How to become a Doctor | The Complete Guide

How to become a

the ultimate guide for aspiring doctors in the uk

If you’re a Future Doctor then you’re in the right place! This page has everything you need to think about when you’re applying to Medicine.

Become a doctor through the standard medical degree programme (5-6 years)

Medicine A100 (UCAS Code)

By studying Medicine you can graduate as a doctor.

The standard medical degree length in the UK varies from 5-6 years. This can be extended further if you choose to complete further studies in another subject as an undergraduate (intercalating).

How to become a midwife

Favoured A-Level Subjects

This list is not exhaustive as each Medical School sets their own entry requirements; it’s always worth checking specific entry requirements for any universities that you’re interested in directly on their website.

Subjects required by almost every Medical School:

⇢ Chemistry ⇢ Biology and/or a subject of your choice. So for example you could choose, Maths, Physics, Psychology or a language.

Most Doctors take this route to graduate, but it's not the only one and it isn't right for everyone. I didn't realise that every university's Medicine course is taught differently. Some let you have a year out to intercalate (where you go and study a different degree for a year), and some don't. Definitely worth looking into the course styles before you apply.

James, 4th year Medic at Birmingham

Medical Application checklist for Medicine A100 applicants

Here’s a guide to what to expect from the application process:

  • UCAT score
  • Personal statement (you can discuss your relevant work experience in your personal statement and again at interview)
  • Teacher reference
  • GCSE grades plus predicted A-level / BTEC / IB grades

Application Deadline: October (the deadline is the year before you want to begin your degree i.e. Oct 2020 deadline for Sept 2021 start)

Here’s the complete list of UK medical schools.

Want to be a doctor? Your personal statement is your chance to stand out from other applicants! 

Use it to convince admissions tutors you understand the role of a doctor and have a genuine interest in medicine.

Shortlisted applicants are invited to interview. Each university has their own interview window e.g. some interview Feb-Apr others, Nov-Dec. If you haven’t been invited to interview by April, it’s worth contacting the admissions team directly as most applicants will have either been rejected or invited to interview by April.

Want to know more? Check out these posts:

MMI’s explained

5 tips for Medical Interview

Each university has their own entry requirements and these can fairly specific. To give yourself the best chance, check entry requirements at each university you’re interested in. Want to know where you can study Medicine? Here’s the complete list of UK medical schools available for you to choose from.

Become a doctor through the Graduate-Entry Accelerated Medical Degree Programme (4-5 years)

Graduate-Entry Medicine A101 (UCAS Code)

Graduate-Entry Medicine (GEM) programmes are open to you if you already hold a Bachelor’s degree.

GEM Programmes are often 4-year accelerated degrees but at some universities it’s a 5-year course. It’s also sometimes referred to as ‘Accelerated Medicine Programmes’.

If you hold a Bachelor’s degree you can choose to apply for A101 (the GEM accelerated courses) or for A100 (traditional programmes). Some universities don’t accept graduates onto their A100 programmes.

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Favoured Degree subjects

This list is not exhaustive as each Medical School sets their own entry requirements; it’s always worth checking specific entry requirements for any universities that you’re interested in directly on their website.

Favourable degree subjects

⇢ Science or ⇢ Health-related degrees although some universities like Southampton don't require you to have a relevant first degree. It's always worth checking for the most accurate information on their website.

Like a lot of GEM's I studied Biomedical Science before getting into Medical School. After completing my degree I went and worked in a hospital laboratory for two years and volunteered on wards in my spare time. I think the experience I gained before coming to Medical School will make me a better doctor.

Amy, Final Year at Swansea University

Medical Application checklist for GEM A101 applicants

Here’s a guide to what to expect from the application process:

  • Admissions test(s): UCAT, BMAT, GAMSAT score – the test or tests that you need to sit vary depending on where you apply
  • Personal statement (you can discuss your relevant work experience in your personal statement and again at interview)
  • Reference, e.g. from tutor, employer, volunteering supervisor or trainer
  • Degree classification, i.e. 2:1
  • A-Level / BTEC / IB Grades, GCSE grades (or equivalents)

Application Deadline: October (the deadline is the year before you want to begin your degree i.e. Oct 2020 deadline for Sept 2021 start)

Here’s the complete list of medical schools that offer GEM degrees.

Want to be a doctor? Your personal statement is your chance to stand out from other applicants! 

Use it to convince admissions tutors you understand the role of a doctor and have a genuine interest in medicine.

Shortlisted applicants are invited to interview. Each university has their own interview window e.g. some interview Feb-Apr others, Nov-Dec. If you haven’t been invited to interview by April, it’s worth contacting the admissions team directly as most applicants will have either been rejected or invited to interview by April.

Want to know more? Check out these posts:

MMI’s explained

5 tips for Medical Interview

You can find out more about Graduate-entry Medicine programmes here

Concerned about how you will fund your GEM degree? Take a look at our comprehensive guide to funding available for GEM students.

Become a doctor through foundation and access Programmes (1-2 extra years)

Various UCAS Code

There are two main types of Foundation or Access Programmes:

  • Medicine with a Preliminary Year
  • Medicine with a Gateway Year

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Gateway courses have been designed specifically for widening participation to medicine. These medical degrees are designed for those who are of high ability but who may be coming from situations where they have had barriers to their learning.

The courses can take this into account in different ways, for instance by using ‘adjusted’ entry requirements for applicants from low participation areas. Often these are six-year courses, with the first year being a foundation year. Some universities offer a stand alone foundation year, which allows progression on to a standard medicine course. Some students of these courses are allowed to progress without re-applying through UCAS if they pass the foundation year successfully. Other students are required to complete a full UCAS application, others are guaranteed an interview if they are in the top 10% of the year group – but universities do not guarantee a place at their medical school to all who are interviewed.

These types of courses are often designed for those who achieved highly at A-Levels, or equivalent, but who did not take the required science subjects.


This course usually takes the form of an additional year at the start of a five-year Standard Entry Medicine course, the total degree lasts six years. The extra year brings students up to the necessary level of science to begin the Standard Entry Medicine programme. These courses are not designed to boost the grades of those who do not meet the entry requirements of Standard Entry Medicine.

My grades weren't high enough to get straight into Medical School but I was really lucky to join through a Foundation Programme. It was tough but I felt like the Programme really has prepared me even more than some of my peers who got straight in. It doesn't matter to anyone I'm studying with about what I got at A Level or that I have done an extra year. We're just all really grateful to be here.

Lucy, Year 2 Medic at the University of Liverpool

university admissions tests

Admissions tests for Medicine

Most Medical Schools require applicants to sit an admissions test as part of their application.

These tests ensure that students selected to study Medicine have the cognitive abilities, values and professional behaviours required to work successfully as doctors in the UK.

There are three main tests – find out more about each below:

UCAT

The University Clinical Aptitude Test, or UCAT
The University Clinical Aptitude Test is an admissions test needed if you want to apply to certain medical schools. Find all you need to understand the UCAT at our Complete UCAT Resource Centre 👇🏿👇🏿👇🏿
Complete UCAT Resource Centre

BMAT

The BioMedical Admissions Test, or BMAT
The BioMedical Admissions Test is an aptitude test used as part of the admissions process for Medicine in some universities. Find all you need to understand the BMAT at our Complete BMAT Resource Centre 👇🏿👇🏿👇🏿
Complete BMAT Resource Centre

GAMSAT

The Graduate Medical School Admissions Test, or GAMSAT
Designed to assess the capacity to undertake high-level intellectual studies in the medical and health professional degree programmes. Is used to assess applicants for graduate-entry programmes. Find all you need to understand the GAMSAT at our Complete GAMSAT Resource Centre
Coming soon!

applying to medicine through ucas

Applying to study Medicine in the UK

Applications to UK Medical Schools are made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services, or UCAS.

Your application is sent online and includes:

  • Your name and address
  • Your admissions test scores
  • Your academic grades (including GCSEs, A-Levels/IB/BTEC etc
  • A personal statement written by you (most people include information about work experience here)
  • A reference from your teacher
  • Your university choices

Application Deadline: October (the deadline is the year before you want to begin your degree i.e. Oct 2020 deadline for Sept 2021 start).

If you choose to apply to more than 1 university your application will cost around £24.

Find out more about different elements of the application process below:

Gaining work experience in the field you wish to enter is sensible. Otherwise you’re signing yourself up for years of study alongside paying tuition fees, without really understanding the profession you will enter at graduation. It’s considered essential to try and gain work experience to support your application to medical school, however what many applicants fail to recognise is that the quality and number of your work experience placements do not guarantee entry to medical school. Additionally, each medical school has different entry requirements and for some, they specify restrictions on the type/length of work experience which is acceptable. So take the time to find out what the medical school you’re considering applying to, requires or prefers.

Obtaining work experience can be difficult for some and easy for others, regardless of where you sit on this spectrum, you need to learn to reflect on your experiences rather than simply listing them and naming the hospitals, GP surgeries etc. that you attended.

If you’re looking to get work experience, we’d urge you to think creatively. Experience doesn’t always need to be gained in the NHS or by observing just doctors. Consider community organisations, charities and institutions where you could provide care or support for people.

The personal statement is an important part of the UCAS application.

It’s your chance to describe your ambitions, skills, and experience.

Need help with your personal statement? Our Complete Personal Statement Builder will help you craft your statement using advice from admissions tutors.

 

The teacher’s reference is written by a member of staff who knows you and your academic performance.

It places your application in context, and gives an honest, fair and relevant assessment of your potential to succeed at a higher level in the chosen subject.

There are several forms of medical interview available across UK medical schools.

  • MMI
  • Traditional panel interview
  • Oxbridge college interviews- 1:1 interviews with lecturers/professors

The most popular by far at the moment are MMI’s (multiple mini interviews).

We have a course for students interested in learning and practising for their MMI, there are free and discounted places available, contact us if you’d like to register your interest for MMI support.

 

Want to know more? Check out these posts:

MMI’s explained

5 tips for Medical Interview

what's it like to study medicine?

Insight into life at Medical School

Watch our playlist of official university videos to see what it’s like to study around the UK.

There’s a taster below:

 

 

Teaching Styles

Want to understand the different types of teaching styles at medical school? Read this post that decodes the difference between studying medicine at different universities.

Types of University

Want to better understand the types of universities available? Take a look at this post that runs through the advantages and disadvantages of each.

new places at medical school

Did you hear last year that Medical School’s have been allowed to open up more places than ever before? 

Some existing Medical School’s are being allowed to open their doors to more students than ever before, and some new Medical Schools have been established too. We have all you need to know about it here.

Here’s information about the 5 new Medical Schools too.

journey to medicine

Hear the Former NHS Medical Director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh's story

Ever felt like your dream career was out of reach?
We’ve all been there… even some of the top medics in the UK had bumps along the way!

Hear how former NHS Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh made his impossible, possible in our Journey to Medicine series.

where do doctors work?

specialty doctor

Working as part of a multidisciplinary professional team, doctors can work:

  • in hospital, including A&E, Operating Theatres and in specialist wards
  • in the community, including GP surgeries
  • in research
  • abroad, e.g. international volunteering, working as a doctor in other countries etc
  • in the army

A career as a doctor is dynamic and demanding, there’s great responsibility and it’s incredibly rewarding.

Doctors assess, investigate, diagnose, develop and implement management and treatment plans for their patients.

Doctors provide care and support to patients and their families throughout their lives. As a doctor you support patients to make informed choices about their care.

Doctors participate in training and supervision of junior colleagues, research, innovation and pursue their specialist interests. Doctors link theoretical scientific principles to patient care.

You can develop experience and knowledge in 40+ different specialties and can further sub-specialise in particular areas of interest. Work is carried out in multidisciplinary teams in both hospital and community healthcare settings.