There are many instances in which you may choose to undergo an undergraduate degree before studying Medicine – meaning you will be studying Medicine as a graduate student.
For example, it may be because you chose to study the fifth, non-Medicine, choice on your UCAS Medicine application, or you didn’t feel ready to study Medicine as an undergraduate student, or that you aimed to gain more knowledge and experience before committing yourself to the Medicine career. There are a range of reasons, but the main thing to remember is that studying Medicine as a graduate student is an option and you are not alone if you decide this is the path for you.
Which undergraduate degrees can you study before Medicine?
It is possible to study either a science or non-science degree as an undergraduate before studying Medicine as a graduate. HOWEVER, it does depend on the universities that you are applying to.
Classically, science degrees are most common to study before studying Medicine. For example, Biomedical Sciences (with or without specialising), Medical Sciences, Biochemistry and Chemistry are all common options. Nonetheless, non-science degrees are accepted by many (approximately just over half) of UK graduate Medicine courses. So, do not feel limited by the examples I have provided above.
The following Medic Portal link highlights the graduate medical courses in the UK and their entry requirements concerning undergraduate degree types: https://www.themedicportal.com/application-guide/graduate-entry-medicine/.
What are some advantages of studying an undergraduate degree before Medicine?
Studying an undergraduate degree before Medicine can be advantageous for both your application (if you use your experiences cleverly!) and also as a medical student.
With regards to helping with your graduate Medicine application…
- Feeling committed and ready to study Medicine. Given the rigour of the graduate Medicine application process (as with undergraduate Medicine), the additional years to commit to university teaching, and increased age, graduate students may feel more assured in their decision to study Medicine.
- Increased time to gain experience and skills to include in your application. During the undergraduate degree you may have increased time and opportunities to take advantage of in order to expand your knowledge and experience before applying to Medicine and consolidate your choice.
- Writing your personal statement. Focussing on what you learned and anything that helped you to understand that you wanted to study Medicine during your undergraduate degree can be helpful (blog post on discussing your undergraduate degree in your personal statement coming soon!)
- In medical school interviews. Again, focussing on what you learned, how you have gained experience, and in particular, how the experience has helped to inform your choice to study Medicine as a graduate student.
- Writing your BMAT essay. If you decide to sit the BMAT, the essay, depending on the title choice, could be a good opportunity to use information and examples you have learned during your undergraduate degree. Additionally, you are likely to develop good essay writing skills during your degree, which can also come into use when writing the BMAT essay.
To put some of this information into context… I studied Biomedical Sciences as my undergraduate degree. I really enjoyed this degree and especially my speciality in Reproductive Biology. I felt as though this speciality had a significant clinical element associated with it which I loved. I chose to undergo an internship at a fertility clinic which I found highly interesting, and importantly it highlighted to me that I preferred the clinical elements over the more laboratory research elements. These are just a couple of points that further encouraged my choice to study Medicine as a graduate. Along with a range of work experience, I tried to highlight these points in my application as a whole to show how the last 4 years (note – degrees in England are usually only 3 years long however, I was studying in Scotland) had consolidated my choice to apply for Medicine.
With regards to helping you as a medical student…
- Living independently. You may need to adjust less to living away from home and independently because you tackled these hurdles whilst studying your undergraduate degree.
- Previously covered content. Some knowledge regarding especially pre-clinical content may have already been covered or at least touched on during your undergraduate degree. BUT note – this is largely dependent on the type of undergraduate degree and modules studied. Additionally, there may be differences in methods of learning between science undergraduate and Medicine degrees, and the details and focus of the learning may differ. Importantly, the time passed since any overlapping topics initially studied may mean that a good recap of knowledge is required and useful in any case! Certain modules (such as anatomy and those that are pharmacology related) are likely to show some overlap in the content covered. Furthermore, statistical skills gained during an undergraduate degree may come into use
- Studying, revision and learning styles. The experience of studying, sitting exams, undergoing group projects etc. during your undergraduate degree is likely to provide you with some useful skills that are also applicable whilst studying Medicine.
- University-style teaching. Lectures, seminars and tutorials may be more familiar to you therefore there may be less of an adjustment to university-style teaching
This is not to say that undergraduate medical students will be at a disadvantage with regard to the points mentioned – it is just that, from my experience and from what I hear form my peers, graduate students may feel slightly more comfortable starting their medical school journey due to reasons such as those listed above.
What are some disadvantages of studying Medicine as a graduate student?
As with any career, I believe it is never too late to choose the career that you would truly like to pursue. Medicine being no exception! There may be some (minor) drawbacks associated with studying Medicine as a graduate student. However, note that some of these points may be potentially viewed as positive OR negative depending on the individual and particular circumstances.
These may include…
- Additional years studying at university.
- Tuition and maintenance funding considerations.
- Possible repeating of teaching, modules and content .
- Living considerations (close to the university? In halls? At home? Etc.)
What is my advice if you are thinking of undergoing an undergraduate degree before graduate Medicine OR are considering studying Medicine as a graduate?
- Brainstorm your options – degree types, routes into Medicine, university options etc.
- Explore all options at school and during your undergraduate degree – Medicine and other – you may find something you are even more interested in during your undergraduate degree!
- Can you discuss your situation with a careers service? At school and/or at university? I was initially advised to explore websites such as Prospects to try to gauge careers that may suit me and my preferences.
- Weigh up the pros and cons for you personally with regards to undergoing a degree before Medicine (undergraduate or graduate Medicine?)
- Which degree would you consider studying as an undergraduate student before Medicine? (make sure you choose wisely! Even if you know graduate Medicine is for you, it would be ideal to find enjoyment and interest in your undergraduate degree).
- If unsuccessful at the first attempt (during sixth form) when applying to Medicine, consider your options including – gap year(s) and re-applying to Medicine vs studying undergraduate degree – remember, both routes allow you to gain further experience for your future Medicine application.
- Visit university open days, talk to current and past students, talk to medical students and doctors, shadow doctors, undergo clinical and other work experience, research about the application process (Medmentor can help!).
Ultimately, there is often always time and a route to the career you would like to pursue. There are advantages of undergoing an undergraduate degree before Medicine, as well as some considerations such as the additional time and funding. Try to make use of all of the resources available to you, including Medmentor (and other Medicine application and information websites), school and university careers services and discussing with your peers, university students and doctors. It all falls into place in the end. Best of luck!
Author: Carolina Williams
Editor: Allegra Wisking