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Skills I think medical students should try to learn before they graduate

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Medical students in the UK dedicate years of their lives to studying the intricacies of medicine, preparing themselves to become compassionate doctors who can make a positive impact on patients' lives. While mastering medical knowledge and clinical skills is crucial, it is equally important for aspiring doctors to acquire a range of supplementary skills that can enhance their personal and professional lives.


In this blog post, I will explore some of the top skills that UK medical students should consider cultivating, including:

  • financial literacy

  • data analysis

  • marketing

  • job-seeking and income generation

  • intercalation

  • public speaking

  • leadership

By mastering some of these, I believe upcoming doctors can thrive in an ever-changing healthcare industry (or any other industry they may end up in).

Financial Literacy

Medical students often face substantial financial burdens due to tuition fees, living expenses, and the long duration of their training. Developing financial literacy can help them effectively manage their finances, reduce debt, and secure a sound financial future.


Understanding money, budgeting, student loans, credit cards, and the principles of saving and investing are essential aspects of financial literacy that provide long-term benefits.

  • Know your credit score

Your credit score acts as a 'financial CV' when applying for things like a mortgage, financing a car, or getting loans from banks. It is your detailed financial history - have you been on time with payments? How many accounts do you have? Are you financially stable? Lenders will use your credit score to answer these questions and decide whether to give you money or not.


Your credit score is calculated using a points system which reflects how you’ve managed your debts and bills in the past. For example, if you’ve always paid your bills on time, this would have had a positive impact on your score and your score goes UP. But a history of missed or late payments would have had a negative impact and your score goes DOWN.


There are 3 main credit reference agencies in the UK: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. They securely hold data about your financial history – known as a credit report – and use it to generate a credit score. Each agency has its own scoring system, so your credit score may vary slightly depending on which one you choose. However, you’ll probably find that you fall into the same category across all of them. Monitoring your credit score helps you stay informed about your financial health and allows you to identify and rectify any errors or discrepancies. By staying proactive and responsible with your credit, you can establish a solid financial foundation, paving the way for future financial independence and success. [Free websites to find out your credit score: ClearScore and Experian]


If you’ve never borrowed money before, it's difficult for lenders to assess the risk of lending to you, and your credit score will reflect that. This is the most common problem for students. However, knowing your score is the first step in taking the next step: building a credit history.

  • Start to build a credit history

As a student, you may not have an extensive credit history yet because you're unlikely to have paid many bills or borrowed any large amounts of money from the bank.

d credit score. Whether it's your phone bill or house utility bills, pay them by the due date. Set up reminders or automatic payments to ensure you don't miss any deadlines.


As you progress through your studies, you may find the need for credit, whether it's to finance educational expenses, purchase a car, or cover unexpected emergencies. Many people are scared of obtaining a credit card but as someone who has three, I promise it's nothing to be scared of... if you have a good relationship with money and don't overspend what you don't have! See my blog post for more about credit cards / what I learned about budgeting and finance in my gap year.


For example, I use credit cards to make big purchases like holidays or for minor monthly subscriptions like Netflix. I set up a standing order so the money is automatically debited from my current account to pay off my credit cards every month. This has helped me build years of 'good credit' paying off these credit cards which, in turn, makes it easier to obtain credit cards with bigger sums of money, and bigger loans, makes it easier to find a place to rent and get favourable interest rates in the future when I may need to take out a loan (e.g. for a property). All of these things give you more financial flexibility and OPTIONS.

  • Understand tax and YOUR tax bracket

Understanding tax in the UK is of utmost importance, especially when you start earning as a doctor. Taxes play a significant role in funding public services and infrastructure, such as education, healthcare, and transportation.


In the UK, several key tax rules are important to understand. Here are some of the most significant ones:

  1. Income Tax: Income Tax is a tax between taken from an individual's earnings. The % amount depends on your level of income. The basic tax-free allowance, known as the Personal Allowance, is around £12,500 for the year (tends to increase every year due to increased cost of living), anything over this is income taxed. It starts at 20% off what you make over the £12,500 threshold and 40% of what you make over around £50,000. Note: you do NOT get taxed at 40% of your entire income if you make over £50,000 etc.

  2. National Insurance Contributions: Contributions made by individuals and employers to fund certain state benefits, including the state pension and healthcare services. The amount of NICs payable depends on the individual's earnings and employment status.

  3. Value Added Tax: Consumption tax charged on most goods and services in the UK. It is currently set at different rates, including the standard rate (20%), reduced rate (5%), and zero rate (0%), depending on the type of goods or services being supplied.

  4. Capital Gains Tax: Tax on the profits made from the sale of certain assets, such as property, investments, or valuable possessions. There are specific exemptions and allowances available, and the rate of CGT varies depending on the individual's income tax band.

  5. Inheritance Tax: Tax imposed on the value of a person's estate (property, money, and possessions) after their death.

  6. Student Loan Repayments: Student loans taken out for higher education are subject to repayments once the individual's income exceeds a certain threshold. The repayment amount is based on a percentage of income above the threshold and is collected through the tax system. See my blog post on student loan repayments here.

Helpful resource for all things UK finance: Money Saving Expert

  • Investing

While investing may seem unrelated to a medical career, it can be a valuable skill for ANY student. Exploring opportunities to invest - whether that be in the stock market (more realistic for students) or property (if you have more capital and are willing to be patient to see returns) can help you grow your money over time.


By learning about different investment options, risk management, and long-term financial planning, medical students can develop a solid foundation for wealth creation and financial stability. This financial knowledge can provide a buffer against the uncertainties of the medical profession and contribute to a more stable financial future.


STOCKS

Investing in the stock market is the easiest way to compound money as a student. Investing in stocks is like becoming a part owner of a company. When you buy stocks (shares), you're purchasing a small piece of that company. This means you have a stake in its success and its profits. I use FreeTrade to invest most of my money (sign up using my link to get a free stock) and I have Stocks and Shares ISA (more about ISAs here). This ISA account allows me to invest up to a certain amount per year. Another popular app is Trading 212.

  • Research and select stocks (or funds that include a variety of stocks selected for you): Before investing, you'll want to research different companies and decide which ones you believe have the potential to grow and make profits. This can involve looking at their financial performance, industry trends, and other relevant information. Most of this is provided in the app.

  • Buy: Once you've selected the companies you're interested in, you can buy their stocks through your app account. This account (called a brokerage account) acts as a platform to buy and sell stocks. You decide how many shares you want to purchase and at what price.

  • Stock price fluctuations: After buying the stocks, their prices can go up or down depending on various factors such as company performance, economic conditions, or investor sentiment. The goal is to buy stocks at a lower price and sell them at a higher price to make a profit.

  • Long-term investing: Investing in the stock market is generally considered a long-term commitment. The value of stocks can fluctuate in the short term, but historically, the stock market has tended to grow over time. By holding onto your stocks for an extended period, you give them a chance to potentially increase in value. Therefore, you should see investing as a long-term/lifelong commitment.

  • Potential returns: If the company performs well and its stock price rises, you can sell your shares for a higher price than what you initially paid, making a profit. Additionally, some companies also pay dividends, which are a portion of their profits distributed to shareholders as cash payments. Examples include the S&P 500 (top 500 US companies in the world) and Apple.

  • Diversification and risk management: It's generally recommended to diversify your investments by buying stocks from different companies across various industries. This helps spread out the risk, so if one company's stock doesn't perform well, your overall investment may not be heavily affected.

  • Risks: Investing in the stock market carries risks. Stock prices can be volatile, and there's a chance that you may lose some or all of your investment. It's important to do your research, understand the risks, and invest money you're willing to potentially lose.

Extra resources I'm loving:

  • Good explanation of stock market with easy-to-understand 'grocery store' analogy: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZGJ4f12hw/

  • 10 signs you might be ready to start investing: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZGJ4mcr2v/

  • Nischa is a banker on YouTube and I think her videos on all things finances are clear and well-informed: her Investing playlist

  • Blackbullion is a great platform for students wanting to be more financially literate with plenty of resources and workshops for budgeting, investing and healthcare student-specific content. Your university may need to be signed up to give you access - King's College London is. I personally think it has been one of the best ways I've educated myself on UK finances and scholarship opportunities as a student.

PROPERTY

Property investing, in simple terms, means buying real estate properties with the intention of making a profit (i.e., by renting out or selling). Buying a property is seen as acquiring an asset as property appreciates in value over time, compared to buying a car, for example, which is a liability that depreciates in value from the minute you drive it out of the car dealership.


Although property investment is not realistic for most students because it requires a lot of capital and returns on your investment can be very slow. It also can take up a considerable amount of time and effort if the property needs development or you need to manage the property / hire a property management company to handle tasks such as finding tenants, collecting rent, addressing maintenance issues, and ensuring the property remains in good condition.


Despite this not being a popular option amongst most students, a basic explanation of how property investing works is important to understand:

  1. Purchase a Property: As a property investor, you would start by buying a property, such as a house or flat. You can choose to buy the property outright with your own money or finance it through a mortgage or other loans. Most people do the latter - they save a deposit and take out a mortgage to cover the rest.

  2. Generate rental income: Once you own the property, you can rent it out to tenants. The rent they pay becomes a source of income for you as the property owner. The rental income can help cover the costs of owning the property, such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance expenses.

  3. Property value appreciation: Over time, the value of real estate properties tends to increase. This means that the property you own is likely to become a lot more valuable, allowing you to sell it at a higher price than what you initially paid at some point (heavy on this because don't expect a quick return).

  4. Risks and considerations: Property investing carries risks, such as potential property value declines, difficulty finding tenants, unexpected maintenance costs, and fluctuations in the rental market. It's important to conduct thorough research, consider location, market conditions, and seek professional advice to make informed decisions and mitigate risks.

  5. Long-Term Investment: Property investing is often considered a long-term investment strategy. It requires patience, as the value of properties and rental income can take time to grow and provide significant returns.

It's crucial to note that property investing requires careful planning, financial consideration, and an understanding of the local real estate market. Consulting with professionals, such as real estate agents, property managers, or financial advisors, can provide valuable guidance to help you make informed property investment decisions.


However, even though it may not be a goal of yours to be a property investor, learning about real estate is invaluable! I am currently fascinated by different real estate markets abroad and YouTube has been a great resource.

Data Analysis

Data-driven decision-making is becoming increasingly prevalent in healthcare. Medical students who possess data analysis skills will have a distinct advantage in research, evidence-based medicine, and quality improvement projects. In the era of evidence-based medicine, data analysis skills are becoming increasingly important for medical professionals as well as those who want to pivot to careers outside of medicine. Here are some alternative careers where data analysis skills are highly sought after:

  1. Data Analyst: This is a natural fit for individuals with strong data analysis skills. Data analysts collect, clean, analyze, and interpret data to help organisations make informed decisions. They work across industries, such as finance, marketing, technology, and consulting, and are responsible for extracting insights from data to drive business strategies and improve operational efficiency.

  2. Data Scientist: Data scientists go beyond data analysis to develop complex algorithms, build predictive models, and uncover patterns and trends in large datasets. They use their expertise to solve complex problems, develop machine-learning models, and create data-driven solutions. Data scientists are in demand in fields like healthcare, finance, technology, and research.

  3. Business Analyst: Business analysts use data analysis to understand organisational processes, identify opportunities for improvement, and make strategic recommendations. They work closely with stakeholders to define business requirements, analyze data, and develop solutions that drive growth and efficiency.

  4. Market Research Analyst: Market research analysts collect and analyse data to help businesses understand market trends, consumer preferences, and competitive landscapes. They design surveys, conduct data analysis, and provide insights that inform marketing strategies, product development, and decision-making processes.

  5. Financial Analyst: Financial analysts analyse financial data, market trends, and economic indicators to assess investment opportunities, evaluate company performance, and provide financial recommendations. They play a critical role in areas such as investment banking, corporate finance, and financial planning.

  6. Policy Analyst: Policy analysts use data analysis to evaluate policies, assess their impact, and inform policy-making decisions. They work in government agencies, think tanks, and non-profit organizations, analyzing data to understand social, economic, and political issues and develop evidence-based policy recommendations.

These are just a few examples, as data analysis skills are increasingly in demand across a wide range of industries. Having proficiency in data analysis can open up numerous career opportunities and allow you to make a meaningful impact by leveraging data-driven insights.


Understanding statistical concepts, research methodologies, and data interpretation can enhance a medical student's ability to critically evaluate scientific literature and make informed clinical decisions. Data analysis skills are crucial for collecting, managing, and analysing research data. Proficiency in data analysis allows medical students to draw meaningful conclusions from their research findings, publish their work in scientific journals, and contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge. This is especially important if you are considering relocating abroad.



Other resources:

Marketing

Understanding the principles of marketing is valuable for medical students aspiring to make a positive impact within healthcare. The 5 P's of marketing – Product, Price, Promotion, Place, and People – are a framework that helps guide marketing strategies and keep marketers focused on the right things. Understanding the basics of marketing strategies, digital presence, and networking can give medical students an edge when seeking employment opportunities or engaging in entrepreneurial ventures.


Furthermore, in today's competitive healthcare landscape, effective communication and marketing skills are vital for personal success. Medical students who develop marketing skills can promote themselves, build a strong professional network, and establish a personal brand.


I think the best way to gain marketing skills is by DOING rather than studying. A good way to get started is on social media by marketing yourself. Whether it's professionally on LinkedIn or informally on Instagram/Tiktok, you can learn how to package yourself, negotiate brand partnerships, and price yourself.

You can complement your learning with other hands-on marketing experience, such as internships, projects, or being a marketing officer for a student society.

Job Seeking and Income Generation

Transitioning from medical school to the professional world can be daunting. It is essential for medical students to learn how to navigate the job market and identify potential sources of income beyond clinical practice - both active and passive. Make sure you are proficient in creating CVs, crafting cover letters, and undergoing interviews. These skills are transferable and beneficial throughout your career. Gain knowledge about CV and interview skills, explore alternative career paths, and consider entrepreneurship or consultancy opportunities within healthcare. How to do this, you ask?

  1. Research Job Market Trends: Stay informed about job market trends, healthcare industry changes, and demand for specific specialties. Research job postings, salary ranges, and requirements for different positions. This information can help you tailor your job-seeking efforts and income generation strategies to meet the needs of the market.

  2. Develop a Strong Personal Brand: Build a professional online presence through platforms like LinkedIn. Create a well-crafted profile highlighting your skills, experiences, and interests. Share relevant articles, engage in discussions, and connect with professionals in your field. A strong personal brand can attract job opportunities and potential income-generating collaborations.

  3. Seek Mentors and Guidance: Connect with mentors who have expertise in your desired career path or specialty. They can offer insights, and advice and their experience can provide valuable perspectives and help you make informed decisions.

  4. Be Proactive and Persistent: Job-seeking and income generation can take time and effort. Be proactive in seeking opportunities, follow up on applications, and remain persistent in your pursuit. Don't get discouraged by rejections and keep refining your approach.

Remember, job-seeking and income generation are ongoing processes. Continuously refine your skills, adapt to market changes, and seek feedback to improve. The combination of networking, professional development, research, and perseverance will enhance your chances of securing desirable job opportunities and generating income in the medical field.

Intercalation

Pursuing an additional degree during medical school can provide valuable intellectual and personal network growth, which can work to give you a competitive edge. Consider intercalating in a field such as medical research, data science, finance and policy, public health, or medical education. This additional qualification can open doors to research opportunities, teaching positions, and leadership roles, broadening your career prospects.

  • More about applying to my intercalated degree at Cambridge here and my reflections on it.

  • Overall, it was a remarkable place to network, learn and boost my personal profile. I've gained numerous research opportunities in my field of interest, lifelong friends, and even managed to get contacts for my elective through Cambridge. So go into your intercalation with an open mind!

Public Speaking

Effective communication is a fundamental skill for medical professionals. Public speaking abilities enable doctors to engage with patients, present research findings, and advocate for healthcare policies. It can also be a great way to earn extra money and network with high net worth and like-minded individuals.

Practice your public speaking through presentations, participating in conferences, or joining student societies to enhance your confidence and articulation skills. Building a personal brand and capitalising on a niche that you're passionate about can help you secure speaking engagements on that topic.

Leadership

Leadership skills are vital for doctors who aspire to drive change and contribute to the healthcare system. Develop your leadership abilities by taking up leadership roles within student organisations like President, spearheading healthcare initiatives, outreach schemes, or engaging in quality improvement projects. Understanding the principles of effective leadership and team management will enable you to make a positive impact across industries.


Some of my top leadership course recommendations:

Being a successful doctor in the UK involves more than just acquiring medical knowledge. By mastering skills such as financial literacy, data analysis, marketing, job-seeking strategies, intercalation, public speaking, and leadership, medical students can position themselves as well-rounded professionals who are ready to face the challenges of the evolving healthcare industry. Cultivating these skills will not only enhance their employability but also contribute to their personal growth and the overall betterment


By diversifying your skill set as a medical student, you can navigate the challenges of a rapidly evolving healthcare system while positioning yourself for a fulfilling and prosperous career.




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