Can You Work During Medical School? (And Not Fail Your Course)

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.

There are no two ways about it: being a medical student is expensive. You’ve got university fees to pay, living costs to keep up with and stethoscopes aren’t cheap!

So, if you’re planning on becoming a doctor but want to spare your wallet some pain, you may be thinking about whether you can work during medical school. 

Many people work over their time at medical school to supplement their student loan and help offset the costs of being a student. Although medical school has significantly more contact time than many other courses, students are often still able to work part-time if they desire.

In this article, I’m going to explain exactly how you can hold down part-time work at university as well as what some of the best jobs for a medical student are.

Do You Have Enough Time To Work In Medical School?

Before I went to medical school, I sort of had this picture of endless physiology lectures, anatomy classes and clinical placements. With hardly any free time to yourself at all.

Which, although it can sometimes feel like that’s the case, isn’t the reality of medical school at all.

I found I had a surprisingly large amount of down time.

I studied at the University of Leicester, which runs its medicine course slightly differently from other universities.

In my first year at medical school, we only ever had lectures or classes from 9am to 1pm Monday – Friday. With the rest of our day being dedicated to self-study.

Now you can imagine exactly what percentage of this time was put towards self-study during fresher’s week but that’s beside the point!

In my second year, this timetable was reversed with our classes taking place from 1pm – 5pm each day.

Students in a small group teaching session

Now the course load did ramp up over the five-year degree, but you can certainly appreciate that a medical student at the University of Leicester could easily find the time to hold down a part-time job. (You can find out here how hard I actually found medical school.)

Now my experience was slightly unusual in how the course was delivered, but all my colleagues I’ve spoken to have confirmed they would have been perfectly capable of working during medical school- with many having done so!

Whether or not someone is able to find the time to work during medical school will often come down to a matter of prioritisation.

A good friend of mine at medical school was a post-graduate. Meaning she’d already done one degree before choosing to study medicine.

Because of this, she couldn’t get as large a student loan as if this had been her first degree. So she was understandably keener to get a job than most!

She actually managed to work two simultaneous part-time jobs throughout the vast majority of medical school. Reducing her student debt and paying for her living expenses.

Although there will have been times she’d have had to sacrifice a night out say because of work, with just a little bit of prioritisation she was able to finance her second degree with a minimal impact on her university experience.

What Jobs Can You Have At Medical School?

The jobs you can have in medical school are pretty much only limited by your imagination. That and the fact that it can’t be full-time as you will have to go to lectures at some point!

I’ve had friends who were baristas, barmen, sales assistants and sports coaches.

One of my friends actually worked for the university inspecting the condition of all the pieces of art they displayed across the campus.

A very unique job but he seemed to enjoy it!

There are a few jobs that are particularly suited to life as a medical student however. You can make almost anything work but these are my top three jobs to have in medical school:

3. Working In The Student Union

The student union is the social hub of most universities. It’s normally a big building with shops, coffee, bars and possibly a dance floor all in close proximity. Because of how sociable it is if you work in the student union (SU) you’ll often find yourself bumping into your friends and course mates during the course of a shift.

One of my good friends got a job behind the bar at the SU so occasionally would be working while we were on a night out. It was great to have a friendly face to serve you first in the often incredibly crowded dance floor bars.

2. Working For The University

By working for the university I mean doing one of the many incredibly varied jobs that are often offered to students by a university.

This could be anything from being a residential advisor (someone who helps in the administration of first-year halls) to my friend inspecting the universities art collection.

The reason it gets the number two spot is because you normally have very flexible working hours that lets you slot things around your course commitments.

I actually worked for Leicester Medical School by helping show prospective students and their families around campus on open days. It was normally on a weekend a few times each semester so was incredibly flexible and was something I could talk knowledgeably about being a current student.

1. Working As A Healthcare Assistant

Working as a healthcare assistant is undoubtedly my top pick when it comes to jobs for medical students. A healthcare assistant is someone who works in a hospital and essentially just helps in the day-to-day care of patients.

That means taking them to the toilet, making hospital beds, handing out food at mealtimes, and recording patients’ observations. Admittedly the work isn’t particularly glamorous, but that’s not the reason it’s so great for a medical student to do.

A healthcare assistant takes the blood pressure of a little girl

By working as a healthcare assistant you’ll get a really good understanding of how the hospital works, how a ward functions and what patients actually care about! None of which I really understood until I actually started working as a doctor.

It’s also a fantastic job to do in support of a medicine application. Not only is it pretty much like continuous work experience but you also get paid! Healthcare assistants are very much on the frontline of caring for patients, something that you can be somewhat removed from as a doctor.

Do Medical Students Get Paid?

You may have heard a few conflicting accounts of whether medical students get paid or not in the UK.

Medical students do not get paid while studying at university. Rather, they have to pay £9250 in tuition fees each year in addition to covering their own living costs. Medical students can get paid by taking on part-time work or may receive compensation for volunteering in clinical research.

Sadly, we’re not paid for our time while studying at medical school. That would definitely just be too good to be true!

The government does however provide medical students with a bursary- from your second year for graduate entry programmes or from your fifth year for undergraduate programmes.

This is money that you don’t have to repay and can be enough to cover all your tuition fees. The majority of it is means tested (meaning how much you get depends on your household income) but there’s also a non-means-tested £1000 that everyone gets as a grant.

If you want to learn more about the bursary, there’s loads of information on the NHS’s website here.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, I think you can definitely work during medical school without even coming close to failing your course.

You’ll have plenty of free time at medical school and it’s just up to you how you want to spend it- whether that be reducing your student debt or having extra time to party.

Some jobs, such as working as a healthcare assistant, will actually earn you money while also helping you to become a better 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.