Why Should You Intercalate?

Intercalation is a year where you interrupt your medical studies in order to obtain an additional degree. Depending on which medical school you attend, intercalating may be compulsory or optional. Each medical school has a different system, so make sure you do your research. You may be required to achieve certain grades in your exams to be allowed to intercalate, or you may attend a medical school that gives everyone the opportunity to intercalate if they would like to. There’s also the option of studying at a different university for the year.


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Why Intercalate?


There are many reasons to choose to intercalate and many reasons why you might decide not to.


Reasons to intercalate:

  • Some people choose to intercalate as it increases the number of points in your foundation training application - however, I must stress that this should not be your only reason for intercalating. An extra year of studying is a lot of work and shouldn’t be done simply to tick a box.

  • It may present an additional opportunity to publish some research

  • Intercalating can be an opportunity to gain new skills

  • You may have a specific interest or passion that you’d like to explore - if you’re interested in a particular specialty you might want to spend a year to gain more knowledge

  • You might simply want a break from medicine

  • Intercalation may be compulsory at your medical school so you may not have much of a choice

Reasons not to intercalate:

  • You may not want to spend another year at university - some people just want to get through medical school as quickly as possible, especially since it’s not compulsory to intercalate to become a doctor.

  • It’s never a good idea to intercalate just for the sake of it especially if you can’t find a programme that matches your interests.

What are the options?


If you have decided that you do want to intercalate, there are honestly so many options out there. It is most common to do a Bachelor’s programme - either a BSc if it’s science based or a BA if you decide to do a humanities based programme. Alternatively, if you want to focus more on research and academia then a masters programme is always an option.


This website has a database of intercalation programmes that are available in the UK:

https://www.intercalate.co.uk/

This website does not include every single option available so you should still look at individual university websites too.


Additionally, if you already have a course in mind it’s worth researching to see which universities provide it. Look into the course structure and the modules offered in order to make an informed decision.


My Thoughts


I am currently intercalating in Management. I chose to do this as it provides an opportunity for me to gain new skills that I wouldn’t be able to develop in medicine. I also did not want to study anything that was specific to any specialty. Management provides an opportunity to learn about other aspects of healthcare which are not usually taught in medical school, such as Health Economics. If you are considering intercalating I would recommend choosing something that isn’t directly medical or lab-based (unless that is your thing), especially if you haven’t yet decided on a specialty. An additional year in education can be very long which is why I think it’s better to utilise the year to diversify your skillset.


Options that I considered included Global Health as well as anything tech or computing related. Humanities subjects such as Global Health or Anthropology can really develop your writing skills and your ability to think critically. Programmes that are related to computer science also provide an opportunity to strengthen some transferable skills, e.g. problem-solving skills, while also providing a new and valuable skill set. This is particularly useful due to the growing involvement of technology and innovation in medicine.


Hopefully this post can help you make an informed decision regarding intercalation. As always, if you have any questions feel free to reach out.


Written by: Honey Ajisefini (Co-founder of The Black & Forth Platform)

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