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Medical careers and travel

A medical degree could help you to map out a career travelling all over the world. Read on to find out more.

Studying a medical degree is a journey in itself, but it can lead to many places other than working in hospitals and clinics in the UK. You’ll often need more than just your qualifications and a love of travel however, since many positions will also require specialist training and knowledge of another language. Certain things will also be very different abroad, so if you are thinking about working outside of the UK later in your career, it’s worth trying to do your medical elective in a foreign country if possible, to see if the experience suits you.

Opportunities for working abroad include:

Travel medicine

Although many travel medics work in the UK, providing injections and tablets to tourists before they travel, they could get to go abroad themselves, working on a cruise ship, with a safari operator or in a holiday resort for example. Travel medicine is normally concerned with preventing disease as much as treating it, so an interest or specialism in infectious diseases, tropical medicine or GP training would be a big advantage.

Expedition medicine

If you want a real walk on the wild side, you could pursue a career as an expedition medic working with scientists and explorers in the most remote parts of the world. As often literally the only doctor for miles around, you’ll need to be able to cope with everything from common physical ailments to extremely rare diseases, and resourceful enough to work with very limited supplies and support. The Expedition Medicine website has details of different courses covering medicine everywhere from the icy poles to the humid jungle.

Working for an NGO

Languages and cultures might differ across the world, but a medical degree can break down a lot of barriers. NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) include charities such as Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières who distribute aid and provide medical care and immunisation programmes in the developing world. Working for an NGO can be challenging as you’ll often be in a completely different environment without the resources of a hospital in the UK, and you may well have to do volunteer work before getting a paid post, but it’s also one of the most direct ways to help people most in need.

Military medicine

From frontline roles in warzones abroad to serving on battleships on the high seas, the armed services need medics in a wide variety of places across the world. The work can often be physically and emotionally draining, especially if you’re dealing with severe combat injuries, and you may have to be prepared to put your own life at risk to save others, which means you’ll normally have to undertake some military training after your degree. Although you can move into working for the military after you’ve completed your degree, if you’ve made up your mind while you’re doing you’re A-levels or in your first year of university you can apply for a Medical Cadetship for extra funding for some of your degree.

Sports medicine

World-class sports teams require world-class medicine to stay at the top of their game. International squads and athletes will normally have their own doctors and other medical staff that travel with them, although – just like being a sportsman – you’ll often need lots of experience before you get to that level, working as a sports doctor in a sports injury clinic or with teams in the UK.

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