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Medical Degrees Explained (MBBS, MBChB, BMBS)

Medical Degrees Explained (MBBS, MBChB, BMBS)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

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

In the UK, there are a confusingly large number of primary medical qualifications, each having their own letters at the end of the medical degree.

You may have come across a few of these terms: MBChB, MBBCh, MBBS, BMBCh, BMBS, MBBChir…

In this article, I’m going to explain what each of these terms stands for, whether there’s any difference between them and if it should matter to you if you’re applying to medical school.

Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery

The Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery is the primary undergraduate medical degree awarded by medical schools in the UK.

It’s essentially the standard medical degree that direct school leavers can study at university and then leave as a doctor.

Historically, it was actually two separate undergraduate degrees: the Bachelor of Medicine and the Bachelor of Surgery.

However, modern medical schools combine these programs into one degree, but the title still reflects the old division.

There are lots of different abbreviations for the course depending on which medical school awards the degree:

MBChB, MBBCh, MBBS, BMBCh, BMBS, MBBChir…

However, they are all pretty much equivalent and all allow a graduate to work as a doctor in the UK.

I personally graduated from the University of Leicester with an MBChB.

Medical school took me 5 years to complete and once I’d graduated I could immediately start work in the NHS as a junior doctor.

Students graduating with a medical degree
What Does MBChB Stand For?

MBChB stands for Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery. It is the primary undergraduate medical degree awarded by the majority of UK medical schools. All medical schools in Scotland award MBChB in addition to most English universities, although other abbreviations can be used.

What Does MBBS Stand For?

MBBS stands for Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery. It is the primary undergraduate medical degree awarded by UK medical schools and is a common abbreviation for the degree. It generally takes 4-6 years to complete and allows a graduate to practice as a doctor internationally.

Is There A Difference Between MBChB and MBBS?

There is no difference between the awards of MBBS and MBChB. They are both abbreviations for the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree awarded by UK medical schools. Depending on which medical school awards the degree determines what abbreviation is used for a doctor’s post-nominal title.

Is MBChB A Masters Degree?

An MBChB is not a Master’s degree but rather an undergraduate medical degree. You do not need to have completed any form of higher education before enrolling in a medical school to undertake an MBChB, also known as a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery.

Which Medical Schools Award Which Degree Titles?

What abbreviation a medical school uses for their medical degree is generally determined by the historical development of the qualification.

If you want to become a doctor, this shouldn’t have any bearing on which universities you choose to apply to.

The only difference is what set of letters you’ll have after your name on formal documents.

Degree AbbreviationMedical Schools That Award This Title
MBChBAston, Anglia Ruskin, Birmingham, Bristol, Buckingham, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Keele, Manchester, Sheffield, Sunderland, Warwick, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow
MBBChCardiff University, Swansea University
MB, BCh, BAOQueen’s University Belfast
MBBSImperial College, UCL, King’s College London, Barts and The London School of Medicine, St George’s, University of London, Norwich Medical School, Hull York Medical School, Newcastle University, University of Central Lancashire, Ulster University
BMBChUniversity of Oxford
BMBSUniversity of Nottingham, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, University of Southampton, Kent and Medway Medical School and Brighton and Sussex Medical School
MBBChirUniversity of Cambridge

Although MBChB is the most commonly used abbreviation across the UK, MBBS is most commonly used internationally.

The Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery is the medical degree awarded by any country that follows the medical traditions of the UK, so these abbreviations are reflected in awards from many Indian, Malaysian and Kenyan medical schools as examples.

Is MD The Same As MBChB?

The MD degree (Doctor of Medicine) is a very different qualification depending on if you get it in the UK or the US.

In the US, the Doctor of Medicine (abbreviated M.D., from the Latin Medicinae Doctor) is their primary medical qualification.

It’s equivalent to the UK’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery.

However, the comparison is complicated by the fact that you can’t study medicine as an undergraduate in the US.

Whereas in the UK you can go straight from school to medical school, in the US you have to complete a pre-med undergraduate degree before you can start studying medicine.

If you have an MBBS or MBChB from the UK, after taking a specific exam you can work in the US as a doctor however- you don’t have to go back to university (or college) to get an MD.

An MD degree in the UK is actually a postgraduate degree that you can only complete after having worked as a doctor for a few years.

It’s a research degree that involves writing a thesis and completing a viva exam, equivalent to a PhD.

This means an MD from a British university ranks higher than a US MD, but it isn’t a primary medical qualification.

Can Doctors Complete A PhD?

To confuse matters, doctors can also choose to pursue a PhD.

The process of a doctor completing a PhD is exactly the same as that for non-medical professionals completing a PhD.

They have to prepare a research proposal, conduct research and collect results, write up a thesis and then defend it at a viva voce (a sort of spoken examination where you defend your methods and results).

The only difference is that after completing the PhD they won’t have the new title of Dr conferred upon them- as they already were doctors!

In some medical specialties, a PhD is almost a necessity to become a competitive enough applicant to secure many of the top jobs.

If you want to be an expert surgeon in one of London’s top teaching hospitals, you’ll almost certainly need a PhD just to put yourself on par with the other candidates.

Final Thoughts

I’ve got to admit, even as a medical professional all the different terms and shortenings used for doctors can get confusing.

However, almost across the board, the differences in undergraduate medical degrees from UK universities aren’t relevant to your future practice as a doctor.

Whether you’re an MBBS, MBChB or BMBS, you’ll start work as a junior doctor in the NHS in exactly the same manner as any other newly qualified doctor.

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.