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Careers Centre

Medicine as a second degree

About this sector

Medical Roles

A medicine degree will open up a wide range of career opportunities open to you. Medical school is phase one of your training, if you wish to practise in the UK you then go on to apply to the Foundation Programme. You can follow a path to one of many specialties, from working in a hospital as a surgeon to being based in the community as a GP. Within the practice of medicine itself, there are over 60 different specialties; your medical training will give you the opportunity to discover which appeals to you most. Other areas of work include the armed forces, industry, academic medicine and full-time research.

Explore different medical pathways and training routes using the resources below.


Which medical degrees to apply for

There are three main types:

  1. Standard Entry Medicine -  course is usually five years long, but in some institutions it is six. It can have different abbreviations, such as MBBS or MBChB, but all result in the bachelor’s degree in medicine.
  2. Graduate Entry Medicine -  course is open to those with a previous bachelor’s degree, achieving a minimum of 2.1. The GEM is still an undergraduate degree, not a postgraduate, so you apply through UCAS.
  3. Medicine with a Preliminary Year - course takes the form of a five-year Standard Entry Medicine with an additional year at the start, making a six-year course. It is also known as Medicine with a Foundation Year, or similar.

The University of St Andrews School of Medicine is the first in Scotland to offer a Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine course (ScotGEM). This graduate entry programme is intended to provide a pathway into Medicine for graduates from an Arts or Science background, and will lead to a Primary Medical Qualification which meets General Medical Council requirements. The programme is run in partnership with NHS Scotland and the universities of St Andrews, Dundee and the Highlands and Islands.

Why study medicine?

Your reasons will be unique to you but could include:

As well as being rewarding it is a challenging and demanding profession to follow. These resources will help you consider the pros and cons.

How competitive is it?

Before Applying

Most medicine courses you will need to sit a UK Clinical Admissions Test (UKCAT) or in a few cases a Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) or BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test).  Information on which tests applied to an institution will be on their website. These tests were introduced to assist universities make a more informed choice from amongst the highly qualified applicants.


How to apply

Applications to medical schools are made through UCAS which opens for applications in mid-June and has a closing date of 15 October for entry the following autumn. Visit the UCAS website for more information. The Medic Portal also has useful application information.


Admission tests

Which test?



There are currently three admissions tests in use by different medical schools:

UKCAT - UK Clinical Aptitude Test -the majority of medical schools use this test, which is designed to be a test of aptitude for medicine rather than a test of academic achievement.


GAMSAT– Graduate  Medical Schools Admissions Test - is developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in conjunction with the Consortium of Graduate Medical Schools to assist in the selection of students to participate in the graduate-entry programs in Australia, Ireland and the UK. It is designed to assess the capacity to undertake high-level intellectual studies in the medical and health professional programs. Download the GAMSAT Information booklet


BMAT – Biomedical Admissions Test - an admissions test for applicants to Medicine, Biomedical Science and Dentistry courses at certain universities. The exam is only valid for one year therefore you must sit it the year you are applying.



Preparation is the key to success, make sure you have researched the individual school's website to find out the format of the interview.

The structure varies from university to university but they are all looking for similar things in an applicant.

The interviews are either a panel interview or a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI). The MMI consists of a series of short mini interviews which test candidates' ability to think on their feet.



Financial support/funding

This is continually changing. Keep up-to-date by referring to the NHS website.

Further information


How to gain experience

Relevant work experience and extracurricular activities are important to most medical schools. A mix of medically related and non-medically related experiences are recommended. For non-medical related try to choose ones that show your leadership qualities and ability to take responsibility. In all activities, if you can show a commitment over a stretch of time rather than a short burst this will reflect on your dedication to this vocation.

Graduate applicant

As a graduate applicant it will be expected that you have more in-depth experience than a school leaver. Your experiences should be over a longer length of time and in them you should have held a degree of responsibility.


Clinical experience - work in a caring role and research experience are all looked upon favourably by admission teams. Clinical experience can be difficult to arrange due to confidentiality but shadowing or even just speaking to a healthcare professional can be beneficial.

Research Experience - it is not essential in the UK as it is for some US medical schools but it still can add an extra dimension to your application as it shows you have an interest in the scientific side of medicine. If there is a research team on St Andrews which interest you  could apply to the Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship Programme.

Keep a record of your experiences; especially useful is a reflection journal which records how you felt and developed from your experiences. Also, if there are articles in the media concerning health or medical matters which interest you keep a copy of them. These resources will provide useful backup information in your personal statement and interviews.


Types of experience


If unsuccessful

Many St Andrews graduates are unsuccessful with their first application but after a year gaining extra relevant experience the success rate for second applications is high. These websites contain helpful information for you to assess your future options.

It may be worth considering alternative careers.


Key Links and Resources

Careers Centre resources

Books - the following books are available on short term loan in the University Library:


General medical careers information


Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines