Medicine Vs engineering – what should I study and why?

Both are extremely popular areas of study at university, and both can lead to careers that are both fulfilling and lucrative, not to mention useful to others.

However, if you have a natural inclination towards the sciences and mathematics, it can be difficult to decide which pathway is going to be best for you. If you’re at the stage where you have to make a decision what you’re going to study at university, it can suddenly become even trickier.

This article doesn’t aim to guide you in either direction, but rather to lay out the personal and academic skills that you might need for each profession, and where an academic qualification might take you in terms of professional development later on.

Should I study medicine?

Are you a people person? Unless you’re planning to go into medical research rather than having much by way of day to day contact with the public, then you’ll be dealing with people all day long. If you are a natural introvert, then that people contact might feel daunting at first.

In terms of academic skill, you will need to have excellent qualifications to get into university, usually four or even five A levels at A grade including chemistry and one other science subject, or an International Baccalaureate with at least 37 points and similar subject pathways.

You will also need an impressive personal statement and interview for more desirable “medical” universities or institutions of study. If you are an overseas student, you will need an IELTS score of at least 7.5 overall, and not less than 7.0 in any single component.

If you already have a first degree and are looking to enter at graduate level, you may be accepted for study with a non-health or science-related degree. However, you will be expected to improve your science skills before entry to what is usually a four or five year course.

In your personal statement, you might want to lay out what you wish yourself to achieve as a doctor in the future, and whether you have any relevant work experience in a medical or health field which might support your application.

Should I study engineering?

There are many different types of engineering degree which can lead to a number of career pathways. It is also a degree that will rarely see someone out of work upon graduation. The number of sectors looking for qualified engineers is large, and the research opportunities are also numerous.

Your engineering pathway academic qualifications will be very similar to those required for a medical degree, although you will be expected to have both mathematics and physics at A Level rather than chemistry, and your International Baccalaureate should be 35 points or more, with an IELTS score of at least 7.0 overall and not less than 6.5 in any single component if that is applicable to you.

Your career pathways could include chemical or mechanical engineering, and if building and city design interests you, then civil engineering is a good choice. To follow any of these pathways, you will need to study for four or five years, obtaining a B.Eng degree, and potentially switching to M.Eng if you wish to attain Chartered status.

What are the pros and cons of each subject?

As already mentioned above, medical pathways are a good if you finding interacting with people easy. That’s not to say you won’t need good people skills for engineering too, but you won’t find yourself in quite the same position as a doctor in general practice.

In terms of your natural subject abilities, if you’re an able mathematician you may also feel a pull towards engineering rather than medicine, especially as you’ll need that for the physics element of your degree course. If your scientific skills veer towards chemistry and biology, then it might indicate that medicine is for you.

What career paths are available?

As touched on above, there are practical and research career pathways for both subjects.

Medicine is a vocational subject, and specialisms are encouraged for both mental and physical health areas. However, relevant lecturing, writing, and medical sales posts also often require a degree in medicine to ensure a level of authority.

Your engineering degree can lead you in a variety of directions. For example, a mechanical engineering degree might lead you to careers as diverse as the aerospace or nuclear industries, and as a sidestep, even into finance or technical sales.

A chemical engineer can follow many of the same careers, with opportunities for product development and analysis as well as specific materials industries. When it comes to making a choice, the decision is yours alone. However, work experience in both fields prior to university may help you to make the choice that is right for you.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for medicine and engineering please see: