Postgraduate study in medical and healthcare

Within the medical and healthcare sector, clinical roles always involve further training, but this does not mean that everybody undertakes a formal postgraduate qualification.
Doctor using laptop

Job prospects

In the healthcare profession it is very common for people to pursue further certificates and diplomas in specialist areas, for example infection control. The main benefits are that a postgraduate qualification facilitates career progression and ensures that your knowledge levels are at their optimum.

You will need a masters or PhD in order to pursue an academic or teaching career within medicine or healthcare. There are a lot of opportunities to teach within this profession as training is such a large requirement.

The options

There's a huge range of programmes available in this sector, from diplomas to PhDs in traditional medicine right through to alternative therapies. New areas of specialism include molecular medicine, pharmaceutical medicine and bioinformatics. Competition for places is intense: entry requirements are typically a minimum of a 2.1 at undergraduate level along with relevant experience.

Conversion courses

A number of new taught masters degrees are being developed, but the trend is moving towards more multidisciplinary approaches – such as biomedical engineering, photonics etc – which are open to graduates of various disciplines. Generally to do a postgraduate course in science you need to have an undergraduate degree in science as well, but many courses do stipulate that they will consider candidates with suitable relevant industrial experience.

Postgraduate study in medical science

Medical science is the science of dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease. Students with an interest in biological and biomedical sciences may wish to further their studies in this area, and there is a variety of taught and research postgraduate courses on offer through departments of science, medicine, health sciences or even engineering.

These could be in traditional disciplines such as pharmacology, anatomy, pharmacology and physiology, or in newer areas such as neuroscience and biomedical science. Taught courses on clinical, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects may be aimed at those interested in working in front-line medicine, perhaps as part of continuing professional development. At the other end of the spectrum, cutting-edge interdisciplinary research programmes are available, sometimes open to students from science or social science backgrounds.

When deciding on a course of study, it is important to choose a reputable course from a highly regarded institution with a well respected supervisor. Most departments will highlight their areas of research and sources of funding along with the specialised facilities and equipment they have available.

A qualification in medical science will provide a broad range of potential career options. Graduates may find employment in research within third-level institutions or in industry, as there is huge collaboration between both at present. Other opportunities include the pharmaceutical industry, medical sales, patent work, medical writing and teaching.

A PhD degree is usually required for independent research, industrial research and third-level teaching, as well as advancement to third-level administrative positions. A masters degree is sufficient for some jobs in basic research, applied research, product development, management and inspection.

Financial support for medical science degrees may be obtained from a variety of sources. The Health Research Board offers funding in health-related disciplines. Research institutes that have secured funding are always worth approaching and do advertise for PhD applicants as required.