One of the biggest life-hacks with studying Medicine is that during your undergraduate time you can even get a second degree. Yes, it true! An undergraduate BSc or postgraduate MSc or MRes can be taken alongside the medical degree – all in just one year. It’s called Intercalation and it gets you more swanky letters behind your name.
Jokes aside, Intercalation is a chance to study an area of medicine you’re passionate about or to explore a new passion. Let’s deconstruct the myths surrounding intercalation and gauge whether it’s for you.
What is an Intercalated Degree?
An Intercalated medical degree, is one extra year on top of your 5-year medical degree. During this time, you’re officially ‘suspended’ from medical school to study another undergraduate or postgraduate degree. For some medical schools this is compulsory, but for many others it is optional. An intercalated year can be taken after the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year of study.
If you’re applying to university, first ascertain whether your chosen universities allow you to. Most universities usually mention this is in prospectuses or on open days – so check online or phone admissions!
If intercalation isn’t an option, don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to intercalate after med school (technically it’s not ‘intercalating’ but it is essentially the same idea.) If you want to do this, speak to your tutors about the requirements for intercalating at your university or elsewhere.
Intercalation is great for exploring an aspect of medicine you’ve not had much time to in the course of your studies. This could be scientific in nature, such as anatomy, or something more abstract – like global health. It may even be totally separate from medicine – like Art History.
If you’re allowed to intercalate at a different university to the one where you’re studying your medical degree, there are several websites – like intercalate.co.uk - for looking up courses by location or interest.
Promptly contact course directors at universities you want to apply to for information about application procedures and deadlines!
There is no right time to intercalate. Most medical schools facilitate intercalation after second year but recommend it after third or fourth year. Check with your medical school and consider when it feels right for you.
For many, after third or fourth year feels right as you’ve had enough time to dip your feet into the vast sea that is medicine. It may even help decide what you truly find interesting!
However, bear in mind what year you will be returning to Medicine at. For instance, if you intercalate in fourth year, you will return to your medical degree in the final (fifth) year, which is usually shorter and a lot more serious. You need to make sure that you’ll be able to jump right in to your final exams after a year off.
Unfortunately, intercalated years aren’t always free and fees depend on when you intercalate and what type of intercalated degree you take. Postgraduate degrees usually cost upwards of £6000. Moving away for your degree could also mean higher living costs.
If money is an issue, research you eligibility for student finance (usually for BSc’s) or an NHS bursary (after fourth year intercalations) to partially pay your tuition fees. You may even want to consider working part time. Intercalated degrees tend to be less hectic than med school, which means more time for a part-time job.
Why? Or Why not?
Intercalation is a chance to broaden your medical horizons. It can help you decide where your passion lies, be it academic medicine, the labs, global health or a particular specialty like cardiothoracic surgery. It can also be a break from hectic med school life, strict timetables, and placements.
However, intercalated degrees are a lot of work. An intercalated year condenses three years of a degree into one for some BSc’s, and MSc or MRes require a lot of independent research and intense study. Balance is key!
You should also consider whether you want to graduate with your friends or make more! Taking a year out means graduating after friends who continued their degree.
Although this can seem disadvantageous, wherever intercalation takes you, bigger social circles follow! You may even have the opportunity to discover a new city!
Finally, intercalated degrees can add points to future job applications, since employers seek a wide variety of skills, like use of statistical software or even publishing for a scientific conference.
Wishing you all the best of luck, whether you choose to intercalate or not!