How do doctors apply for their first jobs after medical school? Is this affected by which medical school you graduated from?

In this article, we explain how doctors apply for and secure their first jobs in the NHS after they graduate from medical school. Two reasons it is important to have an idea of how doctors apply for graduate jobs include:

1. For your medical school interview – you may be asked things such as “tell me more about what happens after medical school”, “what is a junior doctor?” You should also know the rough career path to becoming a GP and a consultant as you may be asked this too. You do not need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of any of these things. You just need to have a reasonable understanding. Admission tutors ask things like this not to quiz your knowledge but to see that your decision to study Medicine is based on a well-researched understanding of what a medical career entails and not simply a strong desire to study Medicine.

2. For you own knowledge – if you are interested in a career in Medicine then you should take an interest in medical careers as it will directly affect you. With knowledge, you can make an informed choice to study Medicine. Bear in mind that policies and conditions change over time.

When do medical students apply for their first job as a doctor

While in their final year of medical school, students begin the process of applying for their first jobs in the UK which means that they usually know where they will work before they graduate. Of course, medical students also have the option of not applying for a job, changing career, taking a career break or applying abroad. However, the most common course of action is for medical students to enter the NHS and to continue their training by applying for a place on the foundation programme.

What is the Foundation Programme?

The Foundation Programme is a two year NHS programme after medical school that involves doctors working in different specialities, usually 6 or more, over a period of two years. As it lasts two years, this means that medical students secure two years of employment after they graduate with their single application as a final year medical student. This job security is a positive quality of a medical career as many other graduates of other courses face a much more uncertain time after graduation.

What happens after the foundation programme?

After completing the two-year foundation year programme, doctors can apply for further training towards becoming a GP or a medical or surgical consultant. They could also decide not to enter further training and instead work as a locum, for private practice, work abroad, take a career break or change career.

How do medical students apply to the foundation programme? What determines where graduate doctors work and what jobs they do?

Final year medical students apply for their first jobs as doctors using a computerised system. In this single application, they secure their jobs for the first two years after they graduate from medical school. Applicants rank in order their preferred location and speciality. Every applicant earns a numerical score for the strength of their application and places are given to applicants with the highest scores who want that place. Candidates who do not get enough points to secure their first choice will get their second choice if they score enough points. If they don’t score enough points, they will keep moving down their preferred list until they finally have enough points to secure that place. Doctors gain these points on things like their performance in a national exam called the SJT (similar to the SJT component of the UKCAT) taken in the final year of medical school; any additional degrees or achievements they have such as academic prizes, publications etc. They also gain points depending on how well they performed amongst their own year of students.

Does where you studied Medicine affect your graduate job prospects?

Where you studied Medicine does not give you any points whatsoever, so will not benefit you in this process of applying for your first jobs as a doctor. This contrasts with many other non-Medicine courses where which university you went to makes a big difference to your graduate job prospects. As a result, the prestige of a medical school should not be a major factor in your decision on where to study Medicine. You can learn more about how to pick which medical school to apply to in our free comprehensive guide.

Does where you studied Medicine affect your job prospects after your first two years as a doctor in the foundation programme?

The process described above is how your first UK jobs for the first few years as a doctor will be determined. Later in your career, these kinds of automatic scoring systems are not always used, and humans assess your application so there will be a more subjective element to your application. The impact of which medical school you went to in these situations is not fully researched, but it is expected to be minimal to none at all. As a doctor, you will primarily make your own reputation and cannot rely on being alumni of a prestigious medical school.

Applying to Medicine? Medicine Answered can help

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