The first formal step to becoming a doctor in the UK is to study for an undergraduate degree in medicine on a course approved by the General Medical Council. A medical degree will typically take between four and six years to complete.
In the UK, the medical degree is based around preparing for a career as a doctor in the National Health Service. Learning what it takes to work in a caring profession as part of a healthcare team is a journey which leads to a fulfilling and valued job.
The decision to embark on a clinical academic career does not need to be made while still at medical school. There are various stages of training in which a career in clinical academia can be considered. If starting early, however, then this will commonly be with an intercalated degree. There may also be opportunities to participate in projects and research-based activities during your degree course. These are a good opportunity to find out if this type of work suits you.
An intercalated degree in medicine is an opportunity to combine a regular medical degree with an additional year of study in a related field. This might include research or teaching, and typically revolves around a project of the student’s choice. It is therefore an opportunity to both engage in original research while still at undergraduate level and to get a sense of academic medicine.
Intercalation is applied for during the medical degree and will require the completion of two or three years of the degree before it can be undertaken. Specific intercalation courses are offered at different universities around the UK, so intercalation will likely take place at a different university from where the medical degree is studied.
On completion of the intercalated year, the student returns for the final two or three years of the medical degree. The result will be that the student is awarded both a medical degree and an additional degree, often a BSc or MSc. This opens up the possibility of later studying for a PhD.
Intercalation offers the chance to pursue topics from a broad range of fields. This includes many areas of biomedical research such as microbiology or genomics, medical humanities such as history or philosophy, or crossover subjects with veterinary sciences such as zoology or veterinary epidemiology. The list of intercalation courses is available at intercalate.co.uk, which is run by Hull York Medical School.
INSPIRE is a scheme coordinated by the Academy of Medical Sciences and supported by the Wellcome Trust that allows medical, dental and veterinary undergraduates to engage with research. INSPIRE offers funding to medical, dental and veterinary schools across the country to enable them to deliver locally designed activities aimed at informing and exciting students about the benefits and potential of a career in research.
More information can be found on the INSPIRE website.