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Career Highlight: Medical Doctor

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1. What does a Medical Doctor do?

Doctors are licensed health professionals who maintain and restore human health through the practice of medicine. Part of their role is to examine patients, review their medical history, diagnose illnesses or injuries, administer treatment and counsel patients on their health and well being.

A doctor typically works very long demanding hours. They also have to be available for emergencies. These hours could be spent fulfilling numerous tasks such as examining patients, running tests as well as interpreting them, prescribing medicine or treatments, doing rounds in the hospital,  administering treatment and counsel patients on their health and well being. They keep up to date with the latest treatments by taking classes and regularly reading books and medical journals.

2. What subjects do I need to take in high school?

In order for you to become a medical doctor it is strongly recommended that you take English, Maths and Science at the highest possible level throughout high school.

 Amongst other things, you need to have an interest in medicine, be a good listener, be a person with great communication skills, be detail orientated  and be a great team player. All these are some skills needed to become a good medical doctor.

3. How do I become a Medical Doctor?

In order to be a medical doctor you will need to complete the following steps:

1. You will need to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery

There a two options one can explore:

  • Starting with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) programme 

Upon meeting minimum entry requirements for this programme, you will be required to complete a 5-7 year MBChB programme - depending on what institution you have enrolled in.  

  • Starting with a more general Bachelor of Science (BSc) programme 

Due to limited spaces and strict quotas it is not always easy to get placed into the MBChB programme. Therefore another path to consider is to enroll to study a general BSC. This programme has very similar subjects to MBChB. And so with this option there is a possibility that one can transfer to the medical degree in the next year. This will allow you to either finish off your MBChB programme on time or add another year.

Other institutions, such as Wits, will allow you to complete your general BSc and then transfer into the medical programme after your completion - in the Graduate Entry Medical Programme (GEMP). This means you will add an extra year onto your studies but finish the seven years with two bachelor’s degrees.

2. You will then work two years as a clinical intern.

One you have completed your medical degree you are required to do a two year internship/ clinical training.

3. Do 1 year of compulsory community service

You will be the required to complete community service in the country of study..Upon completion of this you are awarded the license to practice independently. 

4. One can study further, then, if one chooses to specialise. 

4. What are some available funding opportunities available to fund studies towards being a Medical Doctor?

There are various avenues to explore when it comes to funding your studies towards becoming a Medical Doctor. You can obtain a bursary, sponsorship or financial aid from various sources. You can obtain funding from the government. Many local governing bodies give bursaries towards medicine, such as Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality Bursary - South Africa. Or you can obtain it from various private facilities. You can also apply for financial aid at the various aviation institutions or from banking institutions.

5. What career opportunities are there for Medical Doctors? 

A doctor can be found in several settings, including public health organizations, teaching facilities, private practices, group practices and hospitals.

Doctors that work in hospitals

A large amount of doctors work in the hospital space, either as a surgeon or as a specialized doctor. There are many medical specialties to choose from and within these specialties, there are many sub-specialties. For example, a medical student can choose to become a neurosurgeon and then within this become a sub-specialist in pediatric neurosurgery.

Doctors that work within a community

Others end up becoming  general practitioners - seeing patients of all ages within a particular community. They are the frontline and first point of contact in a patient's health care. They diagnose and treat their patients for all sorts of ailments, and also refer their patients to the appropriate specialist doctor when needed for specific medical opinions and advice.

Doctors in Aviation

Others may specialise in certain fields such as aviation and sea and become medical practitioners specifically dealing with these areas. If you are a medical doctor interested in aviation medicine you can apply for an Aviation medical examiners course. The Aviation Medical Examiners Course trains and qualifies medical doctors to comply with the requirements for registration as Designated Aviation Medical Examiners (DAMEs) with the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).


Others may prefer to take a different path and pursue a career in academia. This involves doing research as well as teaching other students and medical professionals. 

Others may use their medical degree to delve very deeply into research-based careers in a particular field that interests them - breast cancer, neurological disorders, or environmental pathology are examples

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