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22nd October 2020
David Hawkins is an expert on studying abroad. He founded The University Guys, which helps students to make applications to universities all around the world. In this guest blog, David explains why you need to think really carefully about studying Medicine abroad – and offers some great advice for anyone looking to work abroad when they become a Doctor.

When it comes to studying abroad, the devil is very much in the detail. Applying to Medical Schools outside of the UK means grasping a new style of applications, different ways of choosing universities, and a bunch of complicated terminology.

Going to an international university isn’t just like going to a UK university in a different climate, it’s a whole other idea of what university is.

Never is this truer than in what we call the ‘protected professions’. Many degree subjects, like History, Business or French, are just about studying a subject, and if you study History in the USA you are little different than someone who has studied it in the UK.

However, there is a range of degrees that come with a government-approved right to work in that industry, or to progress to the next phase of training within a profession. It is in these areas, including Medicine, Dentistry, Law, Teaching and Vet Medicine, where it gets complicated.

Simply put, studying one of these subjects in another country does not automatically mean that you can then come back to the UK and do that job.

For things in the health sciences, governments pay very close attention to the training and qualifications to ensure that the profession is well-regulated and specify what must be studied. That is not going to be the case with those who have qualified via international universities. Some pathways do work, but you need to check carefully.

You also need to think about issues with visas. In North America, Medicine isn’t actually taught at the undergraduate level, you have to do another degree first. As the professions are highly regulated, governments use visa regulations to restrict how many international students can study these subjects at postgraduate level.

In 2018, only 97 international students were able to study Medicine at a US university, making it a very risky proposition. Even after qualifying, there’s no guarantee of being granted a visa to then even stay and work, making it a very expensive eight years to gain some essentially worthless degree certificates.

Financing your studies abroad is another challenge. Unless you happen to be from the Channel Islands, UK students will need to either fund the cost of studies themselves or from financial aid given by the university.

The financial aid process can be very competitive. Don’t assume that getting accepted onto the course means that the funding will follow. You need to work out what budget you have before shortlisting universities. Taking out a private loan isn’t a recommended route, considering the risks of default and the longer-term impact this could have on your finances.

For all of these reasons, if you want to become a Doctor, it’s typically better to qualify in a country where you already have the legal right to live and work, or in a country where there are reciprocal arrangements (such as within the EU) where these issues have been ironed out.

At The University Guys, we advise that you qualify, work for a bit, get really good at what you do, and then the international opportunities will come calling.

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