Career opportunities with a medicine degree

As a potential medical student you’ll know that it’s a vocational degree and not an area you get into just for the salary. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number of exciting and highly rewarding, both emotionally and financially, career options open to you once you have your medical degree.

The two most obvious career opportunities that are directly related to your medical degree are becoming a general practitioner doctor (GP) or becoming a hospital doctor.

However, if you want to specialise then there are over 60 areas of specialism within the NHS and a number of other opportunities outside of the NHS that are well worth considering.

Here are just some of the career opportunities with a medical degree that you can think about before submitting your medical school application:

Working as a doctor

If you’re sure you want to work as a doctor there are many opportunities to explore once you’ve graduated from medical school.

Specialisms for doctors include:

  • Anaesthesia
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Intensive Care Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Paediatrics
  • Ophthalmology
  • Psychiatry
  • Public Health
  • Radiology
  • Surgery
  • Community Sexual and Reproductive Health

More information about all of the above areas, and other areas of specialism open to medical school graduates can be found on the NHS Medical Careers website.

Choosing Academic Medicine

If you choose a career in academic medicine you’ll usually be known as a clinical academic and you could be at the forefront of patient care and research.

As a clinical academic you may also teach or lecture medical students and other medical professionals. The usual career pathway for medical students wanting to work in academic medicine is as follows:

Medical school – foundation programme – specialist training – academic position

Clinical practice alternatives

For students considering a move away from clinical practice, or away from working within the NHS, there are a number of alternatives to consider. There are plenty of professions that would highly value the skills and abilities built during your time in medicine.

Career options include:

  • Medical journalism
  • Civil service
  • Medical politics & ethics
  • Law
  • Medical research
  • Pharmaceutical medicine
  • Medical education
  • NHS management

Typical employers that would be interested in candidates with medical training include the armed forces, prisons, overseas aid agencies, private healthcare organisations, air ambulance services, and medical schools or universities.

Other areas of specialism

If none of the above areas of medicine have interested you there are some other alternatives for graduates with a medical degree looking for a rewarding career.

These alternatives include:

  • Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  • Aviation Medicine – occupational medicine mostly concerned with assessing the health and fitness of pilots and crew to fly
  • Forensic Medical Examiner
  • Crowd Doctor – providing medical cover to those attending large events e.g music festivals or sporting events
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Dive Medicine – specialising in treating ailments associated with diving e.g decompression sickness
  • Medical Photography
  • Medical Sales
  • Space Medicine – a highly specialist area concerning the effects of space travel on the human mind and body

How do I specialise in my chosen area?

The standard procedure for medical graduates it to undertake a two year Foundation Programme after graduation in order to be able to practice medicine in the UK.

Once you have completed the Foundation Programme the majority of medical graduates choose to start studying for their specialism straight away.

Initially you’ll find the training quite broad, and the length of training varies depending on your specialism, but as you move through the training you’ll specialise in a particular area – for example, radiology.

What do I need to consider when thinking about my future career?

You can never have too much work experience and it’s a good idea to start enhancing your CV with work experience and/or voluntary placements whilst you’re still at university.

All forms of work experience will teach you something, so don’t just focus on getting placements in the area you want to specialise in.

Many medical students choose to gain experience by taking an “elective” – a period of clinical experience taken whilst studying for your medical degree.

You can choose to take your elective abroad or at a hospital or organisation within the UK. This is your chance to gain valuable hands-on experience in an area that interests you.

Intercalated degree options

Some medical students also choose to extend their degree by a year, from five to six years, to study for an intercalated degree.

This means you’ll a year out from studying the medical curriculum to study and research in a different, usually science related, subject area.