Factors to consider when thinking about a career in the Healthcare sector:

  • health courses draw on a range of main stream academic disciplines including Biology, Sociology and Psychology, ensuring that students are equipped with a wide range of skills and knowledge and prepared for a wide variety of careers.
  • students following health related degree courses develop a range of skills and knowledge that is valuable in the work place.
  • in addition to the generic skills including organization, planning, time management, graduates will be equipped with medical/health knowledge, an understanding of social structures and an awareness of how these impact on the behaviour of groups and individuals.
  • clear links exist with the education sector, working with young people and the public sector services in general.
  • the alternative health sector is rapidly growing, but largely unregulated.

Graduate entry medicine & nursing

Graduate entry medicine – courses last four years as opposed to the ‘traditional’ route embarked on by school leavers which last for a minimum of five years. Competition for places is particularly fierce – many Medical schools report well over 1,000 applications for only 50 places. Graduates can also apply for the standard five year medical courses – applicants should consider the cost involved in embarking on a medical degree, as this can be considerable.

Graduate entry nursing – nursing is becoming an increasingly popular career choice for graduates from all degree disciplines. Not only is it a career in itself with all sorts of development opportunities and career progression, but it can sometimes be used as a springboard for other career areas e.g. counselling, genetic counselling, midwifery etc. Courses last approximately two years. Graduates can also apply for the standard three year undergraduate courses.

Work experience

Gaining work experience is a key part of preparing to apply for medical courses. It can be used to demonstrate evidence of skills, particularly those essential to a doctor, such as dealing with people and working in teams. It is an opportunity to show you have a real understanding of the NHS and the role of a doctor and have looked beyond the stereotypes portrayed in the media.

It can be difficult to get work shadowing with GPs or hospital doctors because of issues of confidentiality. Medical schools are aware of this and consequently, this is not a prerequisite of being accepted onto any course.

Useful work experience might include:

  • working as a care assistant in a home for the elderly
  • working as a care assistant with adults with learning disabilities
  • working in a doctor’s surgery as, for example, a receptionist
  • working as a hospital porter
  • any work with children, particularly children in need of some extra support – the Students’ Union has some very good voluntary schemes.

Essentially, you need to prove to selectors that you have had exposure to working with THE PATIENT, that this exposure has given you an insight both into the needs of the patient and the skills needed to work as a doctor or nurse and that you have reflected on your experience and realise why this has been valuable.


  • Applications are via UCASdeadlines by mid-October
  • Graduate entry requirements will mainly be based on your degree not ‘A’ level results
  • Make sure you check the skills and competencies requirements for all the courses you apply for as, for example, Nottingham, Liverpool and St George’s use problem-based learning rather than traditional teaching methods
  • Personal statements – before applying and completing the personal statement think about what makes a good doctor or nurse (the General Medical Council has a list of attributes and qualities). You must convince the selectors that you do know what it takes and that you have done some thinking about the skills necessary to do so. Include evidence about the following:
    • work experience, as above
    • insight into the medical world
    • teamwork
    • good communication skills.
    • ability to give opinions/make decisions
    • respect for others/empathy/interest in people
    • breadth of experience – sport/hobbies/travel etc
    • motivation and drive to complete the course
    • leadership and initiative

Tests (medicine)

These can include:

  • GAMSAT – Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions test registration
  • BMAT – Bio Medical Admissions test
  • UKCAT – UK Clinical Aptitude Test

In preparing for GAMSAT or the other tests that individual institutions may require you to take, do look at some practice questions in books and on websites.

During the test, follow the instructions and work steadily. There are three sections, two multiple choice and one written paper. There are no deductions for wrong answers and all questions have the same value. The writing test will be marked on thought and content, organisation and expression and will be assessed by several independent assessors.

Non-Science graduates may need to read relevant science books in preparation.

Interviews – medicine

Interviews will usually consist of a panel, which will often include a current medical student.  Warwick sends a supplementary form before the interview. King’s give a further questionnaire and then do not ask about those questions. An Ethical issue will be discussed. The panel will be looking for motivation, personality, an understanding of medical careers/issues and communication skills. Last year, Nottingham introduced a Speed Interview process – think speed dating, but getting a place on a course instead. This is increasingly becoming known as MMI – Multiple Medical Interviews. Feedback from this suggests that it is a difficult process. It’s important to always research the interview style of each institution – different organisations try different methods each year in an attempt to make the interview process as effective, as focussed and as informed as possible.

Interviews – nursing

Interviews can vary between institution – from very casual affairs where you would be asked to talk about yourself and your motivations to quite structured sessions where preparation on skills and motivations would be essential. Typical questions (all have been asked at interviews for Cardiff University and University of Glamorgan courses) can include:

  • Why do you want to do adult/mental health/sick child nursing?
  • There are many ways to care for people, why have you chosen nursing in particular?
  • How do you think your best friend would describe you?
  • In your nursing placement, what sort of things would you expect to be doing?
  • Can you give an example of when you have worked well in a team?
  • Can you tell me what you know about the role of the district nurse?
  • What do you know about the structure of the course?
  • Nursing can be a very stressful career; how would you cope if a patient you were caring for died?
  • During the course you will be expected to work night shifts; how do you think you will manage?
  • Why have you chosen mental health nursing as opposed to learning disabilities nursing?

Some interviews may include an essay question and a maths test – you will be told about this when you are invited to interview. An example essay question for Cardiff University is “Why do you want to do this particular branch of nursing?”  The emphasis is on the structure of the essay as well as the content.

Related links

Getting started

Professional bodies

Employers and vacancy sources