Do Medical Students Get Paid? (Financial FAQs Answered)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
Photo of author
Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

As a medical student or potential medical student, you might be wondering whether you can expect to be paid at any point during your studies.

Medical students do not get paid in the UK. Students studying medicine are there to learn rather than for service provision in the NHS, so don’t contribute to the workforce in a hospital in a meaningful way. This is broadly the case worldwide so it’s very rare for medical students to be paid for their time.

Because medical students aren’t paid by the hospitals they work at, they have to find other ways to fund their time as a student.

In this article, I’m going to explore in a bit more depth why medical students aren’t paid, delve into how medical students pay for their expenses and even cover a couple of scenarios in which students are arguably being paid to study.

Do You Get Paid When Studying Medicine?

It’s natural to think that medical students might get paid for their time on placements.

As a student, you will be, after all, spending a lot of time on hospital wards over your five years of training to be a doctor.

Unfortunately, as I said, medical students are not paid when on clinical rotations or at any time during their studies.

In fact, as you probably know, you have to pay tuition fees throughout your time in medical school.

A home student pays £9,250 in tuition fees every year for the pleasure of spending 40 hours a week on a ward while an international student might pay considerably more.

While it can be disappointing to know that you won’t get compensated for your time and effort during medical school, there are other ways you may be able to cover your living expenses and tuition fees.

For instance, some students on recognised medical courses in the UK may be eligible for financial help from the NHS (more on this later).

Although you won’t be earning a salary during your medical studies, it’s essential to recognise that your education and the experiences you gain during clinical placements are invaluable for your future career as a doctor.

Although not nearly as fun as earning money, gaining hands-on experience with patients, working alongside experienced healthcare professionals, and building your network within the medical community can contribute significantly to your success once you graduate.

Why Don’t Medical Students Get Paid?

The main reason why medical students don’t get paid while they’re training is that they’re there to learn rather than deliver service provision.

While they do assist physicians and get practical experience, their primary objective is to acquire knowledge and hone their skills.

As a medical student, your time is devoted to participating in lectures, studying, and observing the work of healthcare professionals.

Although you’re in a clinical setting, your role is not the same as someone already working in the healthcare field and getting paid.

The work you do during your placements, though helpful, is generally not considered meaningful in the same way as a paid healthcare worker.

What Expenses Do Medical Students Have?

As a medical student, you’ll unfortunately have plenty of expenses to consider while pursuing your degree. Here are some of the main costs you’ll encounter during your time at university.

Tuition fees: In the UK, tuition fees are £9,250 per year for domestic students. For international students, the fees can be significantly higher, ranging from £30,000 to £40,000+ per year.

Accommodation: Rent is another significant expense to keep in mind. Living costs vary depending on where you choose to live, but typically, you can expect to pay around £450 to £750 per month for student accommodation. You also need to remember to budget for additional utilities like water, gas, and electricity.

Food: Your food expenses might fluctuate based on your eating habits, but it’s essential to allocate a portion of your budget for groceries and eating out. You can expect to spend around £100 to £200 per month.

Transportation: Travelling to and from your medical school, as well as clinical placements, adds up. Public transportation, such as buses and trains, is usually the most cost-effective option. Depending on your location, you might spend around £50 to £100 per month on travel.

Books and equipment: Medical textbooks can be pricey, and you’ll also need to invest in essential equipment like stethoscopes, lab coats, and potentially scrubs. While you can often find affordable options or second-hand books, it’s essential to budget for these necessary items.

Personal expenses: Lastly, remember to set aside funds for personal expenses such as clothing, entertainment, and socialising. These costs will vary depending on your lifestyle but should also be considered when budgeting for your time at medical school.

How Do Medical Students Support Themselves?

Every student will be in a slightly different financial situation, but here are some of the main ways medical students cover their expenses despite not getting paid themselves.

Student Loans

Depending on your eligibility, you can rely on student loans to help finance your education.

In England, the Student Loans Company (SLC) administers financial support through Student Finance England.

This includes variable tuition fee loans, means-tested maintenance loans, and other forms of financial support such as the disabled students’ allowance and travel grants.

Parents

Your family can be an important source of financial support during your medical studies.

Many students rely on their parents or other family members for assistance with living costs, especially during the early years of their education.

The reality is, depending on your parents’ household income, the amount of student loan you’re eligible for may not go far enough to cover your living costs.

Part-Time Work

Part-time work can be a good way to earn extra income while studying medicine.

However, balancing the demands of work with the rigours of medical school can be challenging.

To make this arrangement more manageable, it’s important to prioritise your time and energy, choosing flexible jobs that won’t interfere with your studies or cause too much stress.

Scholarships and Bursaries

Scholarships and bursaries can provide financial relief for eligible medical students.

Bursaries are often paid as cash lump sums to students, while scholarships generally waive a proportion (or the entirety) of a university’s tuition fees.

With the right combination, students are able to study medicine entirely for free, but these opportunities are very few and far between.

Getting Paid In Final Year: The NHS Bursary

In your final year of medical school, as part of the NHS Bursary scheme, the NHS takes care of your tuition fees.

Additionally, you can apply for a means-tested NHS bursary designed to cover your maintenance costs.

This bursary amount depends on your household income and can significantly help you manage your living expenses.

Besides the means-tested bursary, NHS Bursary awards also include a non-means-tested grant of £1,000.

Although you’re not technically ‘being paid’, you are getting a cash lump sum.

This means that regardless of your financial background, you can receive this additional support to alleviate some of your day-to-day costs.

Generally, those studying graduate-entry accelerated medical can receive an NHS bursary in years 2 to 4 of their studies.

Speaking from experience, the NHS Bursary can be a bit of a game-changer, easing financial strain and allowing you to focus on what truly matters- finishing your degree!

Medical Apprentices Will Be Paid

With the new Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship scheme introduced by Health Education England, there will now be the opportunity to earn a wage while training to become a doctor.

As a medical apprentice, you won’t have to worry about paying tuition fees, a significant burden that most medical students face.

Similar to the traditional route, you will still need to maintain high standards and attend medical school as an apprentice.

Furthermore, you’ll need to complete an accredited medical degree, along with the Medical Licensing Assessment, and fulfil all other criteria required by the General Medical Council to qualify as a doctor.

It’s hoped that this alternate route will help more people from diverse backgrounds enter the medical profession, making the NHS workforce more representative of local communities.

The medical apprenticeship scheme is still very new, so it’s difficult to evaluate its impact and exactly how things will work, but it is an exciting opportunity to genuinely be paid as a medical student.

Final Thoughts

While the journey to becoming a doctor can be quite expensive, there are various financial support schemes available to help you cope with the costs.

To explore and maximise your financial options, it’s important to research what financial assistance you qualify for.

Keep in mind that factors such as your nationality, course type, and even your point of entry can impact your eligibility.

So, while the vast majority of medical students might not be paid directly, various funding options can help ease the financial burden of your education.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.