A guide to becoming a doctor in South Africa

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requirements to be accepted in a South African medical school

It is the dream of many South African parents for their kids to become medical doctors. Television shows like Greys Anatomy also play an influential role when it comes to deciding a future career in high school. Many high school learners have the dream to become medical doctors but unfortunately there are not enough medical schools in South Africa or enough spaces in the lecture theatres. The demand for a medical doctors in South Africa far exceeds the supply.

What are the requirements to be accepted into medical school?

Each university is different and has different criteria. And you can check out the criteria required by each medical school by going to their websites (listed later on in this post) and downloading the prospectus for each university. Generally speaking though, medicine is one of the most competitive courses to get into in South Africa as the top students from all provinces and other African countries apply for positions in South African medical schools (because we have some of the best medical schools in the world). It is easier to get accepted into medical school if you are black or coloured compared to Indian or White applicants, as the notorious “Quota System” is used in South Africa to address the imbalances of the past so that medical schools and doctors graduating are representative of the South African demographic. An article by new24 stated that Nelson R. Mandela Medical School had 250 seats for first year medicine and of those 250, 69% of the students accepted are black, 19% Indian, 9% Coloured, 2% White and 1% other. Other universities have different ratios of course. The average marks of the students accepted for each racial group are not the same, by this I mean if you are black you will be competing against the top black applicants to that university, so in the case of Nelson R. Mandela Medical School, if you are black there are 173 seats for black students, so you would have to be part of the top 173 black applicants to that university. The lowest weighted academic average for black students accepted at Nelson R. Mandela Medical School was 83,16% compared to 75.5% for coloured students, 90.86% for Indian students and 87,66% for white students. By using this information alone you can tell that it will be more difficult for white and indian students to find a place in a South African medical school as they would have to be 90’s students. The competition is even worse at the country's top universities such as UCT, WITS & UP.

Many South Africans who are really passionate about becoming doctors end up going to study medicine in other countries because they cannot get a place at a South African medical school as it is too difficult to get accepted if you are not black or coloured.

What subjects are needed in high school to become a doctor?

Maths (not maths Literacy), physical science and life sciences are the subjects generally required when applying for medicine in South Africa but I know a few people who have been accepted into medical school and have done well despite not having done life sciences in high school.

How long does it take to study medicine in South Africa?

To become a doctor in South Africa you have to study for 6 years (5 years at UFS) or 7 years if you are on the extended programme provided you do not fail any year.

What are the different ways to get into medical school in South Africa?

·         The most direct way is straight from matric if you have awesome marks and community service etc but this is the hardest way to get in for most people.
·         The second way is to apply to study for a course related to medicine in health sciences, biology or in science and perform well so that you can apply to transfer into medicine in your second year of varsity.
·         The 3rd way is through to apply to wits medical school to enter into 3rd year of medical school through their Graduate Entry Medical Programme, if you have completed a degree in university that included subjects in Biology, Physics and/or Chemistry. Click here to find out more about that option and its entry requirements.
·         The 4th way is to apply to go to study medicine in Cuba on the government bursary.

 Medical Schools in South Africa and their fees

1     University of Cape Town – ZAR 69560
2     University of Witwatersrand – ZAR 62890
3     University of Pretoria – ZAR 55000
4     University of kwaZulu-Natal – ZAR 44220
5     University of Stellenbosch – ZAR 55096
6     University of the FreeState – ZAR 44390
7     Walter Sisulu University - ZAR
8     Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University ( previously known as MEDUNSA) – ZAR 31450
9     University of Limpopo – ZAR 48038

I took the average fee for medicine given by university or the fee for 1st year where that was given. It was hard to find the fees for Walter Sisulu University, if anyone attends there, please share the fees via email or on our FB page.

Bursaries & Funding for medicine

Each university shares bursaries or funding opportunities in its fees handbook/site so you must take a look at that, as well as contacting the department of health via the contact details I shared to check for bursaries as well as your local municipalities as there are medicine bursaries awarded each year. Another way to find bursaries is to simply type “medicine bursaries South Africa” on google every now and then to see if there are any new bursaries you can apply for. If you are poor you can apply for nsfas.

If you are interested in becoming a doctor here are some useful resources:

3 Interview with DR Luke Sampson about studying medicine and what happens after graduation

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