What can you do with a medical degree?

Why you should study medicine, how to get onto a medical degree, and the careers you can go into after graduation
September 26 2016

Why study medicine?

medical students
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What is medicine?

Put in simple terms, medicine is the science and practice of diagnosing, treating, and indeed preventing disease.

Medicine has always been a popular choice for university study. So much so that some of the world’s very first universities were medical schools – there has always been a need for highly-educated doctors.


Find out which top universities offer a medicine degree


Medicine is a very broad subject area and can lead to jobs in a range of areas. There are more options than ever for graduates wishing to specialise in  particular field.

The path into medicine is tough, and courses are generally at least five years long. Many universities have their own teaching hospitals, allowing students to gain practical experience early on in their studies, equipping them for the realities of working life in the medical profession. 

What do you learn on an medical degree? 

Most degrees in medicine are set up in a similar way, with a mix of theoretical and practical learning. Medical training starts out broad and becomes more specialised as the student moves through the course.

First, students undertake a foundation level programme. This gives them a broad underpinning in medical science and introduces them to the themes they will be encountering for the rest of their time studying medicine. Over one or two years, students will be introduced to science organised in its clinical, rather than its academic context – this means you’ll be studying circulation and breathing rather than biochemistry or physiology.


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Medicine is a very practical area and students gain hands-on experience in teaching labs and the university hospital from early in their studies. Later stages of the course will focus on putting the learning from the first two or three years into practice, working in a hospital or community doctor’s practice.  

Students can then progress to specialise in a field of their choice. This can take between three and seven years depending on which specialisation they choose. Upon completion of their degree medical practitioners will have to register with the healthcare authority of the country in which they intend to practise.

What should I study at high school if I want to study medicine? 

If you want to study medicine you will need good grades in sciences and maths. Many universities require top grades in chemistry and prefer graduates to have good grades in subjects like biology, physics and maths. Excellent communication skills and a good bedside manner are also extremely important in this career as well as an understanding of ethics, although this is also taught as part of the degree.

Other useful skills for studying medicine include: time management, attention to detail, organisation, problem solving, discipline, teamwork, leadership and patience. As well as the practical medical skills there is also a lot of administrative work that doctors have to do, keeping patient records up to date and making sure paperwork is filled out. Medicine is a demanding career that requires you to completely commit but the rewards are well worth the years of study and late nights on the wards.

What do people who study medicine do after graduation? 

There are a lot of options open to students studying medicine after they graduate. Few medical graduates find themselves looking for work for long since employment rates are higher than 90 per cent for medical graduates.

There are so many branches of medicine it can appear daunting, but students will receive guidance during the foundation stages of their course as to what specialisation is right for them. Options include: emergency medicine, practice medicine, nursing, paediatrics, radiology, obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics and surgery.

Whatever specialisation you choose you can be sure of a rewarding career; doctors and medical professionals are well respected the world over and rates of pay for some jobs in medicine are very high.

Occasionally medical graduates choose not to practise medicine in which case there are other options open to them. Some become journalists, public health workers or medical researchers while others work for companies who provide medical expertise to public health services, helping to train local doctors in cutting-edge techniques and equipment.

A surprising number of celebrities studied medicine before they found the limelight.

Author and screenwriter Michael Chrischton, the creator of Jurassic Park and numerous other novels and screenplays attended Harvard medical school and graduated with an MD in 1969. He never went on to practise medicine but his experiences as a student doctor working at Boston City Hospital inspired him to create the hit American TV series ER.

The guerrilla fighter and left-wing revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara graduated from medical school in Argentina in 1953.

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