While undergraduate courses are seen as the 'standard' entry route into medicine, graduate-focused programmes are responsible for producing a huge number of doctors, and may offer a better deal for applicants who already hold degrees.
Pro: Saving a Year
Let’s start with an obvious one. Graduate entry programmes allow you to complete a medical degree in four years rather than five, which is obviously a good thing if you’re eager to get into practicing as a doctor. If you didn’t make the grades first time around for example, you could complete an undergraduate degree by 21, and then graduate as a doctor at 25, only two years behind those that started at 18, with all the extra experience and opportunities to boot.
Con: Losing a Year
Of course, this also has its downsides. Medicine has a reputation for being an incredibly challenging degree, and graduate schemes cram the already huge amounts of material into a shortened time frame. If you’ve been out of education for a while or are worried about finding the academic transition difficult, it might be worth considering five year courses to make your life just that little bit easier.
Pro: More maturity
On a similar note, because of the increased average age, your cohort should (at least in theory) be a bit more mature than a comparable cohort at 18 years old. Of course that’s not to suggest that undergrad-entry medical students are immature at all, but simply by virtue of being older people are more likely to be more collected and capable of managing their lives and social relationships properly.
This is probably more noticeable to those that have been employed in a real-world job, in that you absolutely will not be able to work while studying and your income will suffer as a result. In a similar vein to before, your friends will start to become established in their careers sooner than you, and basically you will be on low-income posts for a while even after graduation.
Pro: Funding is available!
Given the recent removal of the nursing bursary, I’m not sure how much longer this point will remain true, but for now at least a graduate-entry medical programme can be funded through Student Finance England. There’s a not-tiny sum that must be paid upfront (approximately £3375), after which a standard student loan is available to cover the rest.
Con: Qualifying Older
It seems like a stupidly obvious thing to say, but it’s worth thinking about. As of right now I’m 21 years old, so this won’t be as large a problem, but let’s take a reasonable guess and say that the average age on my course is around 25. It takes 4 years to complete the degree, which will make most people around 29/30 when starting work as an F1, a notoriously stressful and time-intensive role. By that point most people’s friends will be settled down and may have children, and if you have significant responsibilities or relationships of your own, a medical degree could be very disruptive. These things can definitely be managed properly, but it will make some elements of more life more difficult.
Pro: Wider Range of Backgrounds
Because graduate-entry courses demand a first degree as part of the application process, by necessity every single person on the course will have at least an undergraduate degree under their respective belts. While some schools will only accept science graduates, there a few (including Warwick where I go) that happily take arts and humanities students too. This leads to a fantastic array of knowledge and unique perspectives that serve the year very well as a whole, particularly when it comes to group work.
Getting a place on a graduate entry scheme is rough. Competition is comparatively more fierce because everyone has more experience and knowledge than the typical school leaver. This leads to either the use of the GAMSAT (a 6 hour slog of an exam that tests your reasoning across humanities and natural sciences) or higher cutoffs in the UKCAT and BMAT. In 2013, for example, Warwick (one of the two grad-only medical schools) had close to 3000 applications for about 170 places. I did the maths, and for 2017 entry (considering only home applicants for undergraduate and postgraduate courses) at undergraduate level there were 9.2 applicants per place, with 25.8 applicants per place for graduate-entry courses.
You’ll get to be a doctor
But of course, the ultimate positive from a graduate-entry scheme is that at the end of it, you’ll get to be a doctor. That’s the ultimate reason why any of us that applied to study medicine did so, and regardless of whether you choose a four year or five year scheme, we’ll all be in it together doing what we set out to do.