Which Course Should I Pick as My Medicine Back-Up?

When you’re applying to medicine school in the UK you can only apply to four medical schools, which leaves you with one free option. Choosing your backup course is sometimes difficult as the chances are that your passion is medicine not some other course. Many students choose to take a course that is similar to medicine in the hopes that they can swap onto the medical course either after a year of their course or take medicine as a graduate degree afterwards. If you’re like me then you might just want to choose something else that genuinely interests you even if it isn’t particularly related to medicine!

For those of you who are unsure, hopefully this list of possible courses will give you a helping hand in deciding which course is best for you!

  • Biomedical Science – this is taken by a tonne of students who don’t get into medicine. Pretty much all universities would take this when applying for graduate medicine (some require life sciences) and even if you don’t feel like doing another four years at university afterwards it can still lead you into a healthcare job. You can use biomedical sciences for jobs like a pathologist or do something like clinical immunology.
    If you’re interested in this course you should look at the book Bad Science by Ben Goldacre and maybe even his Guardian columns too
  • Physiotherapy – like biomedical science, this will also lead you into some sort of health care job. It would also provide a good foundation for reapplying to medicine as you would already know some areas of the course (such as anatomy, etc.). If you are interested in areas like orthopedics then it may be worth looking into physiotherapy as a potential back-up course.
    If you’re interested in this course you should check out the BMJ podcast on medicine in sport
  • Human Biology – this is closer to ‘actual’ biology than medicine because you tend to cover how a system works more than the problems with it (of course this will differ between universities). If you enjoy pure biology then this is a worthwhile course to consider because it will still provide you with a solid foundation if you choose to apply to a graduate medicine course.
    If you’re interested in this course you should check out the book Human Anatomy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
  • Natural Sciences – this course is also closer to one of your more traditional sciences, but it provides you with the chance to study a wide range of things. The science side of it will give you a good foundation for applying to graduate medicine but the huge variety in it means that you can spend your time studying exactly what you want to. Modules can range from cell biology to astrophysics so it’s the perfect choice if you have no idea what you want to study!
    If you’re interested in this course then you should check out the podcast The Naked Scientists on Itunes
  • (Clinical) Psychology – if your interest is in an area like psychiatry then maybe psychology is a good backup for you. Many areas like abnormal and clinical psychology will have useful applications in psychiatry and other specialities like that. However be aware that some universities may want a course that is more of a ‘hard’ science when it comes to applying for graduate medicine.
    If you’re interested in this course then you should look at the book The Skeleton Cupboard: The making of a clinical psychologist and check out some of the Ted Talks on psychology

If you’re still unsure as to what course to go for here’s some final things to consider:

  • Some medical schools do not care what course you apply with for graduate medicine. There have been cases where people have gotten into medical school with degrees in Latin or History or Spanish. Unless you’re going for one of the top universities there aren’t too many requirements that say which degree you have to have.
  • Choose what you’re interested in. You still have to spend three years at least studying this subject so you have to enjoy it just in case you do end up on the course. Even if a course says that you can transfer onto medicine this is very very rare so you have to be prepared for the fact that you might spend the whole three years studying it.
  • You don’t have to put down a fifth choice. Some people don’t actually put a backup option on their UCAS form because they would rather reapply next year or go through clearing to find a backup course so if you truly have no idea and don’t want to end up studying something that doesn’t interest you then you don’t have to put one down.

Hopefully this post helped to give you a bit of guidance about other course possibilities. If you want more information then you can talk to most university admissions departments about which courses they think are the best backups or your school about possible university choices.

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