Careers in medical education

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Medical education encompasses a variety of roles, including educating the public in the UK or abroad, and supporting medical students or doctors in training. Most professionals in UK medical education generally work within University settings or within public health in a Primary Care Trust. Those working for other agencies, like the World Health Organisation, have a range of backgrounds, although experience in public health issues is advantageous. Most university medical educators have had a clinical career or continue to balance a clinical and academic/teaching career as clinical academics, an option which is becoming more and more possible with the drive to involve more clinicians in the training of undergraduate medical students.

Working in the outpatient departmentPersonal qualities and strengths

Those interested in a career in medical education are often motivated by the fulfilment of making an impact on large numbers of people. They also enjoy the balance between teaching, research and direct patient care. Applicants will find experience of teaching and training others, as well as a record of research papers and conferences, helpful when applying for posts in this area. Academics tend to have acquired significant clinical experience and a proven interest in a specific area. Teaching experience is a vital prerequisite and teaching qualifications are very important for most jobs.

In preparation

Seize opportunities for teaching and research and get to know professionals working in the area. Experience working abroad is essential for working in international medical education. Postgraduate qualifications in medical education or a PhD/MD may also be mandatory for these kinds of positions. Foundation programmes which incorporate medical education are becoming easier to obtain. These posts have the advantage that they provide timetabled experience in teaching and research and often offer the option to undertake a funded qualification in the teaching and training of others.

There are several UK organisations involved with medical education. There is now an Academy of Medical Educators providing professional standards and support for medical educators. The Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME), among other activities, also hold an annual conference where delegates can share good practice.

Outlook for the future

This is a competitive area of medicine but there will always be a demand for roles in medical education. Revalidation and a drive to increase the quality of undergraduate and postgraduate training also means that this is a rapidly expanding area with increasing opportunities available to those who are interested in a career. The formation of the Academy of Medical Educators also means that there is increasing professional support and guidance.

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