5 Great alternatives to studying medicine

5 Great alternatives to studying medicine

The 2017/18 admissions cycle saw a record number of applicants applying to medical schools, a 12% rise on the previous year, taking numbers of applicant to medicine courses to a 5-year high of 22,340.

These record numbers were a result of extra places made available in an effort to plug the shortage of doctors in the NHS in time for Brexit; in 2016 the former health minister, Jeremy Hunt announced plans to train 1500 extra doctors by 2020 at English university, which actually translated to an additional 500 places.

Despite the additional number of places for wannabe doctors, the competition is still fierce; the average number of applications to courses at Cambridge University is 5 to every 1 available place.  

To combat the large volume of applications, universities and colleges select the highest academic ability and potential, and employ a cross college moderation; Directors of Studies in each subject meet during the admissions period to discuss the overall standard of applications so they can see how their own College’s applicants compare, and through their pool system they ensure, as far as possible, that applicants in a given year are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by the level of applications to their chosen/allocated College. 

To put into perspective the competition for med school, over the last three years Oxford University have interviewed just 28% of their applicants to medicine, resulting in a success of just 10% of the applications received. Similarly, of the 1,341 applications to Cambridge’s medical school, only 6.5% resulted in offers.

With such few applicants being accepted, what options remain?

 

Of course, there are other medical schools including those that require BMAT and UKCAT and those that do not. Few institutions accept students after the October deadline, although private institutions such as UCLAN continue to accept applications well after the deadline.

For those who find themselves without places, the end is not nigh. There are many alternatives to consider, here we look at 5 great alternatives to medicine:

 

Radiotherapy

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Therapeutic radiography is an exciting and varied career. It offers you the chance to make a difference, a high degree of flexibility and excellent employment prospects. You’ll work with patients every day to help improve their care and their lives.

If you're a natural problem-solver with a keen eye for detail and enjoy working with cutting-edge technology, then a career in clinical radiology may be for you.

Therapeutic radiographer’s are specifically trained to treat cancer patients with radiation. Their role includes planning and delivering courses of radiation treatment as well as ensuring the emotional wellbeing of patients.

With approximately 38.4% of men and women diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data) there will never be a shortage of work in this field.

"I’ve already secured my job at Royal Stoke University Hospital for when I graduate so that’s where I will kick start my career!" Lily, a therapeutic radiography student.    [Read Lilly's story in full]

 

How much can I earn?

A role within the United Kingdom’s NHS as a junior doctor at Foundation Training level is £26,614, rising to £76,761 as a newly qualified consultant.

newly qualified Radiotherapist usually begins at £22,000, with the opportunity to progress to more senior positions and a higher earning potential (up to £110,000 with higher specialist scientist training!!).

You will also have the ability to work within the private sector where the earning potential is far greater.

  • The basic starting salary for junior hospital doctor trainees at Foundation Training level is £26,614 in the first year, rising to £30,805 in the second year. As a trainee doctor you'll receive a basic salary plus salary enhancements for any hours which fall into the unsocial hour periods.
  • As a trainee at specialty level you can earn between £36,461 and £46,208. Salaries for specialty doctors (staff grade) range from £37,923 to £70,718.
  • The salary for newly qualified consultants starts at £76,761, rising to £103,490 for consultants with 10 to 19 years' experience.

What subjects and grades do I need?

Just like medicine, a radiotherapy degree typically offers a balance of academic and clinical practice to properly prepare students for a rewarding career and usually requires students to take at least 2 A-levels (or equivalent) including at least one science subject.

For example, at Bristol, University of West of England (UWE) the 3-year Diagnostic Radiography degree requires students to have 120 UCAS tariff points from a range of 3-alevels, including a grade C or above in a science subject. For students taking the Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, grades DDM with 6-units in a science subject are also accepted, as well as equivalent international qualification.

Other places to study:

There are over 30 courses involving radiotherapy at 25 institutions which you can choose from including:

  • Swansea University
  • Cardiff University
  • Sheffield Hallam
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Plymouth
  • Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
  • University of Suffolk
  • Ulster University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University

*this is not a comprehensive list.

*See UCAS for further details.

Deadline to apply: Main Cycle (15 January) . However, universities may continue to accept applications after this date, check with the individual institution.

 


 

Physiotherapy

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Physiotherapists work with people to help with a range of problems which affect movement using exercise, massage and other techniques.

A physiotherapist helps to treat people with physical problems caused by illness, injury, disability or ageing. They are also advocates of good health, so when they are not treating patients they are promoting good health and advising on how to avoid injury.

Meet Aaron, a physiotherapist with the NHS

How much can I earn?

A role within the NHS in the UK as a newly qualified Physiotherapist who is registered with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, usually begins on a salary of up to £29,608 and earns up to £43,041 in an advanced practitioner role.

As well as working for the National Health Service, Physiotherapists also work in private hospitals and clinics, sports clubs, gyms, and private practices, where their earning potential and working hours are higher and more flexible.

What subjects/grades do I need?

The University of East Anglia requires A-Level grades AAB including Biology with a pass in the practical element, Human Biology or PE. Critical Thinking and General Studies are not accepted, a science related BTEC with grades DDD, 33 IB points or equivalent international qualifications.

Other places to study include: 

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Brighton
  • Coventry University
  • University of Essex
  • Keele University

*this is not a comprehensive list.

*See UCAS for further details.

Deadline to apply:  Main Cycle (15 January) . However, universities may continue to accept applications after this date, check with the individual institution.


 

Biomedical Science

 

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A Biomedical Science degree that is accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) can lead to a career as a Biomedical Scientist or even research-based careers in the biochemistry of human diseases and conditions, as well as in general biomedicine.

Biomedical scientists investigate a range of medical conditions, including:

  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • blood disorders (eg anaemia)
  • meningitis
  • hepatitis
  • AIDS

They also perform a key role in screening for diseases, identifying those caused by bacteria and viruses and monitoring the effects of medication and other treatments.

Biomedical Science (or Biomedicine and similar degrees) can also be used as a stepping stone into Graduate entry medicine or to transfer into medicine after years 1 or 2, depending on the university you are applying to and the programme you have been studying.

'What we do is vital for helping pathologists make a better diagnosis and find the right treatment for patients.'

Saghar Missaghian-Cully, senior biomedical scientist in histopathology

Read Saghar's story

How much can I earn?

Depending on the precise role and level of responsibility a Biomedical Scientist within the NHS usually begins on a salary of up to £29,608 and can earn up to £102,506.

What subjects/grades do I need?

Lancaster University’s Biomedical Science degree is accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) and requires grades AAB at A-Level including Biology and one other science subject from Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics, or a BTEC with grades DDD in Applied Science including sufficient Biology and Chemistry content or the IB with 35 points overall. Alternatively, equivalent international qualifications are accepted at the same level.

Other places to study include:

  • University of Brighton
  • Plymouth University
  • Queens University Belfast
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Leeds
  • Newcastle University

*this is not a comprehensive list.

*See UCAS for further details.

Deadline to apply:  Main Cycle (15 January) . However, universities may continue to accept applications after this date, check with the individual institution.


 

Chiropractic

 

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Chiropractic or Chiro as it is commonly known is often misinterpreted as being confined to back-cracking, however, it is an alternative medicine that is mostly concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, although it is especially concerned with the spine. It focuses on the relationship between the body’s structure and functioning with an emphasis on treatment through manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine.

How much can I earn?

Chiropractic clinics are typically private clinics which charge between £30 and £50 per session, although fees depend on the location and duration of the session. Therefore the salary of a Chiropractor starts at around £30,000 with the ability to reach £50,000 after a few years of experience. However, this is a profession that can reap many financial rewards; with the right skills and experience at a private clinic your salary can be between £80,000 and £100,000 after several years in the profession.

What subjects/grades do I need?

The University of South Wales’ Welsh Institute of Chiropractic, which provides an integrated undergraduate Masters Chiropractic (MChiro) programme, is accredited by both the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) and the European Council on Chiropractic Education (ECCE) so graduates are able to practice in most European countries and are eligible to sit entry examinations in most accredited areas worldwide.

The Master of Chiropractic degree is a 4-year programme requiring grades ABB (-BBC) at A-Level from Biology and one other Science subject which must be either Chemistry, Psychology, Physical Education, Mathematics or Physics, and excludes General Studies. Alternatively they accept BTEC grades DDM – DMM providing the subjects include Biology and Chemistry. As always, the university will consider equivalent international qualifications of the same standard.

Other places to study include:

  • BPP University
  • London South Bank

*this is not a comprehensive list.

*See UCAS for further details.

Deadline to apply:  Main Cycle (15 January) . However, universities may continue to accept applications after this date, check with the individual institution.


 

Pharmacology

 

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Pharmacologists have an impact on the development of new or improved medicines and the treatment of disease. Sometimes combined with the study of immunology, you will study how the body defends itself against disease, not only including the defense against bacteria, parasites or viruses, but also the elimination of cancer and processes such as inflammation and wound healing. You will also learn how the immune system is misdirected into attacking the body’s own tissue, leading to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or allergy. Pharmacology looks at how drugs and other chemicals affect the functions of the body and underpins the development of new or improved medicines and the treatment of disease.

As a trained and qualified Pharmacologist, you will work as part of team, usually within a medical physics or radiology department of a hospital as a clinical scientist. There are four areas of technical pharmacy which you will train in however, you can specialise in one area that you are most interested in once you are qualified.

  • aseptic dispensing and preparation – you’ll be involved in the oversight and maintenance of the facilities used to prepare sterile medicines
  • production units – you’ll be involved in the development of methods for the safe production of new medicines.
  • quality control – you’ll undertake a range of chemical and microbiological tests on medicines to ensure that they are safe to use
  • radiopharmacy – where you’ll be involved in manufacturing and supplying radioactive substances used in nuclear medicine, which may be injected into the bloodstream, swallowed or breathed in. They are used to treat, diagnose and monitor the effects of therapies for cancer patients. They are also used for investigating various other medical conditions such as those affecting the heart, and kidney disease.

How much can I earn?

As a trainee, you will commence your salary at approximately £26,000 and once qualified you can expect to earn upwards of £30,000 with the potential to earn up to £100,000 with experience and further training.

What subjects/grades do I need?

The University of Strathclyde’s Pharmacology and Immunology degree requires grades ABB – BBB from two sciences, including Biology or Chemistry or 32 points overall in the IB. They also consider equivalent international qualifications of the same standard.

Other places to study include:

  • University of Bath
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Cardiff University
  • University of East Anglia
  • Queen Mary University of London

*this is not a comprehensive list.

*See UCAS for further details.

Deadline to apply:  Main Cycle (15 January) . However, universities may continue to accept applications after this date, check with the individual institution.

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