Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary?

Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists

If you are unsure of your desired career path but have an excellent scientific aptitude dentistry, medicine or veterinary medicine may be for you. The roles of a doctor, dentist and veterinary surgeon have many similarities and are all very prestigious roles. Each of these subjects have long and demanding university courses which at times may be arduous and require huge amounts of dedication. Furthermore, these vocational courses are all very competitive. It is extremely important that you think very carefully about whether you are suited to one of these three careers before you begin your application journey.

Consider what’s best for you

Consider writing a list of your skills, interests, motivations, and attributes. By reflecting on your strengths and preferences it may become clear which of the careers you are most suited for. Dentists will need to have excellent manual dexterity and technical precision; for a vet undoubtedly you require a love of animals, and doctors arguably have the most interaction with vulnerable people. Dentists will have the option to utilise their entrepreneurial skills setting up their own practice and doctors can contribute to society more broadly with careers in public health.  Using online assessment software such as the Morrisby test can help you to increase self-awareness. This test helps to identify your strengths and academic compatibilities to different careers using tests to assess mental function.

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Become informed by completing work experience

To make informed career choices, it is important that you know what each career entails and whether the career suits your personality. Undertaking work experience is the best way to get a taste of each profession and will provide you with the opportunity to speak to those in each role. Remember that any work experience placements you have will never be wasted, even if you do not decide on that specific career. If anything, having work experience in a wide range of disciplines shows that your ultimate career decision is more informed. On your personal statement and during your interview describing these additional placements shows that you are curious and motivated to learn about various careers. During your work experience you can observe and gain multiple transferable sills which can be utilised in all three career pathways. The skills and attributes needed by doctors, dentists and vets are unsurprisingly very similar – such as good communication skills, the ability to work under pressure, teamwork skills and organisation. Each experience is only valuable based on how you reflect on it. Competition to get into human and animal hospitals may be difficult. Consider how gaining experience through volunteering work with people or handling animals could help you to make an informed choice. Practically, there are several free online resources such as online work experience courses or future learning courses which may be more feasible to access and give you a taste of what each career is like.

Research each University course

To get a deeper understanding of each of the careers, reference the veterinary, dental and medical school councils’ websites. Each of these institutions have information sheets and guidance for prospective students which can tell you more about the requirements to study each subject and what the careers entails. Additionally, each university department will have their own website with detailed breakdowns of how and what you would study.

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Research each field

In addition to researching the university courses you must have a thorough understanding of what life after university might look like. For a doctor this involves 2 years of work on a foundation programme and between 5-8 years of specialist training whereas dentists have 12 months’ foundation training only. Remember that just because you have a vocational degree it doesn’t mean that your career prospects and journey will be set in stone. There are a variety of alternative career pathways for those with veterinary, dental, and medical degrees which you may want to consider. The NHS careers website contains useful information about the roles of medics and dentists. There may even be career options which allow you to combine your interests; for example, oral and maxillofacial surgeons must be qualified in both medicine and dentistry. Similarly, veterinary and medical professionals who wish to further their careers in science may choose to enrol on a One Health Programme.

Both dentists, vets and medics are expected to have an interest in lifelong learning, engaging with research and contributing to teaching. A practical way to learn about each of the careers is to deepen your knowledge of what is happening within each of these sectors and how the roles are developing. As part of your application, you will need to show intellectual potential and an awareness of advances in your chosen field. Consider reading newspaper articles, subject specific journals, watching TED talks and reflecting on related content in the news.

Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary?

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