Have you dreamed about becoming a medical doctor? Do you love science and care about the well-being of people? Or are you more interested in the money and status that come with being a doctor? Do you know how long it takes to become a practising doctor? Is it something you have a passion for? Medical doctors are in short supply in South Africa and therefore they are one of the jobs listed on the critical skills list.

Many people are attracted to the idea of becoming a doctor – and this is a great ambition to have. In reality, you need to know from quite a young age that this is something you are passionate about studying. It takes great effort – at school, at university and as an intern – to qualify as a doctor.

What do you need in order to study to become a doctor?
The matric requirements in order to be able to study as a doctor are quite stringent. Each university calculates what you need to get into to a medical degree in a slightly different way – based on both your matric marks and the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) that you will write after applying to university.

You will need the following matric subjects and marks:

Maths, Physics and English – the minimum average mark for these subjects differs from university to university but they must be over 50% at the very least.

Your overall average for Grade 12 (excluding life Orientation that doesn’t count) must also be over 50% – usually it is 70% or higher.

The reality is that you will actually need much higher marks than these. This is the base line but, because there is fierce competition to get into these courses, your marks may well have to as high as 90% to get into some universities.

This is why it’s important to know that you really are interested in studying medicine as soon as possible. You will then need to work towards this goal through high school.

It is possible to start studying another university course in the sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc.) and, if you do really well in your first year, you may be allowed to change over to a MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree).

How long do you need to study to become a doctor?
– You have to study full-time at university for 5 years
– You then need to complete 2 years as a medical intern before you apply to the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) to become a medical doctor
– After that you complete 1 year of compulsory community service

This means that it takes 7 years to qualify as a doctor and then another year before you are free to practise either in the public or private field.

Should you wish to specialise in a specific field such as gynaecology, neurology, otolaryngology (ENT) etc. then you will need to study for another 4 years or more.

What are GPs?
– GPs are General Practitioners who are generally the first-line doctors that you see when you’re feeling unwell
– They usually treat individuals over a long period of time
– They diagnose problems and treat these when possible
– They refer patients to specialists if this is required
– They keep detailed records of their patients over many years

What kind of person should you be to become a doctor?
– interested in science and medicine
– interested in helping people
– organised
– prepared to work long hours
– listen carefully to patients
– tactful and diplomatic
– caring
– be able to work on your own and with a team
– professional

Where can you study to become a doctor?
You can study to become a doctor at one of the following universities:

– University of Cape Town (UCT): www.uct.ac.za
– Stellenbosch University: www.sun.ac.za
– University of the Western Cape: www.uwc.ac.za
– University of the Witwatersrand: www.wits.ac.za
– North-West University: www.nwu.ac.za
– University of Pretoria: www.up.ac.za
– Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: www.nmmu.ac.za
– University of KwaZulu-Natal: www.ukzn.ac.za

NSFAS funding is available for all these universities.


Career Wise Bursary Service is the partnership organisation for these medical bursaries: W K Kellogg Foundation South African Scholarship, Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Scholarship and the DSV Trust: https://careerwise.co.za/bursaries/medical/

There is a long list of other bursaries available. See the list at: https://www.zabursaries.co.za/medical-bursaries-south-africa/

You can find out more about this field from:

Health Professions Council of South Africa: www.hpcsa.co.za

South African Medical Association: www.samedical.org

Once you have completed your training and internship as a doctor your chances of being employed are really high. You will be able to earn a very good income, whether you decide to work in your own private practice, a government or privately owned hospital, at a university or any community based health care facility. It’s definitely a career choice to think about carefully as it requires dedication but it does come with a high set of rewards. Contributing to other people’s health – even saving lives or bringing new lives into the world must be as rewarding as it gets!