Advice for parents about the career options for their children

Applying to medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine/science courses


Medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine are popular career choices and competition for places is extremely high, especially medicine, where there are consistently many more applicants to courses than there are places available. Managing the expectations of your son or daughter in relation to their application to medical or other associated programmes is crucial in supporting them through what is sometimes a traumatic experience. The information below will be useful in helping you to advise budding doctors, vets or dentists at the A level option stage as well as further down the road.

For medicine in particular it's important to advise them to prepare their application well in advance to give them the best chance at being successful.

Subjects needed to study medicine:

For students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all 33 UK medical schools will require the following:

•a combination of GCSEs, AS levels and A levels, with good grades in science subjects (Chemistry, Physics, Biology and/or Mathematics) which form the foundation of the medical curriculum

• good GCSE passes in English and mathematics

Students with some non-science related A levels would be required to study some form of a science based foundation course, which will add a year to the standard five year undergraduate course.

Subjects not accepted by medical schools:

Most medical schools will not accept A level General Studies and more are now not accepting A level Critical Thinking as relevant qualifications.

Also, most medical schools will not accept applicants who have a qualification in Key Skills. A small number of medical schools will accept a vocational A level (AVCE) but only when combined with a traditional A Level (GCE) and only in a limited number of subjects (typically health and social care, and information and communication technology).

Entry requirements will vary between medical schools, so it is important to contact the actual medical school itself that your son or daughter is thinking of applying to for the most up to date information.

For Scottish school students:

Scottish students applying to medical schools within Scotland and the rest of the UK, will be accepted on their results in Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers. The majority of medical schools will accept a combination of Highers and Advanced Highers and would require high grades in science subjects such as chemistry and biology.

International baccalaureate and other qualifications:

Applicants with qualifications such as an international baccalaureate need to make contact with the individual medical schools directly or check the UCAS website for details on acceptable equivalent entry requirements.

An overview of the application process for medicine:

  • Gain some relevant care experience, either as a volunteer or in paid employment. This helps to demonstrate commitment and a certain level of understanding of the demands and requirements of working within the industry.
  • Applicant takes an admissions test.
  • Write a personal statement. Ensure you help your son or daughter to utilise the experiences gained in a relevant environment as part of that statement.
  • Help them to research all the medical schools they want to apply to. Remember that they can only apply to a maximum of four, unlike for a regular degree, where there are five choices.

  • Remember that they will need to submit their UCAS application for  medical school between mid-September and 15th October; earlier than for regular degree course applications.

  • Make sure their application includes everything required.

  • Attend an interview. Some medical schools require them to attend a face to face panel interview. Help them to prepare for this by considering preparation support provided by organisations such as Medlink   who run presentations on applying to medical school.

Fees and finances:

As with most UK universities, medical schools will charge the maximum tuition fee of £9,000 per university year, except in Scotland where there are no tuition fees. For first time undergraduate students, tuition fees can be payable with students loans. For graduates with a degree, tuition fees must be paid upfront and cannot be deferred.

All courses at university are likely to leave your son or daughter with a fairly large debt at the end of their degree. Medical and related degrees are no different, and in many cases are more expensive, with courses lasting  longer than most regular degrees.

There are however, bursaries, loans and other financial support available to investigate that will help your son or daughter finance their medical degree on top of their tuition fee loan.