Research opportunities in the United Kingdom
Hi, I am Aishwarya, an IMG from India. I am currently doing my Master's in Cardiovascular Research at King's College London. In today's blog article, I am going to share with you some important information about research opportunities in the UK.
Obtaining an academic research position in the United Kingdom can be challenging because it requires a medically related degree, prior research experience, and a degree in research. Considering the fact that a path in research as a clinician can be daunting as you would need to balance both clinics as well as lab work. Hence, you will need to sit down and analyse it carefully keeping all the factors in mind. Research is intense and requires a lot of patience, so get into it only if you are ready to fully devote yourself to it. Because as worthy as it is, it is also extremely exhausting.
There are different kinds of degrees that you can undertake to obtain a research background. Some of the courses include Master's (MSc), Masters in Research (MRes), PG Diploma (PGDip), PG Certification (PGCert) in research. Apart from this, PhDs are also an option but applying for a PhD requires intense dedication and also has financial aspects to be kept in mind.
You can do these during your training programme, but you will need to take some time off depending on how long the course is. Master's and Master's in research can be done as a part-time course with your job but a PhD requires you to take time off depending on how long your course is.
MSc and MRes degrees are usually year-long, PGdip and PGCert can vary between 9-12 months depending on the course. Sometimes, there are options to extend a PGDip to a Master's for a total duration of 2-3 years.
The financial aspects are also something to keep in mind while taking up such courses. Masters courses can range anywhere between £18000-£30000 per year and as high as £50000 in a university like Oxford or Cambridge. PGDip and a PGCert can be anywhere between £9000-£15000 depending on the course. Sometimes there are funding options that can be availed based on your qualification and the position you currently hold.
Having a postgraduate qualification can act as a base for further opportunities in research and teaching paths. It also acts as a boost for the portfolio requirements when you apply for the speciality training programme. Doing a PhD definitely boosts your career in terms of gaining knowledge and can also help you financially.
My experience with a Master's degree
I graduated from medical school in India in 2021 and gave my PLAB 1 exam during my internship. I knew after graduating I would want to pursue a career in both clinics as well as research as I have had a niche for research since my first year of medical school. I started looking at options in the United Kingdom to build a base on research. I researched all the choices available, Master's, Postgrad Diplomas, Postgrad Certification courses. I was particularly interested in the field of Cardiovascular Sciences since this was my ultimate goal for speciality training. After looking up all the options, I decided to pursue a Master's degree in research as it would give me a chance to hone my current skills in research and further propel me in the right direction in the field of research in Cardiology. I narrowed down options at Kings College London and Imperial London which had the courses I wanted. I ultimately chose Kings for my Master's in Cardiovascular Research and it has been a very fulfilling experience so far. I absolutely love it.
Points I would like to share from my experience
1. Master's / PhD is a lot of hard work. Especially if you are preparing for clinical exams on the side like me. Learning to balance out both is very crucial.
2. It is a very knowledgeable experience but at the same time requires immense dedication and focus because it is a course on its own for an entire year.
3. If you intend on doing a course, look into the timelines of application, the financial requirements and the benefits you get out of the course. I know a lot of people who want to do courses just for their portfolio without interest. If you are thinking like that, please do not opt for the course because there will be a lot to do in terms of the syllabus of the course and you will have a crazy number of deadlines to meet. Go for the course if and only if you are truly interested.
4. The course overall gave me great exposure - working in the lab with numerous scientists from all over the world gave me an opportunity to think outside the box and broaden my concepts.
5. You should be ready to go out of clinical training for a while (in the case of Master's – 1 year).
6. Most importantly, visualize where you want to be ten years down the lane and then take a call on which course you would like to do and at what point in your life. For example, I preferred doing my Master's prior to training, but some people would prefer to do it part-time along with their training for funding opportunities.
At the end of the day, research is very satisfying if you enjoy it. Do not just do it for the sake of doing it. I see a lot of my juniors running behind finishing papers just for the sake of publication. That is not how it works. Research in its original sense means to investigate and study existing knowledge to modify/bring about new hypotheses. It is definitely time-consuming but so worth it if you love it.
If you have any questions about research opportunities in the UK, I would be happy to answer them at trewlink.com.