In the UK, students can apply to study medicine right after they finish their A levels, but all too often, aspiring medics are advised to study biomedical science before applying to become doctors.
While on paper this may be a good strategy to follow because you will have background knowledge in medical sciences, in practice, you may be actually hampering your chances of getting onto a medical program.
This is 5 Undisclosed Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Biomedical Science to Study Medicine!
It isn’t easier to get into medicine after you get a Biomedical Science BSc
The biggest misconception behind getting a bioscience degree first is it will be easier to enrol on medical programs when you apply with a degree, as opposed to getting in straight after sixth form/college.
“I wasn’t able to get into undergraduate medicine anyways”
First off, if you’re in sixth form and applying to study medicine, this is the way you should be doing it.
Try your best to get in after sixth form, don’t try and get in later! This will be the easiest way to study medicine in the UK as believe it or not, you will face the least competition in this route.
You will also still be eligible for full funding via Student Loan Company.
If you instead did a bioscience degree first, your funding will be more or less non-existent in an undergraduate degree.
Your competition to study medicine will increase as the number of places available to graduates is only a fraction of what’s available to school leavers.
If you however were unable to get into undergraduate medicine after A Levels, don’t worry as you and several thousands of other people failed to get in via this route.
What you do in this case is evaluate why you couldn’t get in. Don’t rush to do an undergraduate degree.
If there were extenuating circumstances on why your A-Level exams didn’t go as planned, consider resitting your exams and reapplying as an A-Level student with extenuating circumstances.
Below is a list of medical schools that allow undergraduate students to resit their A-Level exams, even if there were no extenuating circumstances.
- University of Bristol – A maximum of one resit is allowed in any one subject
- University of Exeter – Retake applicants are not discriminated against and final grade will be treated in the same way as any other student
- University of Manchester – Only one of either year 12 or Year 13 may be resat. Applicants must have achieved at least a B the first time to make the resit count. Resit grades must be A*AA or higher.
- University of Plymouth – 1 resit year is permitted
- University of Liverpool – Applicant must offer at least one A* after resit.
- University of Sheffield – One resit per A level is permitted
- Keele University – Resit applicants will be considered but must apply after achieving required grades, not during their third year
- Hull York Medical School – Resit applicants are considered if they achieved BBB (or above) the first time and are taking an extra year to improve to AAA
- Brighton and Sussex Medical School– Resit applicants are considered however must achieve AAA in at least biology and chemistry after 3 years study. Grades must be achieved not predicted.
What’s wrong about wanting to apply for graduate entry medicine?
If for some reason you didn’t want to resit A-Levels and spend another year in school, you might choose to study biomedical science for three years and applying to medicine afterwards.
Apply undergraduate medicine again but as a graduate
As a graduate, if you decide to apply for undergraduate medicine, you will STILL need to meet some all be it slightly lower A-Level requirements (usually ABB), a degree requirement (usually 2:1), and an entrance exam requirement (UCAT, GAMSAT, BMAT).
But this isn’t the difficult part. The hard part is you are now competing against new school leavers!
These A-Level students will receive the majority of the places on medical courses, and while most universities will have a quota of graduate students to admit onto their course, it is never a 50% split.
For example, Leicester university made 676 offers to A-Level school leavers, and 141 to graduates.
40% of graduates who applied were invited to on interview whereas 60% of undergraduates who applied to Leicester were invited to an interview.
When applying to undergraduate medicine, being a school leaver is much better than holding a degree, plus you will have access to full funding and won’t have to fork out £9250 from your own pocket each year.
Applying for graduate entry medicine
If like many others you want to dodge the undergraduate competition, and apply straight for a medical program designed exclusively for graduates, you may consider applying for graduate entry medicine (not to be confused with postgraduate medicine).
You will however stumble into bigger troubles with graduate entry medicine, as the places are extremely limited.
In total, there is roughly 900 graduate entry spots that are filled every year in the UK.
Thousands of people apply but only a fraction will be offered interviews, and even less will be given offers.
For example, the University of Warwick has the biggest intake of graduate students and is the only medical school to be entirely graduate based.
Every year, roughly 2000-3000 applications are made but only 100-190 offers are given out.
Believe it or not this is actually a good applicant to number of places ratio. Most graduate courses will have significantly less places to fill.
Places like Liverpool, king’s college, Oxford, and Newcastle only have around 30 places to fill.
The next biggest intakes are Nottingham (93 places), Swansea (90 places), St George’s (70 places) and Birmingham (60 places).
If you struggled to get into undergraduate medicine, don’t expect things to get any easier once you get a degree.
As a graduate competing with other graduates, you are expected to have very high aptitude test results.
For school leavers, a UCAT score of 650+ is enough to get yourself into an interview, granted you have AAB at least.
For graduate entry medicine however you must be scoring 700+ to even be barely considered for an interview.
Maybe you can get in with 650, but trust that if 40 people are applying for 1 spot, and you all have 2:1’s or higher, there will be someone in the bunch scoring well over 700 in the UCAT, beating out anyone still scoring in the 600’s.
Your BSc degree won’t make studying medicine easier
this advice was probably given to you by your parents to console you when you found out you weren’t getting into medicine this year.
“I read online that you can study biomedical science and use that to get into medicine, you’ll understand medicine better, and it’ll be a win win all round”.
If anything it’s a lose lose situation.
What happens if you studied a degree but still couldn’t get onto a medical program? Now you are stuck with a degree that wasn’t even your first choice.
If you actually did manage to gain entry on a medical program, it is unlikely that biomedical science will put you at an incredible advantage over non-science graduates.
You may have a slight advantage in terms of laboratory competency, and being able to carry simple lab tasks such as pipetting and streak plating.
You however won’t have an academic advantage over A-Level school leavers because even though biomed has anatomy and physiology modules etc, the degree mostly focuses on developing your competency in a lab.
This certainly isn’t going to harm your medical knowledge, but in my experience the purely scientific and research oriented nature of a biomedical science degree isn’t going to be replacing foundation year medical courses any time soon.
A third year biomedical science student may learn detailed facts about epigenetic changes and human biochemistry.
This however isn’t directly relevant when studying to practice medicine.
If however your plans were to go into postgraduate medicine, there may be some benefits to having an undergraduate science degree.
I however advice against biomedical science, and more towards subjects like genetics and biomedical engineering.
Your BSc degree doesn’t guarantee a shorter medical program
As we’ve already mentioned, there is an undergraduate and graduate entry route.
Graduates applying for the graduate entry route may be enticed by the slightly shorter program (4 years compared to the typical 5) but don’t be fooled; a shorter program doesn’t necessarily mean less content.
It just means the same amount of content packed into a shorter time frame.
This can man more stress for the student, and a generally bad learning experience if one can’t cope with the workload.
Medicine is a demanding course so making it more stressful for yourself by doing an accelerated program may not be the best idea.
The reason why your degree doesn’t guarantee that you find a place on an accelerated program is, your degree has very little to do with getting accepted.
Once you get a 2:1 or higher, the main determinant on entry into an accelerated program is your healthcare work experience, and your performance in an entry exam (i.e. UCAT, BMAT, GAMSAT).
You don’t even necessarily have to study a biomedical science degree to apply to graduate entry medicine. Below is a list of universities that accept non-science degrees for entry into medicine (graduate entry).
- Barts (QMUL)
- Dundee/st Andrews
- St George’s
The bottom line is, you must do a degree that interests you, not a degree that you feel you must do to get into medicine later.
You can study medicine at any point, however it’s always an issue when you choose to study a biomedical degree in the hopes of doing medicine, then being stuck with that degree if medicine didn’t pan out exactly as planned.
Admission officers won’t see you as better than A level students
Graduates have this idea that after their degree, they are somewhat superior to A-Level school leavers due to gaining more knowledge in medical science.
They, therefore, should have priority when applying and gaining entrance to medical school.
No such thing exists, and as we mentioned above, more undergraduates are admitted to medical schools than graduates.
Admissions officers will always compare your performance to similar students, i.e. students with degrees, whether you are applying for undergraduate or graduate medicine.
Don’t expect to beat out an A-Level school leaver just because you have a “higher” level of education than them.
You might be competing with them indirectly however you are directly competing with your graduate counterparts, so no one is at a disadvantage/advantage.
Your BSc degree won’t further your career any quicker
Unless you are planning on going into postgraduate medicine and being a researcher, even then, a biomedical science degree may not catapult you into discovering the next big cure.
If you have a biomedical science degree, and later get a medical degree, your medical degree is going to be worth much more than your bioscience degree, and will likely be the reason you will be a great doctor.
Achieving a good GCSE maths grade is beneficial, but when you achieve an A-Level in maths, it trumps any other prior achievement because it gave you more knowledge.
The same goes with a medicine degree and a bioscience degree.
Your bioscience degree won’t do much to further your career, but it might make learning content a bit easier since there may be a few things you are familiar with.
The only benefit that a bioscience degree may offer is lab competence.
Most biomedical science degrees have a laboratory competence test that students must pass to graduate.
You also have massive amounts of laboratory exposure in the third year when you are doing research for your projects.
This will go a long way to further your career as a researcher, but will do very little to further you career as a doctor.
If you are still unsure about which courses to study, consider checking out my short course where I walk you through several life sciences courses and which ones to study in the future!