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Intercalated degrees

As part of your medical studies, you may have the option to do an intercalating degree, which is time out of your regular medical degree to study a specific area of interest.

Many medical schools in the UK offer full intercalated degrees, where it is part of the degree for all medical students to take a year off to study a different field. 

Whilst other medical schools require you to apply for the year off, which usually occurs during your third or fourth year.

Intercalating is often seen as a way into academic medicine, with the opportunity to undertake clinical research or education and teaching.

However, there is a wide range of subjects to choose from when deciding what you want to study in more depth, including bioethics, journalism, history of medicine and medical management.

A great place to start is the Hull York medical school intercalate website, that has a handy database for all intercalated medical, dental and veterinary courses in the UK.


What are the benefits of intercalating?

Your year out can act not only as a break from your degree, to explore a subject you a passionate about but also as an opportunity to experience life outside of medical school.

Studying medicine is intense, so having a year to focus on an area you particularly enjoy can give you a valuable insight into where you want your career to go and whether your chosen area of study is right for you.

Intercalating means you receive an additional degree on top of your undergraduate medical degree, which could lead to the option of doing a PhD later on in your career.

Doing an extra year within your degree also gets you extra points for your application into Foundation Year. Any extra points are always helpful and can give you a competitive edge.

Another benefit is potentially having more time to make new friends and contacts outside of medical school, work on other activities outside of medicine and give you a chance to refresh your batteries before your final years of study. Although depending on the area you study, you could be busier than ever.

Do your research. Talk to anyone you can who has taken an intercalated year out to get an insight into whether it's for you.

Also speak to your medical school, as they may support alternatives such as special study modules, European Medical Student Association (EMSA) exchanges and the Erasmus programme.


What is the benefit to the NHS of students intercalating?

Health Education England (HEE) has noted that there are many benefits in the extra year of study that intercalated students have, in delivering more mature, well rounded graduates into the NHS.

The HEE mandate from the Department of Health also calls on them to develop a workforce that embraces research and innovation and to explore opportunities for students to intercalate MScs as part of their education (HEE Mandate 6.48-56).

Intercalation can also give future doctors the insight into research and research methodology that the Keogh Mortality Review highlights plus also producing a pool of people with skills to become clinical academics into the future.


Things to consider when intercalating

Whilst there are benefits to intercalating, there are important factors to consider.

There are financial implications. Doing an extra year of study means you will also pay for an extra year of study, including any relevant tuition and living costs.

Bursaries and other funding options are available, check with the medical school you are currently studying at and the university you want to go to for more information.

Intercalated years at bachelors or masters level can be counted towards the qualifying year for NHS bursary funding, which could ease financial pressures. Read the NHSBSA's guidelines on NHS bursary funding. 

Check out our student finance guides for more useful resources.

Prolonging your training also means you will not graduate with most of the people you entered medical school with, being a year behind.

It's also important to note that intercalation is not a requirement if you decide to become a consultant or primary care doctor later in your career.

Intercalation is not for every student, so it's worth taking the time to weigh up the pros and cons before making your decision.