It is a fact that a large proportion of students studying biomedical science eventually want to transition onto a medical program after they graduate. This doesn’t de-value biomedical science in any way, in fact, using biomedical science as a gateway course is very much encouraged by future employers since the degree on its own isn’t enough to land you any significant job roles.
It’s however unfortunate that most people who choose this route won’t ever make it into a medical program due to the high competition.
It is no secret that medicine is an extremely competitive course, both with the undergraduate route and even more so with the 4-year postgraduate (graduate entry) route. Medicine is tough. Finding a place is tougher.
There are however some make-or-break things you can do before or even during your Biomedical science studies that will drastically increase your chances of getting onto a medical program!
Some are obvious and others, lesser-known. Let’s explore exactly how to become a doctor after studying biomedical science.
Tip 1 – Choosing the right University
Before you even start your biomedical science degree, you must first do your research into which universities you should apply to. The is a big debate about whether you should go to an accredited university (IBMS) or non-accredited university.
I wrote a separate article about the best universities to attend for biomedical science, but on the whole, IBMS accreditation is typically intended for people who want to work as biomedical scientists as opposed to medical professionals.
It essentially holds no power for anything else. Even after attending an IBMS accredited university, you still need to complete an IBMS portfolio after leaving university, so the general rule is to get into a university that has the highest entry requirements.
This is generally a good sign as it means they aren’t just letting anyone walk through their doors and out with a degree certificate. Bonus points if the university has links to a medical school, or even has its own school of Medicine!
The reason why attending a university with a medical school is important is you’ll be somewhat favoured as alumni when it comes to applying for your medical school place.
Universities can’t favour their own graduates, however, in many cases, students applying internally to study medicine can receive special treatment such as guaranteed interviews (depending on exam performance) and conditional offers.
They may also receive alumni discounts of up to 20% which can save students around £9,000+ towards tuition fees overall. This is extremely useful especially after many students incur plenty of debt from an undergraduate degree.
Tip 2 – Know Your Faculty
Your university faculty should be seen as the gateway to your place on a medical course. Your lecturers and academics are the same people who will be giving you references and writing your predicted grades when you apply at the end of the second year.
Try to get on the good side of your professors! Make a list of all the lecturers in the life science department and make a note of what areas of research they are currently working in. Compose a simple email asking if there is anything you can do to help them carry out their research.
Explain that you are an eager student looking to get hands-on experience in biomedical science and specifically their field of research.
The email should look something like this.
Dear Dr [name of professor],
I am writing this email to inquire if you have any work experience opportunities in your department this summer. I am a second-year biomedical science student and have been looking into the various aspects of research done at this university.
I am especially interested in your departments which looks at [department focus]. I wish to apply to medicine this summer for direct entry at the end of next year and would be grateful if I could help out in the department in any way to get a better insight into the health sciences.
I am also open to simply watching lab techniques being carried out if the experiments are far too important for a 2nd-year Biomed student to be assisting. I hope you will be able to help me out with this inquiry but if not, I am still grateful to be under your tuition.
Many thanks and kind regards,
This is a very bold email but a necessary one! Many people on your course will be vying for the same place on a medical course so you must be bold in order to stand out. Firing out 5 of those emails is a good way to guarantee getting some lab exposure and building a relationship with a faculty member.
As silly as the email sounds, faculty members will be impressed that you are taking an interest in their research and they will respond to your inquiry. It is important to understand that while lecturers are teaching, they are also running numerous lab experiments with budgets.
You will be surprised that lecturers are always looking for students to take under their wing and write grants for so they can do paid summer work in their faculty. This is a huge form of extracurricular work which will even help your biomedical science grades.
More importantly, you have built a relationship with a lecturer who will write you a glowing reference and predict you a first if they actually like working with you.
If you end up not getting a medical place that year, you can always take a gap year and reapply, however, it is uncommon for students to be drafted by lecturers but and still get rejected from medical school after a glowing reference. It’s always a good idea to form a relationship with a lecturer, personal tutor, or faculty researcher at some point of your biomedical studies.
Tip 3 – Volunteering and Work Experience
Different medical schools have a range of different work experience criteria when it comes to meeting all the entry requirements.
Some may want you to shadow medical professionals exclusively, but most are ok shadowing experiences that involve medical as well as other allied healthcare professionals.
On the whole, one work experience opportunity is usually enough but more and more medical schools are requiring students to have multiple examples of work experience when they apply. For example, one can be shadowing a physiotherapist, and the other can be volunteering in a care home.
make sure you don’t have 2 of the same experiences, for example, don’t volunteer twice, or shadow twice as medical schools like the diversity. You will be required to hand in references from both experiences which will be scanned by AI-equipped computers to make sure they aren’t forged.
Writing about fake experiences is a no-no in the medical world and can likely result in your permanent banning from medical schools if the university finds out. Forgery and character impersonations aren’t taken lightly by the majority of medical schools.
It is important to make a list of exactly where you are applying so you know exactly what their work experience requirements are early. Not having the right combination is a common reason why students are rejected from medical school, even if their grades are perfect.
The work experience must be relevant, and most importantly recent. Helping out in a care home 3 years prior to applying is simply not good enough for most medical schools. The general rule of thumb is so long as your experience is within 2 years of applying, you should be ok.
You should however still get your experience early! Start looking at the end of first-year Biomed, so when you apply at the end of the second year you have experiences to talk about. Most importantly, after every experience, ask for a reference, making sure the healthcare professional or manager give you’re their word or at least their email so you can chase them up.
If you don’t have a reference, it didn’t happen, and you would have to find another. Make sure you do at least 1 – 2 weeks of work experience at each location. The general rule is to reach between 20 and 50 hours at each location.
There is a good article at UCAT Tools that describes how you should be tackling work experience in more detail.
Tip 4 – Ace Your Exams
An obvious piece of advice, but one that is usually forgotten in the pursuit of lesser things like references, work experience etc.
You can always get work experience and find a referee, but once you perform badly, it can derail your pathway to medicine.
Always aim for first-class grades in every essay, exam, coursework and group work activity. Whenever you apply to any further course, you will have to hand over your transcripts, so it is of utmost importance that you are a stellar performer across the board.
Believe me when I say your competitors certainly will be so don’t make it harder for yourself.
Tip 5 – Start Entry Exam Revision Early
It is never too early to start doing some practice questions and general research for which entry exams you may need to do.
It is important to make a list of all the schools you wish to apply to, then find out which entry exams you will need to take and what score you need to gain to secure an interview.
A site like UCATTOOLs.com is a great place to start. They have free resources for the UCAT and BMAT exam, not to mention numerous blogs and powerful tools such as the entry requirement checker to help you through the whole application process!
MedicPortal.co.uk is another powerful website that assists students in exam and interview preparation. Both websites you must check out you finish reading this blog!
It is important to have some backup schools in the off chance you don’t score too highly in either the BMAT or UCAT exam. These are 2 exams you should be definitely taking if you are located in the UK.
Set aside 30 minutes to 1 hour each day for exam prep. Practice as many questions as you can until all you see are shapes, patterns and math!
While it is important to aim high and shoot for the stars after your biomedical science degree, it is also important to understand that there are numerous paths after studying Biomed, not just becoming a doctor!
I created this site to explore the alternatives so treat the posts like a treasure trove of the options you have after studying a bioscience degree. Your options are plenty, explore them!