How Long is a Medical Degree?

A normal degree at university can take anywhere between 2 to 4 years to complete, but medicine is a completely different story! When you apply for a medical degree in the EU and internationally, most if not all of them last up to 6 years.

Why is the UK Different?
You may be wondering why 6 years in the EU but only 5 years in places like the United Kingdom? In the UK a 5 year medical degree only covers the pre-clinical and clinical training, they don't offer an internship or supervised training during your degree and it's only after you graduate do you have access to it. After your 5 years you jump into something called Foundation Year 1 and 2 training. FY1 and FY2 (as they are colloquially named) are mandatory for junior doctors in the UK who have done a 5 year medicine course. The two years of training are there to build up and improve the practical knowledge of new doctors and help them integrate into the medical system by way of treating patients or having hands on experience within hospitals.

Many students opt for a 6 year degree from international medical because they have a year of training, or internship, included within the degree. This is great for students hoping to improve their clinical skills and have a more in-depth understanding of how medicine works within a controlled environment.

Doctors who wish to work in the UK after graduating needn't worry, instead of doing both years of foundation training you only have to do one! Once you receive your diploma and pass the required entrance exams you will be placed directly into Foundation Year 2 and work within the NHS.

How is it Structured?

Medical school is generally split into two parts, pre-clinical and clinical.

Pre-clinical is where you spend the first 2 or 3 years learning the basics and building a strong foundation of knowledge which will stay with you for the rest of your career. Subjects such as Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry are the most important if you wish to be a great doctor. Everything you encounter in your career will fall back onto these core subjects in one form or another. Subjects such as Microbiology, Histology and Pathology will give you a better insight on the diseases and ailments a patient can present with, so of course they are important too!

The second part of your degree studying medicine will focus more on clinical training such as visiting patients in hospitals and giving you the practice you need to put that theory into action. You will still have lectures and labs in subjects such as Gynaecology, Psychiatry, Primary Healthcare, Ethics or even Surgery for example; this part of the course is more hands-on and you will have to visit hospitals and see patients. Everything you've learned in theory will be put into practice in a controlled environment with senior doctors helping you along the way. It's here where you learn to sharpen your skills and what makes the good doctors into great doctors! It's not always how much you know but how much you're willing to put into practice.

Once you finish your degree and do your final thesis you'll be presented with a diploma and the title Doctor of Medicine. This is what all the hard work was for and it's only the beginning! Many people prepare for entrance exams in their respective countries such as the PLAB/UKMLA or the USMLE so they are able to practice medicine back home.

Medicine is a lifelong learning experience, you will always be training and sharpening your skills. You have to adapt to the times and keep up to date with the latest medical advancements and technology. Even if you know something very well, it'll only be a matter of time until it becomes outdated and you have to learn a new method or teach yourself about a new discovery. Many people ask how long is a medical degree and fail to realise that these 6 years are nothing compared to the rest of your career. It's an investment into your future as physicians, the hard work you put in now will definitely pay off in the future.

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