Applying to Medical School · March 14, 2019
Graduate Entry Medicine UK: The Pros & Cons
If you are a graduate student considering applying to medicine, one of the very first and most important questions you need to ask yourself is whether you want to apply for graduate entry or undergraduate medicine. While the knowledge, skills and qualifications medical students will obtain from both programmes will be the same, the process of getting from a medical school applicant to a foundation year doctor could be vastly different between the two. There is no right or wrong choice, the two programmes can offer different incentives for graduate students to prefer one over the other and you need to be able to assess which of the two would be a better fit for you. We have listed some common pros and cons of both graduate entry and undergraduate medicine, so have a read below to help make your decision.
Graduate entry medicine (GEM) Pros
- Shorter length of programme
- No immediate need to equalise background knowledge
Shorter length of programme
The graduate entry medicine programme is a 4 year course in comparison to 5 or even 6 years for its undergraduate counterpart. If you have been working for a while and are coming back to uni from a long hiatus, you might be interested in a pursuing a shorter programme. While for the majority of cases this is not the most important factor to consider if you will be studying medicine, all other things being equal, for somebody in their late 20s who may have already had a career or have made a family with an established routine, getting as fast to clinical practice and registration with the General Medical Council as possible might be a priority. In that case, it would be worth looking into graduate entry medicine.
Funding can be a tricky factor to navigate when you make your decision because it largely depends on where you come from and where you are interested in applying. If you are a home student looking to pursue graduate entry medicine in England you can apply for a tuition fee loan from Student Finance England that will cover the majority of your tuition during your studies, with the NHS covering the most of the rest. Graduate entry medicine students can also apply for maintenance loans which can further cover their living costs.
No immediate need to equalise background knowledge
It is often the case that undergraduate medicine programmes open to graduate students have to implement an initial period of time, where basic concepts are reiterated again, in order to make sure that the level between graduate and undergraduate students is equalised and everyone has the same skills to tackle the material that follows. This by default is not needed in GEM programmes, as all students are expected to have the same basic knowledge and skills, with the occasional exception of programmes open to accepting non-scientific first degrees. It can be understandable that if you have done a previous degree in a core science like biochemistry or hold a PhD, that you would find such an initial stage unnecessary and might want to prefer applying for graduate entry medicine instead.
Graduate entry medicine (GEM) Cons
- More competitive application
- More rigorous programme
More competitive application
While medical school is already extremely competitive, it might just be even more so for graduate entry medicine. Remember that while everyone who’s applying to this programme already has at least one other degree, many candidates will have also gone on to do PhDs or might be practicing nurses, paramedics or pharmacists. While that is not necessarily the golden ticket to success when it comes to applying to GEM and you could be the most impressive candidate on interview day having worked in film or applying straight out of your science degree, it is important to consider what the standard expected by assessors is. You will be expected to show a very high level of maturity and understanding of why you want to study medicine, whether that has always been your goal or has been a recent major career switch.
Once again, many of the applicants might already have plenty of clinical skills due to the nature of their previous degree and/or job, so gaining work experience in a teaching hospital, general practice or a care home could be of essence in terms of boosting your application. Other things to consider when applying to GEM is that not all programmes accept non-scientific degrees, so if you have done law or arts, you want to be careful which universities you apply to.
More rigorous programme
General point for graduate entry medicine
Undergraduate medicine Pros
- More accessible
- Comparably "easier" Application Process
- Larger class & more diversity
Comparably “easier” application process
Larger class and a lot of diversity
Undergraduate medicine Cons
- Limited practical exposure initially
- Class division
Potentially limited practical exposure initially
Be careful of class division
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General point for undergraduate medicine
Be wary that not all undergraduate programmes are equally accommodating to graduate students. When I was going through the application cycle, I only applied for undergraduate courses and the difference between programmes in terms of numbers of spots reserved for graduate students was colossal. While one university only offered 8 spots in total for graduates on their 5-year programme, another, where I ultimately ended up, is famous for setting aside over 20% of its places for graduate students, meaning that I am now one of the 50+ graduates in my course, making our class a lot more diverse and exciting. Depending on the school you apply to, these numbers could be a positive or a negative, so make sure you do your research well.
Please note that at the end of the day, this is a very personal decision and what works for you may not work for the next person. Your priorities are the most important factor to consider when deciding which programme to apply for. If you’ve weighed all pros and cons and still have doubts between different programmes, it is always a good idea to visit potential schools during their open days, get a feel of the programme and speak to current students, who might be able to give you some more insight into the experience of pursuing medicine in that particular institution. For detailed guidelines on particular medical schools' entry requirements, you can also have a look at the Medical School Council's Entry Requirements for UK medical schools.
We hope that these tips were helpful in making your decision easier and if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask us any questions at hello@theMSAG.com.
Miss Giulia Bankov
Giulia is a graduate medical student at the University of Glasgow. She previously studied Neuroscience at King's College London and completed her Cognitive Neurobiology and Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Amsterdam