This page has been written by Pamela Andrew
, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Pamela, or any of our advisers, visit our website
Which medical degrees to apply for
The University of St Andrews and the UK in general is seeing more and more graduates applying to medicine, mainly to the 4 year Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) courses, but also to the standard 5 or 6 year medicine courses. The GEM is still an undergraduate degree, not a postgraduate, so you apply through UCAS. Medschoolonline features a list of all the courses.
The University of St Andrews is offering the 4 year ScotGEM graduate entry programme from 2018 entry.
A bursary of £4,000 per year will be made available to all ScotGEM students (Home, EU and RUK) from autumn 2018; this optional grant will be payable to students who agree to work in Scotland’s NHS for a certain time period. For each £4,000 claimed, there will be a commitment to one year of service to NHS Scotland. Further details.
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.
If you have the passion to improve people’s lives and the determination to reach the highest standards, you will have a wide range of career opportunities open to you. 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 the NHS website.
Why study medicine?
Your reasons will be unique to you but could include:
- Practical application of science
- Opportunity to make a positive difference to other people
- Rewards (financial or personal satisfaction)
- Professional job structure
- Challenging work environment
- Academic challenge
How competitive is it?
- Applications to places ratio: Entry to medicine is extremely competitive with popular schools reporting 1,000 applications for 50 places. The ratio of places to applicants varies from institution to institution and from year to year. GEM are far more competitive than the other courses and some institutions are more popular. It therefore important to take this information into account in making your UCAS choices, especially if you are not a strong candidate. GEMSs have a far greater ratio of applicants to places than 5 year undergraduate programmes so many graduates include at least one undergraduate course in their UCAS choices.
- Selection criteria: To be successful it is important to be knowledgeable about the different admissions policies of medical schools. Some put an emphasis on work experience while others on degree classification and/or UKCAT score. It is really worth your time studying each institution's admission criteria and applying to the institutions which will look on your individual situation most favourably.
- Healthcare experience: Appropriate experience is important, although several universities will select applicants for interview only on their academic criteria most will use an applicant's experience in the selection process. In most cases any type of substantial work in a caring role can be considered. For more information, refer to the “How to get experience” section.
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. Medschoolonline has useful application information.
UCAS form advice
- You are allowed 4 choices of medical schools and you can apply to a combination of fast track and undergraduate courses.
- Give your referee enough notice before the UCAS deadline!
- UCAS provides full explanatory notes (‘Apply’), but if you still have a question then you can ring up their Customer Service Unit on 0371 468 0468 for advice.
- Your Personal Statement
- Medical School Criteria- Always check the websites of your chosen schools for their selection criteria and where possible direct your statement to these.
- Word count- you are allowed 4000 characters which includes spaces.
- Commitment to medicine - Remember to include how this interest developed. Could be science background, personal experiences, work experience etc. Make sure the things that you claim interested you in medicine show a realistic picture of the profession e.g. a helping profession, a practical use of science, making a difference, continually developing yourself, social and scientific base. How have you followed up this interest?
- Experience - Detail the tasks that you have undertaken – hands-on experience is better than simply observing, even if the tasks are very basic. Include experience of talking with patients. How did you feel about this experience? What did you learn about the caring profession and about yourself? What did you learn about patient care – keep this realistic. What sort of an insight into the daily life of health professionals did you gain? You will most likely have seen a number of different health care teams in action – what do you understand about multidisciplinary teams? Also include any shadowing experience. Insight and reflection is again important here. Have an awareness of the pace and pressures of life as a doctor. How do doctors build relationships with their patients? What have you learned about this relationship? How important is good communication? Again, how have you built on this experience? Did you proactively organise any of this with a learning outcome in mind? Show evidence of self-directed learning and development. What skills can you bring from other work/extracurricular experience? Interests – show that you are a rounded individual and have a good work-life balance. It may be useful to refer to the GMC website section, Good Medical Practice: Duties of a Doctor. This will help you with the qualities you are hoping to develop as a medical student.
- Education - How has your academic background prepared you for medicine? Do you have any practical scientific skills? Have you undertaken any relevant projects or studies? How have you worked with your peers? How have you managed your time? What do you know about your learning style and that of the courses you are applying to?
- The course - How do you feel you are suited to the particular course? What can you bring to the course? How will you approach the demands? What are you hoping to gain?
- Conclusion - End with enthusiasm and commitment as well as a sense of the careful consideration that you have taken over this application.
- Feedback- get your statement proof read to ensure grammar is 100% correct, and content is relevant and tight. Ask a variety of people to give you feedback - parents, careers adviser, current medical student, doctor/consultant early on in their careers etc.
All information is accurate at the time of writing (November 2017). It is important that students check the relevant websites for updates and changes to costs and deadlines for registering and sitting all admissions tests. If you are unsure which tests you need to sit, contact the admissions department at the medical school you are interested in applying to in order to check their requirements.
There are currently three admissions tests in use by different medical schools- details below. Check with the medical school you are interested in applying to in order to find out if they require you to sit an entrance exam.
UKCAT - UK Clinical Aptitude Test
The UKCAT is a two-hour computer-based test. It consists of five separately timed subtests which assess a range of mental abilities identified by university medical and dental schools as important. Each subtest contains a number of items in a multiple-choice format.
Candidates either sit the standard UKCAT or the UKCATSEN (Special Educational Needs) if they are entitled to additional time due to a documented medical condition or disability.
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
GAMSAT 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
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is 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.
- strong motivation to become a doctor
- knowledge of contemporary medical issues (includes what is happening in the NHS and ethical issues) (update your knowledge by reading newspapers, etc.)
- communication skills and relationship building
- understanding of what it entails to be a member of the medical profession (pros and cons)
- ability to present a logical argument to defend your opinions
- awareness of the course and the commitment required to be successful
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.
This is continually changing. Keep up-to-date by referring to the NHS website.
- Contact the university/universities you are planning to apply to in order to find out if the course you are applying to is an approved course and attracts NHS financial support. To be eligible for financial support from the NHS, you must meet certain criteria.
- The British Medical Association (BMA) has good information on medical student finance. Graduates wishing to take medicine as a second degree who are looking for funding, should send a stamped self-addressed envelope to: BMA Charities, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP
- Money4MedStudents provides practical, unbiased information and advice on sources of funding, managing your money and how to borrow sensibly.
- Some universities have small numbers of scholarship funds, and professional associations (such as the British Medical Association) may have details of bursaries, loans or trust funds available to those wishing to enter the profession. Loans are also available from the Student Loans Company and banks, too, may be willing to lend money through personal or professional loan schemes.
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.
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
- Work Shadowing Programme – the Careers Centre organises a Work Shadowing Programme where alumni, friends and staff of the University offer their time for you to shadow them at their place of work.
- Hospital Placement – Some NHS Trusts have organised work experience placements - contact the HR department by phone. Contact details for English trusts can be found on NHS Choices website and for Scotland the NHS Scotland website. The Student Room website features a work experience directory. Some hospitals stipulate you must live in the area, but not all do. NHS Fife and NHS Tayside offer a few opportunities for a 5 day placement at local hospitals
- Hospital Volunteer - For St Andrews Community Hospital, contact Josie Mitchell, at email@example.com. Josie is happy to discuss ward-based volunteering options open to you. There is also the opportunity to shadow more experienced volunteers. There is a wide variety of volunteering opportunities available at Ninewells - refer to their website for more information. You will not be providing care to the patients - it is about befriending and socialising with patients but this provides invaluable experience in building relationships with patients.
- Volunteering - Working with vulnerable people, practical hands-on caring experience, motivating/teaching others, mentoring, volunteering with other healthcare professionals to gain an appreciation of the wider healthcare team. Some useful organisations include: the SVS (Student Volunteer Service) located in the Students Union (or contact them by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org), VolunteerScotland, and Fife Volunteer Action - the latter organisation will arrange individual meetings in St Andrews to put appropriate opportunities in place. Volunteering with the Police as a Special Constable will build up your skills in communicating with a wide range of people.
- First Aider- Consider gaining first aid qualifications and volunteering as a first aider. Organisations such as the British Red Cross offer training.
- Residential and Care Homes - Volunteering long term with the elderly can provide a valuable experience. Contact homes directly to find out if they have any openings, this website can help you locate a local home.
- Experience of healthcare - Support roles including hospital receptionist/porter, care homes, auxiliary nursing/healthcare assistant roles through recruitment agencies. Talk to a variety of healthcare professionals.
- Part time work - not necessarily in a healthcare setting. Roles that involve dealing with people in stressful situations, communicating with a range of people, working as part of a close team.
- Positions of responsibility - committee membership, leadership positions, project management, making a difference.
- Teddy Bear Hospital - is a health promotion project in St Andrews running weekly trips to primary schools to teach children about health and healthcare. They visit schools and teach them about things like how to wash hands and explain how germs are spread etc! For more information on how to volunteer refer to their Facebook page
- Shadow a St Andrews medical student - you can be matched up with a medical student and attend some lectures (restrictions apply) as well as gaining an insight into medical school but sharing their experiences. This is usually organised through the School President.
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.
- Physician Associate (formerly known as physician assistant) - a new and expanding healthcare role in the UK to support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. NHS Careers has more detailed information.
Key Links and Resources
Careers Centre resources
- Graduate Entry Medicine 2017/18
- So you want to be a Doctor?
- So you want to be a Brain Surgeon?
- Medical School Interviews
- How to Master the UKCAT
- UKCAT Official guide 2016
General medical careers information
Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines
Internships in the US - Healthcare
This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point.
- Aids United - The Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship opportunity for both undergraduate and graduate students seeking experience in public policy and government affairs focused on HIV/AIDS issues. Duties include assisting in researching a variety of public health and civil rights issues related to HIV prevention, treatment and care. Familiarity with HIV-related issues and the legislative processes is preferred. Fellows must commit to working a minimum of 30 hours per week for 8 weeks.
- American Medical Student Association provides various international health opportunities.
- American Public Heath Association Unpaid internships available across various departments for people from all majors looking to acquire practical work experience. Candidates should be working towards a bachelor, graduate, or postgraduate degree.
- Red Cross offers undergraduate and graduate college students summer internship program at American Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Other paid and unpaid internships are available.
- Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program seeks to create opportunities for minority students in health policy and eventually increase the numbers of minority health policy professionals. Scholars gain exposure to health policy issues and a first-hand understanding of how the federal government works which involves seminars, lectures, and field trips. Offers scholars approximately $5,000 in support.
- Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law offers internships in the area of legal, policy or strategic communications internships
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention Various paid and unpaid opportunities available to current students and recent graduates.
- Department of Health and Human Services offers internship program, recent graduate program and fellowship program.
- Department of Health Internship Program is designed to create internship experiences that relate to departmental needs and is closely aligned with students’ abilities, professional goals, and areas of interest. Open to undergraduate students, graduate students and college seniors who must be enrolled in a graduate program beginning in the fall.
- Health Career Connection provides undergraduate students and recent graduates with full-time, 10 week paid summer health internships in leading health organizations. This hands-on experience with HCC provides practical exposure, experience and mentoring to empower students to advance their healthcare or public health careers.
- The Kaiser Family Foundation - Media Internships Interns will be based for ten weeks at their news organization, typically under the direction of the Health or Metro Editor/News Director, where they will report on health and medical issues. The aim is to provide early career journalists or journalism college graduates with an in-depth introduction to and practical experience on the specialist health beat, with a particular focus on diverse and immigrant communities.
- Men's Health Network (MHN) MHN is seeking interns to be directly involved with our mission of promoting health needs and the overall well being of men and their families. Internship opportunities could include legislative advocacy, health outreach, and research. Work hours are negotiable and flexible.
- National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation's leading experts on social insurance, and is uniquely qualified to provide students with various challenging internship opportunities.
- National Institutes of Health offers internship and fellowship opportunities to undergraduate students, recent graduates and those who completed Masters or other professional degrees within the last two years.
- National Women's Health Network (NWHN) The Helen Rodriquez-Trias Women’s Health Leadership Internship is aimed at developing young leaders in the realm of reproductive health and focuses on managing health information requests from our members and the public. NWHN seeks to develop the next generation of women's health activists by providing hands on experience in the field of women's health policy and advocacy. A NWHN intern can develop health research skills while exploring the worlds of public policy, health education, and feminist organizing. Fall and spring interns receive a stipend of $160/week while summer interns are NOT paid.
- NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Health Research Training Program allows undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to work with experienced mentors confronting real-life challenges in the field. Includes a 10-12 week, full-time summer course, and a part-time course during the academic year. Participants can gain experience in planning, research, administration, and evaluation.