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If you’re reading this, you might be thinking about studying medicine at postgraduate level—if so, this article contains all the information you’ll need to make an informed decision.
A postgraduate degree in medicine is a popular choice for medical or allied medicine undergraduate students who are preparing to move into medical jobs. Postgraduate study in medicine can take various forms, and typically involves specialising further after a period of more general study and training.
You might be thinking about particular medical jobs you’d like to work towards, so choosing the best course for your objectives is essential.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about studying medicine, why you should do a postgraduate medicine course, the entry requirements, and where you could study.
A postgraduate degree in medicine can take different forms depending on your past educational experience. You might be an existing medical student who is looking to complete a course of specialist study in a certain area after your foundation training, for example. For you, a postgraduate degree in medicine will allow you to build advanced knowledge in a certain area—such as epidemiology or orthopaedic surgery—and prepare for higher paid medical jobs.
Or you might be a graduate of another subject, who is looking to enter the medical field through a graduate entry course. With a higher education background already, studying medicine as a graduate will allow you to become a junior doctor in less than the usual five or six years it takes a school leaver.
Whatever the circumstances, medicine courses are very popular and highly competitive. They allow students to become a healthcare professional, making real and immediate positive differences to people’s lives.
You can choose from a variety of course types when studying medicine at postgraduate level, depending on your academic objectives and the stage you’re at with your studies.
After completing undergraduate medical training, all medical graduates will need to complete two years of foundation training. This programme is designed to equip you with the practical skills and experience needed to operate as a fully registered doctor.
A graduate entry degree in medicine is a conversion course designed for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree in another subject, but wish to study medicine.
Taught master’s degrees in a variety of medical sub-disciplines are a popular way to develop specialised knowledge after qualifying as a doctor. These are optional qualifications, which cover around 60 different medical specialties.
There are also a broad range of postgraduate research pathways open to medical graduates and practicing doctors. In one of these courses, you may spend less time on front-line care and more time conducting research in a clinical or laboratory setting.
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The natural progression for students in medicine is towards medical jobs as a GP or hospital doctor. In fact, it’s typical to at least spend your first few years building experience in these types of roles. You may then move into a senior or specialised role within the health service.
However, there are plenty of other medical careers open to students after they finish studying medicine at postgraduate level. Other possible careers include:
Medical graduates are also highly valued by other employers due to their strong transferable skills and personal characteristics, so other careers like journalism, law or charity work are also possible.
The entry requirements for studying medicine at postgraduate level can vary widely, depending on the level of study and the specialist area you are considering. At a minimum, you’ll usually need an undergraduate qualification in medicine or a related subject, such as biomedical sciences or another science, at 2:1 level or above.
The foundation training that all medical undergraduates will go on to complete has its own entry requirements and is applied for via a national admissions process.
Many master’s programmes in medicine, both taught and research, may ask for evidence of professional experience in a relevant clinical or research setting. Doctoral research programmes will typically expect a relevant master’s qualification and/or significant professional experience.
There are dozens of medicine courses to choose from as a postgraduate, ranging from degrees that focus on research in a certain area to those that prioritise developing advanced clinical skills and knowledge. Studying medicine can also involve degrees that focus more on preparing you for jobs which focus on managing medical systems, logistics, and community or population level health.
The topics covered by a postgraduate medicine degree can, again, vary widely depending on the type of course you’re pursuing. Your programme may include specialised or general topics such as:
The content of your studies and the skills you'll develop will depend on the level and topic of your medicine course.
Foundation will always cover training in a wide range of workplaces and clinical settings, including general practice, acute medical care, community health, and mental health. It has a strong practical focus and is designed to give you the clinical and non-clinical skills you’ll need to succeed across any number of medical roles.
Taught master’s courses will be geared towards preparing you for a medical career in a particular discipline, such as haematology or gynaecology. These will usually be delivered through a mix of classroom and seminar content, work-based learning, and research activity.
Research master’s and doctoral qualifications will be almost entirely focused on building research skills and carrying out impactful, quality research around your chosen research area.
In your foundation training, you’ll be assessed through a mixture of e-portfolio building, supervised clinical practice, and other assessments. Completing medical audits, giving presentations, teaching others, and publishing research or reports may also be involved.
Studying medicine through a taught master’s degree will usually involve assessment in the form of essays, written reports, presentations, practical assessments, exams or completion of a dissertation.
Research students will be assessed based on the quality of their research project, which will be evaluated as a dissertation or thesis, accompanied by an oral examination (viva).
If you’re an undergraduate medical student who is expecting to graduate soon, you’ll have two years of foundation training to complete before you can become a fully qualified doctor.
If you’re a graduate of another subject, you can expect your graduate entry programme to take four years rather than the typical five to six years that undergraduate medicine requires. You’ll then move on to foundation training.
Beyond this, a taught or research master’s degree in a medical discipline will typically last one year full-time, or two years part-time.
An MPhil qualification in medicine will usually take two years, while a PhD can take around three to four years to finish.
Many universities across the UK offer postgraduate degrees in medicine. However, here are best universities in the UK for studying medicine, according to the Complete University Guide 2023 league table:
Medicine is an ever popular and highly competitive subject to study, at any level. There are many other allied and parallel disciplines to medicine that may be a more appropriate path to your preferred medical career. Options include:
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