How to switch your career to medicine
Dreaming of becoming a doctor but wondering if it’s too late for you to go to medical school? The good news is you don’t have to study medicine straight after college to be a physician, and there are plenty of options for becoming a medical doctor later in life.
Whether you already work in medicine and want to change track, want to switch from a completely different career, or are just re-entering the workforce, there are avenues open to you if you want to study medicine.
It’s never too late to follow your professional ambitions. Let’s look at everything you need to know about a career change to medicine.
There’s no one way to become a doctor
Not all of us know in early life what we want to be or follow a traditional structured career path. Many of us start or fall into a particular career and decide we want to reskill and go in a different direction in later life.
You may have started as a nurse and now want to take your medical career in a different direction. You might have found yourself in financial services, retail, or engineering and want to switch to a more hands-on profession. Or maybe you’ve been a full-time parent or carer and want to restart your professional career.
Whatever path you’ve taken, there’s no right or wrong way. Many medical schools will recognize the value of your previous experience and are happy to take students from all walks of life, as long as you’re serious about it and meet the prerequisites.
Think about whether a career in medicine is right for you
Making a career change to medicine is a really exciting prospect, but it’s a good idea to be realistic about what it entails, too. Reskilling to become a qualified doctor will require time, money, and resources, so it’s important to know what you’re signing up for.
Before you jump in, make sure you know what the job is like every day, and be clear about what draws you to a medical career. Please speak to a relative or friend who’s a physician or even your doctor about what it’s like to work in the field. Some hospitals and medical centers are also happy to take on volunteers, so it’s worth looking for opportunities where you can shadow or observe doctors at work. Medical schools will often also look for this as a pre-requisite to make sure you have some real-life experience and know what you’re getting into.
Once you’ve understood what the profession involves, it’s a good idea to think about what qualities make a great medical student – and future physician – so you know if it’s the right fit for you.
To succeed, you’ll need to be an excellent communicator, work well with others, have a strong work ethic, be compassionate, be a strong leader, and be organized and resilient. These skills you already demonstrate in your current career are easily transferable to medicine. Or you might find some of these traits you don’t currently get to use, but I’d like to foster and bring to your work life. In any case, these are all qualities you’ll need to possess or be willing to work at if you’re going to thrive in the medical field.
Remember that you’ll also be a second-career student and likely more mature than most others in your class. This can place you in good stead as you’ll have much more life experience to draw on, but it can also be a humbling experience. You might have a well-established professional career, but you’ll need to get your head around being a first-year student and starting again.
Complete the prerequisites if you haven’t already
Aside from your transferable skills, even if you graduated a long time ago, your academic background and college record will be important too. Your qualifications and grades will factor in what work you need to do (if any) to check off the prerequisites for medical school.
If you didn’t study pre-med at college, you will have to study a pre-med course before being accepted into a medical program. This ensures you have a solid foundation on which to build your medical knowledge and that you’re starting from a great base position.
Make sure to check how MD schools will calculate your GPA and what course subjects they expect you to have. This will typically include prerequisites like biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, computer math or science, and English.
You can also consider a pre-medical master’s program, which can act as a bridge between your non-medical degrees and the pursuit of a Doctor of Medicine (MD). St. Matthew’s University, like other institutions, provides a Pre-Medical Master’s Program in Biological Science program designed to cater to students with diverse educational backgrounds or those seeking a career change.
To be accepted into medical school, all U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents are also required to pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). These exams are held at specific times of the year, so it’s important to make sure you complete the test ahead of admission.
Apply to medical school
So you’ve got your prerequisites and decided you want to apply for medical school. Great! What comes next? The application process might be slightly different depending on each school, but will generally follow these steps:
- Complete an application form.
- Submit an application fee.
- Submit the required documents; usually college transcripts, your personal statement, your resume, letters of recommendation, and your MCAT certification.
- If English is not your principal language, you may also be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
- If your application is considered favorably, you’ll be invited to interview with the admissions committee (typically in person or by video conference).
- You’ll be notified if your application has been successful.
Discover medicine at St Matthew’s University School of Medicine
It’s never too late to follow your career ambitions, and at St Matthew’s University School of Medicine, we welcome applicants from all backgrounds. At St Matthew’s University School of Medicine, you’ll benefit from expert teaching staff, gain valuable experience from real-world clinical rotations, and receive the right support to help you retrain as a doctor.
Our four-year MD program offers one-to-one personalized learning, small class sizes, and long-established clinical partnerships that will set you up for a successful new career in medicine. Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what St Matthew’s University School of Medicine student, Yaliana Garcia, had to say about her experiences:
“The professors are always willing to help you while also pushing you to be a better student and future physician. There is no School of Medicine that I would rather be in. The education and support from everyone shape you to be the best version of yourself… it can be the hardest yet most amazing time of your life.”
Learn more about our admissions requirements or contact our admissions team and find out how studying at St Matthew’s University School of Medicine can help you realize your dream of becoming a doctor.