Shadowing a Doctor

February 10, 2014

Intercalating means taking a year out of your regular medical or dental studies to study for an additional degree. While this extends the duration your course by one year, at the end of it you will end up with two degrees – your regular MBBS or whatever medical degree as well as a BSc, BMedSci or similar degree. Most medical and dental schools allow their students to spend their intercalated year at a different institution.

Although it lengthens your course duration by a year, opting to take an intercalated degree can offer you several advantages that make it worthwhile. It is important to take your time and make the right decision when choosing a programme so you also enjoy the year. With a wrong choice, it can turn out to be an extremely long year. 

The Many Benefits of Intercalating

  • You get to study something you are genuinely interested in. Most students choose to take an intercalated degree in a subject that they really enjoyed studying at university but did not get to spend as much time as they would have like to or the course was not as extensive as they would have liked. Doing an intercalating degree is an excellent opportunity to explore an interest in greater detail or demonstrate commitment to a specialty if you’ve already decided upon it.
  • You get to gain new skills. If the medical school you attend does not do sufficient lab work in the pre-clinical years and you would really like to spend more time in the lab, do a lab-based BSc. On the other hand, if you’ve done more lab work that you ever thought possible and never want to see a petri-dish or a pipette again, you could choose a literature based project and degree.
  • Intercalating helps from the career point of view too. With so many students vying for medical, dental and vet degrees, the market as a postgraduate is getting increasingly more competitive. In such a scenario it is crucial that you make the most of opportunities as an undergraduate to enhance your CV, especially if you are eyeing a career in areas as competitive as surgery, academic medicine and research.
  • Most intercalated degrees involve an extended project, which involves doing supplementary research. The results of this research could be turned into a paper that can be published. A published paper means extra FPAS points, which can help you get more highly ranked at school and at work. The FPAS or the Foundation Program Application System is a system through which jobs are assigned for first time junior doctors. Your points will determine where you end up working.
  • It allows you to take a break from exhausting pre-clinicals. A year away from the rigorous medical school schedule can help you return to the program mentally refreshed and ready to continue with your medical training. 

It is important to note that in some institutions, including Cambridge, Oxford and Nottingham, intercalated degrees are compulsory for medic students. Students who have not taken intercalated programmes are considered less-well qualified than these graduates, and this could be a disadvantage.