Alternative Careers For Pre Med Students

Last Updated on December 22, 2022

Medical careers are changing, but medical school is still the ticket to the best jobs in the field. So why aren’t more pre-med students choosing alternative careers? The truth is that many side career options exist in fields that are just as intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding. This article details some of them in a straightforward style that will convince you that they are worthy alternatives.

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Alternatives to a Medicine Career: What Premed Students Should Consider |  Medical School Admissions Doctor | US News

There are a lot of people who enter into medical school knowing that they want to be a doctor. But there are also plenty of people who get into medical school with the idea that they will become doctors, only to realize that being a doctor isn’t all they thought it would be. And while it’s certainly true that you can change specialties as you advance through medical school, some people realize that being a doctor just isn’t right for them at all.

In this article, we’re going to look at some of the alternative careers for pre-med students who don’t want to be doctors after all. We’ll cover the different types of careers you can pursue, but we’ll make sure to include information about how you can leverage the skills and education you’ve already received in order to make a successful career change.

We’re also going to take a look at how becoming a doctor is similar (or different) from these alternative careers. That way, if you’re still on the fence about whether or not you want to be a doctor, this article can give you some guidance on whether or not it might be right for you.

Alternatives to Pre-medical School

Medical degrees can take up to six years to complete. Much can happen in that time, and much can change. These changes include you, and during these six years you may realize that being a doctor is not the right career path. This can be very worrying, especially if you have never considered any alternative careers. But don’t panic; you haven’t wasted the last six years of your life. There are plenty of other job choices within the healthcare sector.

As discussed, graduates with pre-med degrees may jump right into entry-level positions, usually as various kinds of scientists, and/or may go on to pursue graduate school in a particular subject or medical school. Here we examine a few of the pre-med career options in more detail.

Love Medicine But Less Sure About Med School? Check Out Six Alternative  Careers

Physicians and Surgeons

Aspiring physicians or surgeons would need to complete medical school and a residency program in order to obtain state licensure to practice, all after finishing a pre-med program. Physicians and surgeons examine and care for patients with a wide range of illnesses and injuries. Surgeons use surgery to treat these conditions, while physicians usually use medications and other treatment methods. Typically these doctors specialize in a particular area of the medical field, such as pathology, cardiology, dermatology, and more. Specific job duties may include:

  • Recording medical histories
  • Ordering and interpreting medical tests
  • Developing an individualized treatment plan
  • Discussing treatment and other questions with patients

It’s not uncommon for pre-med students to find themselves doubting their choice of major or career. For some, it can be the result of getting low grades on tests or feeling overwhelmed by the heavy workloads and pressure to perform.

Whatever your reason, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be a doctor in order to work in a medical field. There are plenty of alternative careers in medicine that don’t require an MD or PhD behind your name. Many of them are at least as lucrative as being a doctor, but with less stress!

Here are just some examples:

• Emergency medical technician

• Nurse practitioner

• Nurse anesthetist

• Physician assistant

• Pharmacist

• Psychiatrist

• Anesthesiologist assistant


In many ways, the day-to-day work of a doctor involves teaching. For most physicians, residency — the time devoted to training in a particular specialty — is also spent mentoring medical students through the confusing world of clinical practice. At some point, most residents and attending physicians are required to give instructional lectures to their colleagues or other healthcare professionals-in-training. Moreover, patients themselves seek out their physician to instruct them on medical conditions. In this sense, nearly every clinical interaction involves some degree of teaching on the part of a physician.

If you are passionate about expanding people’s knowledge and understanding, consider what you could achieve as a teacher — without experiencing endless sleep deprivation or an educational debt equivalent to the cost of a mansion in a midwestern city. For example, teaching children in elementary school draws on many of the same temperamental strengths as pediatricians possess. On the other hand, if you like distilling complex concepts into clear, comprehensible tidbits, becoming a college chemistry or philosophy professor may be your path.

5 Top Alternative Career Paths for Pre-Med Post-Bacc Graduates


Many aspiring pre-meds have their hearts set on becoming a doctor because they have a mistaken assumption that medicine is simply applied biology. Even some practicing physicians operate under this misguided notion. Despite the fact that medicine relies on science, it is really much more of an art.

Scientists seek to comprehend the unknown; in a sense, they pursue knowledge for its own sake. Medical practice, by contrast, involves using the current state of scientific understanding to craft a treatment plan tailored to a particular individual’s circumstances, desires, or goals. That is, doctors use available materials, like drugs or medical procedures, to try and produce a particular outcome — much like a painter uses paint, brushes, and a canvas to produce a work of art. Indeed, doctors sculpt the insights and understandings that emerge from scientific inquiry into an approach to care for their patients.

The opportunities available in the realm of “pure science” are unlimited. Some researchers leave their field to become doctors, only to discover that what they really loved was simply the type of research that concerned itself with clinical outcomes — whether a drug worked to treat a specific disease, or whether a particular test could be developed to diagnose a rare medical condition. Such clinical researchers still interact with patients, other scientists, and health-care professionals, but their focus remains principally on the science behind the treatment tools rather than the patients themselves. They run investigative procedures to shed light on disease processes or pharmacological effects, and their work may eventually result in the cure for an illness or an intervention that changes the course of many patients’ lives.


After a pre-med degree, aspiring pharmacists must go on to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree and they may need to complete additional training in order to obtain state licensure. Pharmacists fill prescriptions for patients and educate patients on how to properly use the medications. This may require pharmacists to perform duties like:

  • Checking for potential reactions between medications
  • Answering patients’ questions or concerns
  • Interacting with insurance companies to get required medications for patients
  • Supervising pharmacy technicians and other pharmacy staff


Chemists can begin their career with a bachelor’s degree, such as one earned after completing a pre-med program, but more advanced research positions may require a master’s or doctoral degree. Chemists study materials at the foundational levels, such as the atoms or molecules that make up a substance, and observe how different materials interact with one another. Usually their work is applied to improving some kinds of product or testing current products for quality and safety. Some chemists may specialize in a particular area of chemistry, like organic chemistry, forensic chemistry, or theoretical chemistry. Job duties for chemists may include:

  • Designing and conducting research projects
  • Overseeing the work of technicians
  • Analyzing and testing substances
  • Presenting their findings in reports and/or presentations
10 Tips on Getting Into Med School | Pre-Health Professions | Michigan Tech


Veterinarians are the comparative anatomists of health-care practitioners. If anatomy is what piques your interest and the thought of working with patients with fur or feathers makes you smile, consider veterinary school. You’ll have the opportunity to study the wonders of different species and play an integral part in maintaining the health of a beloved member of many families. Veterinary medicine is intellectually challenging — and there’s a good shot you’ll get to hold puppies and kittens on a daily basis.

Whichever path you choose, remember Hippocrates’ adage: “Ars longa, vita brevis” — the art (of medicine) is long, life is short. If you are not completely sold on a career in medicine, think deeply about why you’re considering it in the first place. Such reflection may open a door to a path you had never before considered.

It may be hard to imagine a vocation that’s more demanding than the life of a doctor. After all, it takes years of intense study and training to become a medical professional. The first two years are spent in medical school, then you have to complete a residency program that lasts from three to eight years—and only then can you begin practicing medicine as a doctor.

But what if you’re not cut out for all that extra schooling? Maybe you just don’t have the funds for another four to eight years of tuition. Or maybe you’ve decided that you’re more interested in pursuing an alternative career path.

Whatever your reason for exploring different career paths, there are plenty of jobs that will welcome your love of science, compassion for people, and instinct for helping others.

You’ll still get to work with patients

Patient care technician

Physical therapy technician

Dietary technician

Medical assistant

Medical billing specialist

You’ll still make a difference in research and development

Clinical research associate (CRA)

Government medical researcher

Research scientist

You’ll still get to use your communication skills and problem-solving abilities

Healthcare recruiter

Patient advocate/navigator

Healthcare administrator

can you get a job with just a pre med degree

It makes sense to assume that every pre-med student is destined to become a doctor, but that’s not always the case. The truth is that a pre-med major can pursue graduate, professional, or medical school or enter the workforce in an entry-level job in their desired field.  

This educational path is incredibly versatile and can open doors to careers in science, healthcare, technology, research, and more. If you’re asking, “What can you do with a pre-med degree?” and are having trouble imagining beyond medical school, read along to explore a world of possibilities.  

What do you learn in an undergraduate pre-med program?  

A pre-med program is designed to cover all the science and laboratory requirements needed for continued education in medicine or healthcare. Pre-med is not a major itself but rather a program that ensures students take all the required classes needed to apply for medical school. 

Choosing a pre-med program shows medical schools you’ve acquired the knowledge needed to become a medical student and also helps prepare you to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).  

Required courses vary by medical school, but most pre-med tracks include:  

  • Principles of Biology (with lab) 
  • Cell Biology (with lab) 
  • Genetics (with lab) 
  • Vertebrate Physiology (with lab) 
  • Biochemistry (with lab) 
  • College Chemistry (with lab) 
  • Organic Chemistry (with lab) 
  • College Physics (with lab) 
  • Elementary Statistics 
  • Ethics 
  • Psychology 
  • Sociology 

What skills are developed in a pre-med program? 

In addition to expanding knowledge and expertise in science, pre-med students also develop essential skills that will serve them well in healthcare careers. There are 15 competencies that the ideal candidate should possess before applying to med school, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC): 

  • Service orientation 
  • Social skills 
  • Cultural competence 
  • Teamwork 
  • Oral communication  
  • Ethical responsibility to self and others 
  • Reliability and dependability 
  • Resilience and adaptability 
  • Capacity for improvement 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Quantitative reasoning 
  • Scientific inquiry 
  • Written communication 
  • Living systems 
  • Human behavior 

Applying to medical school with a degree in pre-med 

Gaining acceptance to medical school is highly competitive. According to the AAMC, in 2019–2020, there were 53,370 applicants to allopathic medical schools and 21,869 matriculants, making the overall acceptance rate 41 percent. Aspiring doctors can choose between an allopathic medicine (MD) and osteopathic medicine (DO) degree. Familiarizing yourself with the differences will help you decide which path you should pursue. 

Medical school admissions committees tend to favor students who are motivated, hardworking, and committed to achieving their professional objectives early in their college studies.  

Typically, students applying to medical school earn a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, or Molecular Biology. It is important to note, however, that medical schools do not require applicants to major in science or STEM at all. It is possible to get accepted with an unrelated bachelor’s degree.  

Dr. Steven Wilt is the director of pre-medical studies and serves as chair of the Pre-med Advisory Committee at Bellarmine University. He has worked with hundreds of aspiring doctors in his career and has an insider perspective on what it takes to be accepted into med school. He shares that Bellarmine offers all of the resources and support available for future physicians to find success.  

“It’s more than just GPA and MCAT scores,” Dr. Wilt explains. “Our advisors work hard to give personalized direction on how to become a competitive candidate. We work with students from the first semester all the way up to the application process.” 

What else can you do with a pre-med degree? 

The beauty of a pre-med program is that its comprehensive coverage of scientific knowledge and lab work prepares students for a multitude of careers in healthcare. Pre-med majors can also choose to pursue other professional schools, such as: 

  • Dentistry (DDS or DMD) 
  • Optometry (OD) 
  • Pharmacy (PharmD) 
  • Veterinary (DVM) 
  • Nurse practitioner (DNP/MSN) 
  • Podiatry (DPM) 

Each of the above areas of medicine has specific entrance requirements and preferences. Most will include the following elements: 

  • Prerequisite course work and GPA standards 
  • Pre-admission exam  
  • Experiences and familiarity with the career (e.g., job shadowing, volunteer work, or employment) 
  • Letters of evaluation and recommendation 
  • Involvement and leadership in extracurricular activities 
  • Evidence of a commitment to community service 
  • Independent research 

What careers can you pursue with a pre-med degree? 

While many undergraduate pre-med students are preparing to apply for medical and professional schools, those aren’t the only options. Career opportunities for pre-med majors are abundant, especially for those willing to complete additional certifications or training. 

“Most employers will look at a candidate with a pre-med degree or a B.A. in the sciences very favorably,” Dr. Wilt offers. “It’s an indicator that the person has well-developed critical thinking skills and a passion for science.”  

So what can you do with a pre-med degree? Here is a sampling of other career options: 

  • Pharmaceutical representative 
  • Medical device liaison  
  • Research scientist 
  • Chemist 
  • Wildlife biologist 
  • Zoologist 
  • Geoscientist 
  • Forensic science technician 
  • Environmental specialist 
  • K-12 STEM teacher* 
  • Respiratory therapist* 
  • Radiation technologist* 
  • Occupational therapist* 

*This career will require a graduate degree. 

paid jobs for pre med students

Each of these jobs will usually give you on the job training and don’t require specific certification. Being enthusiastic to learn and coming across professional in an interview could easily overcome any lack of experience.

Although you most likely need a bachelors for these, it is possible to find part time positions while still in full-time study.

Clinical Research Coordinator/Research Assistant

Scoring a job as a clinical research coordinator means you’ll help get data for research projects via talking to patients, keeping records and reporting to research leads.

The job could be great on a couple of fronts:

  • Opportunities for lots of patient contact (EKG’s, blood drawing and medical histories)
  • Chance to contribute and get your name on research publications

Sure, the job can vary between departments and groups etc., but the fact it’s paid, and in a medical setting, can really help you stand out on an application.

But there is another benefit, as this pre-med Redditor points out…

Working as a research assistant enables you to get useful letters of reference if you are supervised by clinicians/professors.

So that’s another nice bonus (along with the money)!

Medical Scribe

Scribes record patient-physician encounters or work in data entry in hospital wards. Many pre-meds describe it as a “paid shadowing”, given that you get a lot of opportunity to watch doctors in action and learn how medicine works.

This article from the AAMC gives a good insight into the nature of the job (as well as what you may expect)…

As a scribe, I was responsible for taking notes during a patient interview, writing up the encounter on a medical chart, and assisting with the flow of patients through the emergency department.

Training is paid and occurs on the job via orientations and on-going instruction.


As of 2020, only four states require phlebotomists to be certified (source). That makes it another great option for pre-meds looking to learn useful clinical skills while still making a little money.

The role of a phlebotomist is to draw blood from a patient in order to help physicians diagnose and come up with treatment plans.

With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020) anticipating a 17 percent growth in this profession between 2019 and 2029, it promises plenty of clinical experience, patient interaction and healthcare responsibility.

Each of those can help make you a competitive candidate.

Which Is The Best Clinical Experience For Pre Med?

These jobs aside, what else can you do as a pre med looking to get quality clinical experience (while still getting paid)?

The following, although they incur training costs and (usually) certification, are other things to look at:

  • EMT/Paramedic (requires 120-150 hours of training and can cost upwards of $1K)
  • Pharmacy Technician (some hospital-based jobs require licencing)
  • Medical Assistant (requires CMA certification or the like – training can be anything from 6 weeks to two years)
  • Anesthesia Technican (requires two years training)
  • Registered Nurse (RN) (training can take anything from two years or longer)
  • Certified Nursing Assistance (CNA) (training is typically between 4-12 weeks)

Obviously the amount of clinical experience you can get in these jobs depends on varying factors.

To get the best possible experience try and find hospital-based positions that deliver a lot of patient interaction.

What Is The Best Way To Find Paid Clinical Experience Jobs?

The best way is to get yourself up and running on LinkedIn and start some outreach.

Target one job specifically and make a list of all the local clinics/hospitals you could find work at. Search for people in HR and shoot them an email or message on LinkedIn (a lot of the time these jobs aren’t advertised).

Also make sure you get your resume together with a clean mission statement that explains your long term objective of studying medicine and working in healthcare.

Make sure you lean on your existing networks too (college, family, friends etc.). You never know who they can help put you in touch with!

How Else Can You Get Clinical Experience?

If you’re not fussy about being paid, further opportunities for clinical experience can open up to you.

A good first port of call is to look for hospital volunteer opportunities near you. Usually these programs run on a part-time basis but can help give you valuable exposure and networking contacts.

Medical School Requirements

Applying to med school is not something you should do superficially. You have to choose your medical school wisely. To make your mission easier, we’ll present the most common entry requirements to medical schools from Europe, the US and UK.

We’ll also throw in extra information like what GPA you’ll need to apply, what undergraduate degrees are accepted, and if you need an entry exam to get into medical school.

Top international destinations to study a Medicine degree:

  • The United Kingdom 
  • The United States 
  • Canada 
  • Germany 
  • The Netherlands 

So, what does it take to get into a medical school?

1. Admission requirements for medical school studies in Europe

These are some of the most common admission criteria for Medicine degrees offered by European universities:

  • High school diploma (certificate)
  • Good marks in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Letter of motivation
  • Voluntary or work experience related to healthcare
  • Candidates taking the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) must offer three subjects including Chemistry and Biology at Higher Level, plus three subjects at Standard Level. Not all universities require an International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB).
  • Minimum TOEFL and IELTS results

The requirements we’ve listed above are the most common, but Europe is a large continent, and some countries have different admission criteria or systems. Here are several examples:

Medical school admission and becoming a doctor in France

In France, each academic institution can have different admission criteria, and Medical studies are divided into 3 cycles.

The first cycle (PCEM) lasts 2 years. At the end of the first year, there’s a difficult examination which determines who goes into the second year. Usually, only 15-20% of Medicine students pass.

The second cycle (DCEM) lasts 4 years. It includes theoretical classes and exams, as well as training periods in healthcare institutions. In the last year, med students take a national examination and the grade determines their specialisation.

The third cycle is split into General Medicine and Specialised Medicine. The internships for General Medicine usually last 3 years. For Specialised Medicine, an internship can take 4-5 years to complete. At the end of the third cycle, all students receive a Specialised Studies Diploma (in French, DES: Diplôme d’Études Spécialisées).

The last step is writing and successfully defending a thesis before a jury, after which graduates receive their diplomas in Medicine. To practise Medicine, you still have to register with the Conseil National de l’Ordre des Médecins.

Group of medical students listening to a lecture from their professorMedical school admission and becoming a doctor in Germany

In Germany, you’ll encounter the Numerus Clausus (NC), which stands for Limited Number in Latin. It is a system used to determine the number of available Medicine places for students. The number of available places varies from one semester/year to another and you must have a certain overall grade to be admitted.

Medicine degrees in Germany take at least 6 years and 3 months to complete, and they are not divided into Bachelor’s and Master’s courses. In order to graduate you will have to take a state examination.

The path to becoming a doctor in Germany can be split into several main stages:

  • Stage I studies – 4 semesters followed by the first 3 sections of the state examination
  • Stage II studies – 6 semesters
  • Completion of a practical year (PJ) at a hospital or clinic
  • The second and final state examination after which you receive your licence to practise Medicine in Germany

It’s very important to develop good German language skills, because most lectures and examinations are in German.

You can find more information about studying Medicine in Germany on websites like Study in Germany and

Medical school admission and becoming a doctor in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, if you cannot prove you’ve studied Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Maths, you’ll need to take an exam that will test your competence in these subjects. You’ll also need to learn Dutch. This is necessary to complete your postgraduate studies and to communicate with your future patients.

Dutch Medicine degrees fall in the category of Numerus Fixus or Decentralised Selection programmes. This means the number of places is limited and you can only apply for two Numerus Fixus programmes.

These are the stages you go through to become a qualified doctor in the Netherlands:

  • Graduate a Bachelor’s in Medicine – 3 years. You’ll attend lectures and prepare assignments.
  • Finish a Master’s in Medicine – another 3 years, during which you take part in different internships. You also need to write a Master’s thesis.
  • To start working as a medical specialist, you have to register with the Royal Dutch Medical Association (RDMA).

Medical school admission and becoming a doctor in Italy

Italian universities use the Numerus Clausus system for both Medicine degree places and the professional training that takes place after graduation.

Some med schools in Italy require that students pass the IMAT (International Medical Admissions Test) or a similar admission exam, which tests the applicants’ logical skills and their knowledge of English, Biology, Chemistry, and other Science-related subjects.

The Medicine degree takes 6 years to complete and is followed by a 6-month clinical placement. You must then pass a national exam to become a registered physician. After passing that examination, you can start the specialisation training, which takes between 3-6 years, depending on your area of expertise.

Medical school admission and becoming a doctor in Finland

In Finland, you need to know Finnish for both basic studies and postgraduate training.

The only way to enrol in a medical school is to pass the entrance examination, which is held every year in May. The exam is in Finnish or Swedish.

The medical degree is a 6-year programme, which combines Bachelor’s and Master’s courses into a Licentiate degree. After graduation, med students can continue their education with postgraduate specialisation programmes.

2. Admission requirements for medical school studies in the U.S.

In the US, Medical degrees are considered second entry degrees, meaning you cannot enrol directly in a Medicine Bachelor’s. You first need to do a Bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree in a related Science subject (popular choices are Biology and Chemistry) before you apply to a medical school. Then, you can enrol in a Medicine degree that usually lasts 4 years.

Here are the general med school requirements for the US:

  • High school diploma
  • Undergraduate degree in the field of Sciences (3-4 years)
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  • Good TOEFL language scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Minimum MCAT exam result (set by each university individually)

Some American med schools have additional requirements, like completing premedical courses, such as:

  • College Biology with laboratory, one year
  • General college Chemistry with laboratory, one year
  • Biology, Chemistry – minimum of 24 semester hours in areas of Humanities
  • Mathematics (Calculus and/or Statistics, one year (6-8 semester hours)
  • General college Physics with laboratory, one year (8 semester hours)

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a multi-choice exam created by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Almost all US medical schools require applicants to submit MCAT exam scores during their university application.

The MCAT exam takes approximately 7 hours and a half to complete and it is comprised of 4 main parts:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Group of doctors performing a surgeryBecoming a doctor in the US

Throughout the Medical degree, students develop their soft skills (communication, empathy, cooperation, etc.) and advance their medical knowledge.

During the last year, students choose a specialisation based on their interests and other factors and apply to residency programmes. The vast majority are matched through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).

During residency, medical graduates train in hospitals with other healthcare practitioners. The residency can take between 3-7 years to complete depending on their specialisation. After completing this stage, residents can undertake a fellowship, which lasts 1-2 years and focuses on a sub-specialisation.

To practise Medicine, physicians or doctors have to be licensed by the state in which they want to work. The criteria for certification are established by 24 Specialty Boards. These boards require regular recertification due to the fast changes that occur in Medicine and Healthcare.

3. Admission requirements for medical school studies in the UK

We’ve listed below some of the most common requirements for applicants to medical schools in Britain. Be aware that each university is free to set its own criteria, which is why we encourage you to check the admission details on the webpage of the study programme.

Bachelor’s degree in Medicine (MBBS) in the UK

  • Previous (high school) studies it at least two Science subjects. Usually, Chemistry and Biology or Physics/Maths are mandatory.
  • Proof of English language proficiency: IELTS – average score of 6.0 or 6.5, or PTE Academic
  • UCAT test score. Each university can use it differently. Some establish a minimum UCAT score they’ll accept. Other universities use a “points system” for evaluating applications and will offer you more points for a higher UCAT result.
  • International Baccalaureate, with at least 36 points overall, including three higher level subjects (including Chemistry and Biology), and three standard level subjects. Each subject must be passed with a minimum of six points. International Baccalaureate is not required by all universities from the UK.
  • Successfully passing the interview(s)
  • Evidence of voluntary or work experience related to medicine and healthcare
  • Reference letter from teachers/academic supervisors

What is the UCAT?

The UCAT (previously called UKCAT, UK Clinical Aptitude Test) is an online test required by medical schools in the UK. It is designed to test cognitive abilities, attitudes, critical thinking, and logical reasoning.

The UCAT helps universities select applicants with the right abilities to pursue careers in the healthcare field. The UCAT test is not based on a science-related curriculum. The format of the test covers questions that assess logical skills, such as decision making, quantitative reasoning, and situational judgement.

Becoming a doctor in the UK

After completing the 4 or 5-year degree in Medicine, you get a provisional license.

The next step is the Foundation Programme, which involves different practical placements and training in healthcare institutions. The Foundation programme provides salaries, and it takes 2 years to complete (F1 – first year and F2 – second year). At the end of F1, you can apply for a licence and receive full registration from the GMC (General Medical Council).

You can then start General Practice or Specialty training, which can take between 3-8 years depending on what you want to focus on.

Top questions about medical school application answered

What degree do I need to graduate before applying for medical school?

It depends. The US is the only country where you need to have a Bachelor’s and/or premedical courses to apply for a Medical degree. This is not the case in the UK or other European countries, although you are required to have studied Biology, Chemistry, and other related subjects during high school and/or pass an admission exam proving your logical skills and knowledge in Science-related subjects.

What are the most common names for Medical degrees?

The name of your Medical degree can vary greatly depending on where you study. In the UK and countries that follow the British system, it’s common to encounter the abbreviations MBBS, MB ChB, MB BCh, BMBS. They all refer to the Bachelor of Medicine, which is awarded to medical graduates.

Other European countries can use different names, like Licentiate degree in Finland or DES (Diplôme d’Études Spécialisées) in France.

In the United States and countries that follow its model, the medical degree is called Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). The DO is only awarded in the US.

Do I need to take an exam to get into medical school?

In the United States, yes. Almost all medical schools require applicants to pass the MCAT exam.

In the UK, many but not all universities require you to pass the UCAT examination.

Other European universities might ask you to pass their own admission exams, a national test, or other international exams, like the IMAT.

What subjects are accepted when applying to med school?

Most universities worldwide require that you have prior studies in Biology, Chemistry, and other Science subjects, like Physics or Maths.

How many years do I need to study to become a doctor?

It varies from one country to another. It generally takes 6-7 years to graduate with a Medicine degree. In most countries, med students will then start the internship or residency period, which can take between 3-8 years, depending on your specialisation.

What grades do I need to get into medical school?

Most universities will pay close attention to the grades you took in Biology, Chemistry, and other Science subjects. They want to see if you have the capacity to understand complex notions and memorise a lot of information, which is essential for all medical students.

If the university requires an exam, like the MCAT or UCAT, each institution decides how the examination impacts the students’ applications. For example, some universities have a minimum score, while others allow all students to apply and only accept the top students with the highest results. Other med schools give students with great results at the exam more points, which makes their application stand out and increases their chances of being admitted. So, there’s no universal formula.

We encounter a similar situation with the GPA (Grade Point Average). You’ll find study programmes mentioning a minimum GPA, while others accept all students, select the best ones, and then draw the line.

Female doctor examining an X-ray image

How to get into med school with low GPA or MCAT/UCAT scores

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want. No matter how much you prepare for an exam, stress can be overwhelming and impact your results. You feel disappointed and betrayed because you know it doesn’t show your true potential or knowledge.

There are also situations where you can face family or health problems, which prevent you from having an impressive GPA. We get it. Life’s not always easy or fair, but that doesn’t mean you should quit.

For those of you who have lower GPA or MCAT/UCAT scores, here are a few tips that might help you persuade the admission committee to give you a chance.

Show an overall improvement

Let’s say your GPA is lower than the minimum required by the med school you’ve chosen. If your first year of high school or undergraduate studies wasn’t great, but you gradually improved your grades during the next years, make sure to point that out during the interview or the personal statement. Remember what Plato said: “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”

Ace the MCAT/UCAT exam

This applies for those of you who have a lower GPA, but who worked hard and aced the MCAT or UCAT exam. The situation is tricky because the admission committee might wonder how you could score so high at this exam and yet fail to impress before.

Use this to your advantage. Include a section in your personal statement in which you explain how your failures from previous studies made you realise how much you really want to become a doctor. Explain how you push hard, focused on what mattered, and put in the study hours that got you a great result.

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