In many societies becoming a doctor is seen as a very prestigious passageway into earning lots of money and being socially respected.
This makes it a challenging degree to get accepted into in the first place because so many people are applying which drives up the competition greatly.
Typically, to become a doctor, you would need to enrol on a medical programme and become registered with the GMC before you can start working as a junior doctor.
Here are some alternative ways to practice medicine or be considered a doctor without taking the usual route!
Physician Associate Route
For many people, the opportunity to practice medicine without going to medical school and becoming a doctor has been made possible with the introduction of the physician associate program.
With many medical schools reaching capacity very early in the application cycle, the physician associate program allows aspiring medical practitioners to train the exact same way doctors do with a few added benefits.
For example training is 2 years of compulsory study as opposed to five years for a typical medical degree.
Candidates must already have a bioscience degree to start with however.NHS
After qualifying, physician associates must work for one additional year in a placement to bring them to the same level as junior doctors, when they can officially begin to work in primary and secondary care settings.
Physician associates get employed on a higher initial salary than junior doctors (of around £35k as compared to 25K for doctors), and often get to work more sociable hours.
The complexity of cases they are able to work with is also much lower meaning they tend to spend less time thinking, and more time practising medicine.
Having been involved with many PA interviews myself, I can tell you that their job roles are essentially identical to that of a junior doctor’s.
On a daily basis they are diagnosing, performing histories, doing medical examinations, and formulating management plans for their own patients.
The only difference being that for more complex patient care, these will have to be referred over to the attending physician for further action to be decided.
The most amazing thing about the physician associate role is the future growth capacity.
There are rumblings of physician associates being given their medical license in the future to tackle the physician shortages and the rise in complex disease prevalence.
Not to mention new rules being put in place that requires all hospitals to employ a set number of PA’s, the future looks bright for this route into medicine.
Here is our full article if you want to find out more about the PA role.
Doctorate Route (getting a PhD)
Getting a doctorate can be an extremely useful tool to add to your educational transcript, and your overall employability status!
I know exactly what you’re thinking though, just because you have a PhD doesn’t make you a medical doctor.
Well, maybe it can!
It isn’t unheard of for PhD’s to later consider getting their medical license by studying on an accelerated medical program!
The benefits here are that you don’t have to study for the full 5 years, and you can use your pre-existing knowledge in research and academics to boost your performance, during and after your studies.
PhD’s find it much easier to find and work in top jobs after qualifying as a medical doctor.
Their prior experience and rigorous research background means that they can easily work as hospital managers, public health academics, research coordinators, and much more!
All the while retaining their magical doctor status, and becoming a doctor in 2 rights!
You are likely to have double the salary of any other medical graduate, granted your initial doctorate was in a relevant medical research field.
Medical Consultant Route (via specialist training)
Now this is the only route that you don’t become a doctor per say, however you are working in hospitals and making key decisions that affect health policy nationwide.
When a doctor (a medical student at the time) finishes medical school they must undergo foundation year training which lasts 2 years. After this, they can apply to specialist training which can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years.
Doctors can choose a wide range of specialist specialisms ranging from a general practitioner to surgery, to Oncology, Pathology etc.NHS
After this training, a junior doctor officially becomes a physician or consultant physician.
Public health specialist training is the only medical specialism that doesn’t require you to be a doctor first, or go to medical school.
It does, however, require a strong application, and when everything is all said and done, you are a consultant public health officer!
This comes complete with your own office, healthy pay check, and a job either within the community, government or as a hospital manager.
There are many other roles you can do as a public health officer. Read our post here!
You will be making and evaluating health policy within your community, making influential decisions that will hopefully benefit many lives.
This is truly the pinnacle of any public health role, and since you are essentially on the same level as a public health doctor, you can expect your pay check to reflect this, depending on your job role!
Working as an Army Medic
Working as an army medic is no joke!
You receive an incredible amount of hands on experience, while learning the fundamentals of medical practice and emergency medicine!
Before deployment, you will spend several weeks learning basic theory of biomedicine, and the practical aspects of being a doctor in a war setting.
Most army medics will end up retiring and living off of their army retirement fund, however a select few will pursue a career in medicine, working as a doctor in a normal hospital.
Recently, the government called all retired nurses, army medics, and doctors out of retirement, to help fight the battle against COVID-19.
They worked in hospitals, testing centres, and in emergency departments providing care to patients suspected of contracting the SARS-COV-2 Virus.
Their efforts were praised by the whole nation, the prime minister himself, the Queen and the entire government.
It won’t be of any surprise if a new training program is created simply to train army medics to become doctors in under a year!
The climate is ripe for drastic reforms in all healthcare systems, and we are likely to see one within the next coming years!
Being a doctor is simply a title given to the select few people who manage to make it into medical school first time.
However, as we have seen, there are many routes into helping people, and eventually even becoming a doctor, granted you have the right education, experience, and compassion for human life!
Never give up on your dreams to study medicine!
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Always aim high!