What qualifications do I need to be a Doctor?

There are lots of different types of Doctors – GPs, surgeons and specialists and becoming any of these is really hard work! Not only will you need excellent qualifications (including some science A-levels), but you will also have to get into a medical school which can be really hard work as there is so much competition.

If you apply to medical school you will have to undertake an interview where you will need to convince the interviewing board that you are truly committed to becoming a doctor. Any examples of relevant experience are useful so you might also want to do some voluntary work in a hospital or a care home or work alongside a doctor to show how keen you are. An important part of the job is working with patients so the medical schools will also be looking for students who will have a good bedside manner!

Pros
• High status and well paid over time
• There are lots of options once you have qualified
• It can be very rewarding (but also stressful)
• Because of the high cost of training you will almost certainly be in demand

Cons
• Very hard work and competitive
• Competition for medical school is intense so you may set your heart on being a doctor and have really great qualifications but still be turned down
• You will be studying for a long time so you might incur a lot of debt before you earn good money and are able to pay it back (although there are ways to get help with this)
• You will be expected to work long hours and it be both physically tiring and emotionally draining

GCSEs required
Students will normally need at least a B in GCSE English Language. Students must also be aware that they must achieve highly in their GCSEs. In general, good A-level results will not make up for a lower GCSE performance. That said, if student do underperform in their GCSEs or A-level, they may still be able to consider Graduate Entry Medicine later on. Also bear in mind that universities will require you to have Chemistry and Biology to at least AS level, so it would be advisable to also take at least two or preferably three sciences as well. Latin may also be useful.

A-levels required
Many universities will require both Chemistry and Biology to at least AS-level. Most universities will be asking for at least three As at A-level. Plus they will require applicants to sit an entrance exam: UKCAT, BMAT, GAMSAT (for graduate entry)...
There are some options for candidates without A-levels or for older applicants with relevant life experiences – for more details visit: NHS Careers in detail

Medical School
Though a large number of medical schools do now accept students with a degree, this is not true for all universities.

At medical school you will be taking an undergraduate course leading to a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. Although some degree titles have different names e.g. BM, MBBS, MBChB which can be a bit confusing, all UK medical degrees are equivalent, regardless of the degree title or letters.

Each medical school has their own course with its own requirements. You should therefore do some homework early on and consult the medical school you wish to apply for to check the details.

Medical schools also now welcome applications from people who already have another degree - normally a first or upper second class honours degree. Some medical schools require the degree to be in a science-related subject, whilst others do not stipulate any discipline.

Most medical schools require you to apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which will supply details of how and when to apply for medical school and all other university courses.

It is estimated that graduates, mostly with science degrees, make up 10-15% of recent intakes to the five and six-year MB courses in Britain. Most come into the first year, but some universities accept students from bio-medical or life sciences or dentistry into the third MBBS year.

How long will it take to get qualified?
A medical degree will normally be 5 or 6 years. Graduate Entry Medicine programmes generally last 4 years, but students will need to have spent at least 3 years at University already.

On completion of a medical degree, junior doctors must complete Foundation Years 1 and 2 before they are able to register as full doctors. At this point, they may then start to specialise. Specialist training can take 5-8 years, to reach consultant level.

Click here to read the typical 'Day in the Life of a GP Doctor!'

A doctors salary can range enormously depending on your specialism and your level of experience. A trainee doctor working in the NHS can expect to receive around £22,000, whereas a consultant can earn as much as £100,000. GPs salaries also vary a great deal, but as a guide you could expect to earn around £50,000 to £80,000.

Useful websites
NHS Careers in detail
Medschools Online