Studying medicine

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Life as a doctor

Two doctors talk in hospital

Contemporary medicine is challenging, exciting and dynamic.

Follow our bloggers on the road to medical school, and get a first hand account of applying to medicine.

Countless new discoveries are making their impact on medical practice every year. With the advent of new technology, doctors qualifying now will see even more dramatic changes in the future.

From being a community based GP who has daily contact with patients, to a surgeon working in a hospital, a geneticist in a lab, a lecturer teaching students, or working in the armed forces or police force, there are over 50 career paths to choose from.

A medical career, whatever path you choose, should not be embarked on lightly.

From the completion of your formal medical studies to training in your chosen specialty to the continuing learning required for all registered doctors working in the UK, medicine is a career that constantly challenges you to learn and develop throughout your working life.

What underpins medicine for many doctors is the desire to help and serve people, by diagnosing and treating illness and disease.

  • Qualities of a doctor

    Anyone with the ability, personal attributes and motivation can apply to study medicine. 

    The GMC (General Medical Council) produces the Good Medical Practice guide, which sets out what is expected of all registered doctors. This guide gives a good insight into the role and responsibilities of being a doctor and can help in understanding what is required as a medical professional.

    The medical schools council produced a comprehensive, updated statement on the core values and attributes needed to study medicine and advice on how to demonstrate these values in your application. 

    These key skills and attributes are:

    Motivation to study medicine, a genuine interest in the medical profession

    Insight into your own strengths and weaknesses

    Personal organisation

    Academic ability

    Dealing with uncertainty

    Manage risk and deal effectively with problems


    Insight into your own health


    Ability to treat people with respect

    Empathy, the ability to care for others


    The ability to reflect on your own work

    Problem solving

    Ability to take responsibility for your own actions

    Effective communication


    The ability to deal with difficult situations

  • Career path of a doctor

    Medicine is a rewarding career, and being a doctor involves a lifetime of learning.

    Read The Secret Doctor blog, to find out what life is really like as a doctor.

    This begins with an undergraduate degree at medical school, followed by a postgraduate period called foundation training, at which point a salary can be earned, followed by further higher specialty training and then progression to being a senior doctor once specialty training is complete.

    Take a look at our training pathway information that gives you an idea of the different stages of a medical career, from studying as a medical student through clinical training to becoming senior doctor.

    Find out more

  • Medical specialties

    There are a huge number of medical specialties that you can choose from, with over 60 career paths available.

    Read our insider's guide to medical specialties

    Although the majority of doctors work in the NHS, opportunities also exist in other sectors, including the armed forces, prisons and with police forces working as a forensic physician.

    Find out more about these alternative medical career paths.

    Armed forces

    Civilian medical practitioners and consultants

    Medical managers

    Pharmaceautical medicine

    Civil service medical officers



    Postgraduate funding is available too and the details of who is eligible and how to apply is set out in our guidance on postgraduate medical education and training.