Undertaking a career as doctor is not one to be taken lightly. Becoming a doctor requires that you commit a great deal of time and study in order to practice medicine. Once you graduate, the hours can still often be long, the work can be physically and emotionally stressful, and the field is very competitive. On the other hand a career as a doctor has many positives. Not only will there always be a demand for doctors, overtime doctors are very well paid and enjoy a high status, and there are many areas of specialisation. Perhaps most importantly the work is very rewarding. A career as a doctor also offers one of the widest choices of options of any profession. You can choose to become a GP, or a specialist in different diseases and parts of the anatomy.
Some of the qualifications to be a doctor are very clear-cut. Others are a bit more subjective.
In many ways the most important qualifications for becoming a doctor are those relating to your personality. While by no means exhaustive, to become a doctor you must have most of the following traits:
- A commitment to helping others – Few jobs require neither the daily time commitments nor the commitment to study as required of doctors. The commitment and desire to help others is often a prime motivator for one to wish to become a doctor.
- An interest in science – Doctors study a wide range of sciences. A natural interest in science makes the studies far more enjoyable.
- The ability to work under pressure – Not every day of a doctor’s life is full of stress, but they do occur frequently. You have to be able to handle the stress and to make quick informed decisions.
- The ability to make others feel at ease – For many, visiting a doctor is a stressful experience. You have to be able to communicate clearly and explain patient choices carefully. At the same time you have to inspire the patient’s trust and confidence. If you inspire trust and confidence, patients are more likely to follow your instructions but may also seek help earlier and provide you with more information.
- Possess Leadership and Management Skills – As a doctor you have to be able to lead the other health care providers that work with you in an efficient and effective manner.
- GCSEs required – Normally you need at least a B in English GCSE grade to be a doctor, however higher results are preferred. You generally are not able to make up for lower GCSE performance with good A-levels. You will need Biology and Chemistry to at least AS level, so you should take at least two sciences, however three is preferred.
- A-levels required – As mentioned many universities require at least AS-level in both Biology and Chemistry. Most will require at least three A’s at A-level. Additionally you will have to sit for an entrance exam. The UKCAT is most common, but the BMAT or GAMSAT may be required.
- Medical School requirements – Some medical schools now accept students with a degree, but that is not the norm. In medical school you will be taking courses to attain a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. The degrees have a somewhat confusing list of names, but all of them are the same and are generally referred to as “first MB.” Medical schools now accept applications from those who already have another degree, which means that considering a career as a doctor can be made at almost any time. Some medical schools only consider those with science related degrees and most require you to have a first or upper second-class honours degree.
- Time requirements- Becoming a doctor takes substantial time commitment. You should count on five to six years to complete your medical degree. Graduate Entry Medicine programmes are usually four years, but at least three years at University prior to entering the programme are required. After attaining a medical degree, you must complete Foundation Years 1 and 2 in order to register as a full doctor. If you decide to specialise, five to eight years are necessary to reach consultant level.