Applying in Medical SchoolCareer in MedicineMedicine Education

Become a Doctor? Truth about Studying Medicine and the Profession

The profession of doctor was and is usually highly respected in society. The image of “demigods in white” has still not completely disappeared from the minds of the population in 2022. Medical students are often said to have extremely high cognitive abilities and so the work of a doctor is often perceived as a dream job. Contrary to this expectation, many trained specialists advise against studying and show the dark side of the profession: long, inflexible shifts, too little patient contact, too much bureaucracy! Maybe you’ve even asked yourself whether you’ll even be able to complete your studies and whether you should therefore become a doctor at all. We will answer all of these questions for you in this article.

Am I suitable for studying medicine?

This question is not that easy to answer because it has to be looked at from several angles. First, you have to show the university you are applying to that you are “suitable”. The university decides this in the application process.

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If you have received one of the highly sought-after study places, it will quickly become apparent how hard-working and stress-resistant you are. However, your exam results do not take into account your personal character or your interpersonal skills. In these areas too, it is important to find out how well you interact with patients and also with superiors. An open attitude towards those around you that exudes positivity and competence is essential for everyday hospital life. At the end of the training is the practice of the medical profession, which ultimately involves lifelong training, a lot of responsibility and perfect time management. We deliberately leave out the financial aspect in this article because we are convinced that salary should not have a primary influence on motivation for studying.

The application hurdle

In order to study medicine, you must first apply. Sounds easier than it is. There has been a revised application process since 2020, which has drastically changed the chances of getting a place at university. During the application phase you will have to decide which quota you would like to apply for:

  • High school graduation rate
  • University selection process
  • Additional suitability quota

In some of these quotas you will have to complete various medical tests, which in particular test your cognitive abilities and your scientific understanding. Your psychosocial skills usually fall by the wayside even with these tests. 

With the new regulations in the admission process, some universities will also give you points for completed vocational training.

“Will I complete my studies?” – The truth about studying medicine

Assuming you have made it into your studies: What do you need to get through successfully? Below we have created a small list of characteristics that are important for a positive course of study:

  • Perseverance
  • Stress tolerance
  • Diligence
  • Willpower

When studying medicine (especially in the standard course) you are literally “flooded” with knowledge in the first two years. Over the years, new content has been added over and over again. However, old content is rarely deleted from the catalog of learning objectives. This often leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed. You should definitely not lose touch in the first two years (pre-clinical)! The exams take the form of oral tests, usually once or twice a week. There are also some written exams. However, this can vary from university to university.

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How intelligent do I have to be to study?

As you can see in our list above, we do not consider “intelligence” (cognitive skills) to be one of the most important qualities for studying medicine. As a rule, if you successfully pass the entrance tests you have all the necessary requirements for studying. Some science exams may even be easier! It is much more important to be able to withstand the pressure from lecturers and to always find an answer to the question “Why am I doing all this to myself?” That sounds hard at first, but it’s definitely doable with the goal in mind – don’t worry! So if you want to study medicine, you don’t necessarily have to be exceptionally talented.

How good do I have to be at memorizing?

A common cliché is that medical students have to learn almost everything by heart. In fact, you simply have to memorize many things without much context in order to create a basic base of knowledge. But don’t worry: practice makes perfect! Above all, hard work is required here. That’s why we didn’t include “retention” on our list of most important qualities.

What does a good high school diploma say about your ability to study?

Applicants often discuss this question. The frustration is great if you, for example, B. you can’t get a place at university with a high school diploma of 2.0, even though you deeply believe that you want to become a doctor. In fact, the Abitur says relatively little about the intelligence or cognitive abilities of the graduate. Nevertheless, a certain level of ambition and hard work, i.e. a work ethic, can be inferred. However, there are also various other factors that additionally influence the grade point average (e.g. teachers, living situation, etc.).

At that age, some high school graduates don’t yet know what they want to do later in their careers and therefore don’t really put in any effort at school. Others are generally so-called “late bloomers” and only realize far too late how important a good high school diploma can be when it comes to choosing a career. In summary, characteristics such as hard work, willpower and perseverance are still valued more highly when it comes solely to successfully completing the course.

The working life

The professional life of a doctor is extremely varied. Contrary to many expectations, real work cannot be compared to the everyday life depicted in “Grey’s Anatomy”. According to many doctors, the medical role has changed a lot over the years. Too little time for too many patients! This makes both sides dissatisfied. Contact decreases, especially in the clinic, and treatment becomes more impersonal. This has also been proven to lead to poorer therapeutic success. Added to this is documentation, which now takes up a large part of medical work.

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But what keeps you motivated to go to the hospital and treat people again and again, day after day, under immense time pressure and for countless hours of overtime? For the majority of medical professionals, the answer is always the same: “The feeling of having done something good and being able to go to sleep with a clear conscience.” Some even claim that “being a doctor” is not a career for them. It would be more of a calling. It’s more than a job!

Final Thoughts

In the end, only you can decide for yourself whether you should study medicine or not. You should always be clear about what the advantages and disadvantages of your studies and career are for you. If you are prepared to possibly move for your place at university and to invest a large part of your time in learning, especially in the first two years of the standard course of study, then medicine could be something for you. It is important to keep an eye on the bigger picture, even if studying can be very strenuous at times. Ultimately, the doors to a wide variety of careers are open to you.