Postgraduate Queries: How does a nurse become a doctor? How do I get into teaching?

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The Independent Online

I nurse a wish to become a doctor

Q. I did nursing for my degree and have worked for three years in various areas, but now think I have what it takes to become a doctor. I know there is a shorter route to get a degree in medicine if you're a graduate, but am not sure how it differs from the undergraduate route. And I wonder what value might be given to my nursing experience?

A. The basic difference between the routes is that Graduate Entry to Medicine (GEM) lops about 12 months off the standard training, which is normally at least five years. Typically you would spend a year to 18 months on an intensive pre-clinical course before going straight into the latter stages of an undergraduate degree.

Competition is tough and only 20 universities offer GEM, half of whom limit places to graduates with high grades in science subjects, so you'd need to check with individual admissions tutors whether your nursing degree falls into this category.

In terms of the value attached to your nursing experience, the key factor is to market it in a way which sets you apart from the opposition! So stress how it's given you an understanding of how the NHS works, and how you've developed a good bedside manner and hands-on scientific skills. For more insights, look at www.medicalschoolsonline.com and www.bma.org.uk

Policing a future in teaching

Q. At 48, I'm nearing the end of a career in the police and considering acquiring qualifications to take me into a second career. I'm thinking of teaching a science subject or social/probation work. I'm keen to start studying now, part-time, while I'm still earning. But I've also been advised to wait until I retire, because fees might be lower then.

A. Teaching, social and probation work are logical jobs to choose following a police career, but the professional training in each case is different.

The most common way of becoming a science teacher is to get a science degree of some sort and then do a separate one-year postgraduate teaching qualification (PGCE), although there are some four-year courses that combine a first degree with teacher training. Course fees vary with the different routes, but you'll probably qualify for a tax-free bursary of £9,000 for the PGCE year. More details from the Training and Development Agency for Schools (www.tda.gov.uk).

To become a social worker, you first need to do a three-year degree and then, once in work, continue your professional training (See www.socialworkcareers.co.uk). Probation work starts with a two- year diploma in probation studies, available only to those already working in probation, so you need to apply for a training position first. However, this training path is under review. (See www.probation. homeoffice.gov.uk). On your funding question, you'll face largely the same fees whenever you start, so I'd advise getting on with it straight away.

Foreign qualifications dilemma

Q. I'm a Syrian living in Manchester with a BSc in microbiology, and an MBA in marketing, both from USA universities. I'd like to know if these qualifications are OK for me to train to be a teacher, either in schools or further education, in the UK. I have 25 years working experience in marketing and communications.

A. First, you need to get your degrees assessed by UK Naric (www.uk naric.org.uk), the organisation that evaluates overseas academic credentials. For teaching jobs in the state sector, you'll also have to prove you've passed the equivalent of GCSE-level maths, English and science. Once over this hurdle, you need to get a teaching qualification. The one that will give you most options in the future is the PGCE which is mandatory for teaching in schools (under-16s) and widely accepted in colleges and universities. For school teaching, you'd have to specialise in a specific subject, in your case probably science or maybe business. But you could also switch to a generic area, such as citizenship. See www.tda.gov.uk. Applications via www.gttr.ac.uk

If you'd prefer to teach over-16s, there are several specialist PGCEs focusing on this area. Some are listed on the GTTR website above; others involve direct application to the colleges concerned. There are also a number of teaching qualifications which fall under the heading of "life-long learning" and are gained through a range of courses at different levels. Fuller details at www.standardsverificationuk.org

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers (www.dominocareers.co.uk). Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve mccormack@ blueyonder.co.uk

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