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Medicine is the Rolls Royce of the CAO and announcing it as your first choice is sure to impress. However, it is not a decision to take lightly. This course takes a great deal of commitment and hard work. Applicants must accrue high scores in both the Leaving Cert and in the HPAT test. The latter measures a candidate’s logical reasoning and problem-solving skills as well as their non-verbal reasoning and ability to understand the thoughts, behaviour, and intentions of people. After this, students can then look forwards to a further ten years of intense study and work experience, with long hours and (relatively) low pay.

Those are the cons, but there are plenty of plus points. Firstly, careers in medicine are challenging. Another major plus is that you help people, and in a real and tangible way. In addition, your future income will be very decent and, as a medical practitioner, you will enjoy a great deal of social respect.


Degrees in Medicine ordinarily last for five or six years. The emphasis is on pre-clinical skills for the first part of most courses. In the early years, students take basic medical science subjects such as Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Pharmacology, Psychology, and Medical Informatics.

In later years, students attend modular courses in clinical subjects including Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Paediatrics, and Psychiatry. This involves periods of residency in general and specialist hospitals, attachment to a general practice, and systematic instruction in the various medical specialities. Students spend lots of time in hospitals, shadowing doctors, learning in small group sessions, or at patients’ bedsides.

Newly qualified/junior doctors must enter a specialised training scheme – all branches of medicine (Surgery, General Practitioner, Emergency Medicine, Obstetrics, Gynaecology, Psychiatrics, and Radiology) require further postgraduate training for between three and seven years.

Medicine is now available as a postgraduate conversion course. This changes the education situation considerably, and means that people who have already taken a different healthcare or science undergraduate course – or even Film Studies or Accountancy (as long as you achieved at least a 2. 1 grade) – can apply to study medicine at a later stage. Graduate Entry Medicine programmes are provided by UCD, UCC, UL, and the Royal College of Surgeons.

The Work

Doctors diagnose their patients’ problems. They do this through observation of and communication with the patient, as well as by performing  tests.

A General Practitioner (GP) assesses and treats a wide range of conditions, ailments, and injuries. That could be anything from sinus infections to chronic pain to broken wrists. When a patient’s health requires specific treatment, GPs will refer them to a specialist in the relevant area.

Hospital doctors diagnose and treat illness, disease, and infection in patients who have been admitted to hospital or outpatient clinics. They may be involved in teaching and performing research. Doctors may also have other administrative and management tasks within the hospital. Surgeons perform complex operations, some of which may be life saving, and which are carried out under local or full (‘general’) anaesthetic.

Senior doctors can become consultants who may concentrate on a particular area and become experts in their fields. They can then work for a number of public or private hospitals.

Doctors should possess a good memory and be instinctive in problem approaching and solving. They must also be good communicators and capable of making tough decisions. A good bedside manner is highly desirable, though a certain amount of emotional detachment is sometimes necessary.

Hospital doctors’ working hours can be long and irregular, and may include working shifts, weekends, and public holidays. GPs typically work from their clinics or surgeries and are usually available for around fifty hours a week.

Medicine graduates aren’t short of other options – there are opportunities to work as medical scientists in hospitals, or with pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, or medical device manufacturers.

Did you know?

The stomach gets a new lining every three to four days. The mucus-like cells lining the walls of the stomach would soon dissolve due to the strong digestive acids there if they weren’t being continuously replaced.

Further Resources

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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