Can You Become a Doctor Without A-levels? | learndirect

Can You Become a Doctor Without A-levels?

Posted on 19/08/2019
Can You Become a Doctor Without A-levels?

Doctors save hundreds of lives each day and are the cornerstones of the healthcare systems across the world. It’s no surprise that becoming a doctor is a popular career path for those who want to make a difference to the lives of people in their local communities. But many aspiring doctors dismiss a medical career based on preconceived ideas of what’s required to go to medical school. One of the most-asked questions is ‘can you become a doctor without A-levels?’ but everyone knows that you need 3 A* science A-levels, right? Not anymore. Gone are the days when a career in medicine was only attainable to those who excelled at college and it’s all thanks to the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

Studying an Access to HE Diploma in Medicine and Health Care could be your route to medical school and the beginning of a career as a doctor with no A-levels. The diploma is a Level 3 qualification and a recognised equivalent to A-levels, so it is ideal for people who missed out on their A-levels. If you want to know more about studying medicine and becoming a qualified doctor with no A-levels you’re in the right place. Check out our FAQs about becoming a doctor below!

What do doctors do?

The answer to this largely depends on the doctor’s specialisms.

For example, a general practitioner (GP), or ‘community doctor’, will treat common medical conditions and focus on the overall health and wellbeing of their patients, whilst a hospital doctor will have a more defined role, specialising in a certain area of medicine or healthcare. Hospital doctors are healthcare professionals whose patients have either been admitted to or referred to the hospital by their GP.

There are many different types of doctors, from paediatric doctors that treat children to radiology specialists that use X-rays to diagnose injuries and illnesses, surgeons to geriatric doctors that care solely for the elderly. Whatever their specialisms, doctors are all united by one aim: to diagnose and treat patients and provide a high standard of healthcare to all.

What qualifications do I need to be a doctor?

You need a medical degree that’s recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC), along with several years of post-graduate training. To practise as a doctor, you will also need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Generally, a minimum of 3 science-based A-levels at grades AAA is required to be accepted onto a medical school degree programme, along with at least 5 A* - A grade GCSEs, including English and maths. However, entry requirements vary so ensure that you check with each university before submitting your application. If you haven’t got the A-level grades, or didn’t take the right subjects, don’t worry; many universities recognise the Access to HE Diploma as an A-level equivalent and will, therefore, consider Access to HE Diploma graduates, as long as the diploma has been achieved to a satisfactory level and in a related subject.  

As medicine is a highly competitive field, universities often look for more than good grades. They will also take into account relevant work experience, your enthusiasm for medicine and your communication skills. So, make sure that the skills and experience section of your university application is strong, as well as your qualifications.

To enrol onto an Access to Higher Education Diploma programme with learndirect you need either GCSE English and maths at Grade A – C (that’s 4 – 9 in the new grading system) or Functional Skills Level 2 qualifications in these subjects.

How do I train to be a doctor?

You will need to complete a bachelor degree in Medicine (MBBS) or Surgery (BMBS). You can apply for a degree programme online through UCAS after you have completed your Access to HE Diploma. Please be aware that not all universities accept Access to Higher Education Diplomas in place of A-levels, although most do. To avoid disappointment, ensure that you carefully read the entry requirements for each university medical school.

Once you have graduated from medical school and gained junior doctor status, you will need to complete several years of further training:

  • Foundation training – this is where you will put your knowledge gained at university to practice in the real world as a junior doctor. You’ll complete a series of placements in different speciality areas, such as maternity and A&E, within a hospital or GP surgery.
  • Core medical training – this is the first stage of speciality training and is essential for doctors that wish to complete higher training in medical subspecialties. At this point, you decide whether you wish to train in primary care as a GP or secondary care as a hospital doctor or specialist.
  • Speciality training – this training is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s for honing your knowledge and skills in a specific area of medicine and health care. Specialities range from emergency medicine to pharmaceutical medicine, anaesthesia to general practice (GP).

You may think that once you’ve completed your training that the hard work is over. But the learning doesn’t stop there. Doctors are required to take part in Continuing Professional Development (CBD) throughout their career, in order to keep their knowledge and skill-base current in an ever-changing medical landscape.

What does the Access to HE Diploma (Medicine and Health Care Professions) involve?

The diploma comprises of 19 units that are designed to prepare you for a medical higher education programme at university. These modules are a mixture of study skill and academic-based content so that gain essential subject knowledge, whilst developing the skills and confidence you need to thrive in a university environment.

The academic modules cover a range of core scientific areas within biology, chemistry and physics, including human immunity, medical physics and the human endocrine & nervous system. For more information on the diploma’s modules please click here.

The learndirect  Access to Higher Education (Medicine and Health Care Professions) is divided into credits. To successfully complete the course and achieve your Access to HE Diploma, you will need to pass a total of 60 credits, 45 of which are graded and based upon academic content, the other 15 ungraded and centred around study skills. A total of 600 hours of study is recommended to achieve this, which equates to just under 10 months of learning if you dedicate 2 hours to study each day.

How long does it take to become a doctor? 

As mentioned above, an Access to HE Diploma can be completed in as little as 10 months, however, this is just the beginning of your journey. There are several other stages to complete before becoming a doctor.

Once you’ve obtained your Access to HE Diploma, you will need to study an undergraduate medical degree, which can take between 4 – 6 years depending on whether you opt for a foundation year or already hold a degree. However, the average duration for an MBBS is 5 years. This is followed by foundation training for 2 years then core training for 2 years and finally speciality training for up to 8 years depending on your chosen speciality. For GPs, the specialist training period (including core training) is currently 3 years but the majority of other specialisms take 5 – 8 years to hone.

In all, it will take you a minimum of 10 years to become a fully-qualified and practising doctor, not including your Access to HE Diploma study period. Being a doctor is more than a career choice, it will be your life’s work and aim. Therefore, deciding to embark on a medical career is not a decision to be taken lightly.  

How much does it cost to become a doctor?

There are many financial factors to consider before embarking on a career as a doctor. There’s the tuition fee and living costs when you’re studying at university and the cost of getting to and from work placements during your training. On average, the cost to train a doctor over their 5-year degree is £220,000 and this doesn’t even include the years of training afterwards. It’s estimated that the total cost to train a GP or a consultant is approximately £500,000.

These figures are daunting but you don’t need to worry. The majority of this cost is covered by NHS bursaries, grants and loans, which you can apply for at different phases of your medical training (if eligible), to reduce the cost of becoming a doctor. Don’t forget too that you will be earning a wage once you graduate which will help to boost your finances.  

If you study an Access to HE Diploma with learndirect, you can split the cost of your diploma into 10 monthly instalments to make study as affordable as possible. All that is required is a £19.99 deposit upfront before you start your course and you’re ready to go!

How much do doctors earn?

This depends on the experience of the doctor, their specialisms, workplace and contract type. According to the NHS, the basic salary for junior doctors during their first foundation year training starts at £27,146 and increases to around £31,422 in their second year of hospital training. Meanwhile, qualified GPs can expect between £57,500 and £87,000 per annum, speciality doctors up to £72,840 and consultants up to £105,000 basic salary a year depending on their length of service and experience.

If you dream of becoming a doctor, but haven’t got the right A-levels, enrol on an Access to Higher Education Diploma with learndirect today and get ready to begin your journey to higher education.


Enrol on Access to HE Diploma (Medicine and Health Care Professions)