In early 2021, Liz Hughes, Deputy Medical Director of Health Education England, announced plans to create apprenticeships that would enable students to train for a medical qualification and become doctors without going to university in the traditional sense. An apprenticeship combines training with experience, and in this case, a medical apprenticeship would allow students to earn while they train, employed with a real job from day one.
Why Would This Be a Good Idea?
This approach to medicine would revolutionise how we train to become doctors. And it would potentially remove many of the barriers that stop people from becoming a doctor. The length and cost of a medical degree mean that many students feel that it’s not an accessible career path for them. This will also increase the range of people who qualify to become doctors, creating a more diverse and well-rounded workforce.
Health Education England (HEE) said that they hope an apprenticeship training route would encourage more people to consider medicine. This, in the long-term, would undeniably boost our medical workforce. Additionally, given that doctors work so closely with their local communities, it’s essential that people from all backgrounds can aspire to become doctors. Allowing trainee doctors to earn a wage from the beginning of their training may change the perceptions of the career. Subsequently, bringing a whole new array of talented young people into the profession.
How Would Medical Apprenticeships Work?
HHE are in discussion with The Institute for Apprenticeships and the Medical Schools Council to create a programme that works for everybody. The apprenticeship will allow students to get a medical degree alongside the skills needed to become a doctor. The HHE has said the apprenticeship will have a strong focus on primary care. By working with these different organisations, HHE hopes to create a programme that produces doctors at the same high standards as the current university system—ensuring that there would be no difference between an apprenticeship doctor and a university-trained doctor.
Providing medical apprenticeships would also reduce the level of elitism often found in this career path. Due to the high academic ability required to study medicine at university, and the associated tuition costs, becoming a doctor can often be seen as exclusive to people from middle and upper-class backgrounds. In turn, this can make trainee doctors from working-class backgrounds feel ostracised from the industry. Providing medical degree apprenticeships could help alleviate some of this exclusivity, bringing more working-class professionals into the industry. Representation as a result would also inspire people from all backgrounds to apply for both degree apprenticeships and conventional medical degrees.
What is a Degree Apprenticeship?
This new medical apprenticeship is an example of a degree apprenticeship. This means that apprentice doctors would still receive a university degree at the end of their programme. The difference is that a degree apprenticeship is a joint venture between a university and an organisation, in this case, the NHS. Instead of being based primarily at a university, apprentices will spend their time training on the job.
Degree apprenticeships are popular as they enable students to get university qualifications without paying tuition fees. On top of that, degree apprentices while earning a wage for the work they do. No details have been announced regarding the medical apprenticeship, but it seems that students could become doctors without paying fees.
How Much Would Medical Degree Apprentices be Paid?
While the final salary for degree apprenticeships is still to be confirmed, at the very least you will receive the national minimum wage for apprentices. Your pay also depends on what year of the apprenticeship you’re in. It is likely that medical degree apprenticeships will offer higher salaries but here are the government rates for guidance:
Under 18 – £4.81
18-20 – £6.83
21-22 – £9.18
23 and Over – £9.50
Unlike students studying conventional medicine at university, you will be paid for your labour and you will still expect to receive the same starting salary as all UK doctors: £29,384 to £34,012 (NHS, 2022). Therefore, medical degree apprenticeships could be extremely worthwhile!
Other types of Medical Apprenticeships
There are a variety of medical apprenticeships you can complete if you don’t want to train as a doctor. For example, there are apprenticeships in:
• Ambulance Practitioner
• Dental Nursing
• Maternity and Paediatric Support
• Podiatry Degree Apprenticeship
• Pharmacy Assistant
• Health and Social Care
• Nursing Degree Apprenticeship
• Health informatics
• Physician Associate
• Peer Support Worker
And many more! Take a look at NHS Apprenticeships and the next steps to pursuing a medical apprenticeship. Don’t forget to also take a look at the apprenticeships advertised on our jobs board!