personal growth, and a lifelong commitment to serving others. By following these key steps, you can increase your chances of gaining entry into the medical field.

First and foremost, gaining exposure and relevant experience in healthcare settings allows you to understand the intricacies of the profession, witness the realities of patient care, and explore different specialities. These experiences provide valuable insights that can help you make an informed decision about pursuing medicine.

Building a strong academic foundation is vital for success in the medical field. Focus on excelling in the sciences and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Nurturing strong communication skills and cultivating personal qualities such as empathy, compassion, and resilience will enable you to connect with patients and work effectively within multidisciplinary teams.

Lastly, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and familiarise yourself with the specific requirements and application processes of the region where you intend to practice medicine. Each country may have unique educational pathways, entrance exams, and criteria for admission to medical schools. Being well-informed and prepared will enhance your chances of success.

Remember, the journey to becoming a medical professional requires dedication, perseverance, and a genuine passion for helping others. It’s a path that demands continuous learning and personal growth throughout your career. By embracing these steps and committing yourself to the pursuit of medicine, you’ll be taking the first steps towards a fulfilling and impactful profession that allows you to make a positive difference in the lives of patients and communities.

Want a free consultation?