Home Student & Career Tips How to Become a Medical Doctor in South Africa

How to Become a Medical Doctor in South Africa


This article contains exclusive information on the Steps on How to Become a Medical Doctor in South Africa in the year 2020. 

Medical Doctors refer to personnel that work in clinics, hospitals, medical centres, and private centres. They are the first people the patient sees on his or her visit to the hospital. They treat patients with various illnesses and diseases, as well as diagnose ailments, request for diagnostic tests to be carried out, prescribe medications, and record patient’s information. Medical Doctors often have specializations like general practice, oncology, pediatric medicine, gynaecology, dermatology, orthopaedics, amongst others. In general, all surgeons are classified as Medical Doctors.

Their job specifications vary according to their speciality and work system. Physicians who work in the emergency room work in swift, stressful environments; however, most family doctors can incorporate their schedules while working in the private care sector. There’s a reward for giving aid and assistance to people with illness and injury, but it is often rigorous and can be emotional at times. Medicine, being a well-sought course, is the top for most students, and many universities in South Africa are constantly bombarded with applications for a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery every year. Sadly, there isn’t enough space for everyone.

Becoming a doctor is an excellent opportunity for individuals who are science-inclined to be a helper to other people. In the field of medicine, there is a wide range of options to venture into that aren’t about direct patient attention. Such jobs as pathology, medical research, and tutoring are great career courses for a medical doctor.

In South Africa, medical students are given training in any of the eight medical schools where they are made to undertake four years of training involving lectures, theory, and practical training activities, as well as work placements. Students who intend to apply for this should be smart and of high academic standing.


It is the responsibility of the medical doctor to

  • Ensure the comfort of the patient and make the patient relaxed
  • Diagnose illnesses  and  diseases  and  prescribe  treatments  for  the patient
  • Do a referral to a specialist
  • Handle various patients of all ages, races, cultures, sex, religion, etc.
  • Diagnose the problems affecting the patient like Sexually transmitted diseases, rashes, diabetes, hypertension, depression, among others.
  • Check up on the patient regularly by making calls
  • Be updated on recent technologies, inventions, medicines, discoveries
  • Maintain a detailed record of patients diagnosis
  • Be in attendance for seminars and workshops relating to health
  • Share information with other professionals in the medical field as well.

To become a medical doctor, one must first of all, answer these questions:

  • Do I have an interest in medicine?
  • Am I a people’s person, or do I keep to myself?
  • Am I organized and tactical?
  • Am I professional in my dealings?
  • Am I caring?
  • Can I be discreet with the information?
  • Do I have excellent communication skills?
  • Can I work alone?
  • Am I a good team player?
  • Am I a good listener?
  • Am I responsible?
  • Am I detail-oriented?
  • Can I work for long unusual hours?
  • Am I willing to make sacrifices?
  • Can I be current with medical science?


1. Undertake Undergraduate Programs

To be eligible to study medicine, one must have outstanding performance and excel in academics in high school, in addition to passing NBT’s. You are required to complete a five-year course in Medicine and Surgery. However, Universities don’t just look at your academic performance when considering an individual for their programs in medicine. They also believe non-academic prowess in areas such as sports, leadership, work experience in the health care profession, and social sensitization. The student ought to pass the set National Senior Certificate scores and have at least five credits in English, mathematics, life, and physical sciences. A placement test is set for the student. In South Africa, medical schools make intending students go through an entrance examination to test their ability and access the similarity with that of the training course the University offers. Getting a good score helps the candidate secure a spot in medical school. You are required to complete a biographical questionnaire which shows the admissions staff your abilities in terms of non-academic activities, portraying you as a suitable candidate for medicine. Most importantly, you are asked to state what you intend to study medicine. After completing the five-year course, you are to work for two years as a clinical intern.

2. Apply for Graduate Entry Medical Programmes (GEMP)

After completing a degree in any science or mathematics-related course, you can apply for entry into a postgraduate degree program. The GEMP program is basically for students who missed the opportunity to enter into medical school. Those who perform excellently can now transfer to do a medical degree after their third year through this program. WITS University offers this GEMP, giving you a platform to enter the medical field as a graduate of any science-related course. This program runs through four years, and the candidate is required to undergo a second placement test, aside from the first test undertaken previously by the student. Candidates of GEMP have a requirement to be in attendance for an interview.

Once the course is completed, register to be a doctor with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA), and apply for jobs as a physician. With this designation, you are now qualified to put the “Medical doctor” title behind your name and answer as you wish. Then you undergo one year of statutory community service. The program offers a comprehensive perspective to health care practice, with a balance on preventive health care, promoting health at all times, rehabilitative, not forgetting the curative aspect of health care delivery.

Universities that offer Medicine in South Africa are:

  1. University of KwaZulu-Natal: In this institution, students are required to complete a total of four placement screening tests based on three major subjects: one English test, a trial in logical reasoning, and two tests in the knowledge of mathematical The University provides added specializations for the students, included as part of the degree program to be undertaken by the student, giving medical students a level platform to graduate as oncologists, paediatricians, neurologists, just about anything they desire.
  2. University of the Witwatersrand Medical School (WITS): WITS medical school located in Johannesburg requires candidates applying for medicine in their institution to undertake a test in English Language and This is to determine the candidate’s ability and mastery of these subjects. It is stipulated in the University of Witwatersrand that undergraduate candidates should complete a course running for six years and have an excellent performance.
  3. University of Cape Town Medical School: Obtaining a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree at the University of Cape Town takes about six years to complete once you get the degree and complete an internship of two years and a community service of one year, you are then permitted by the Health Professions Council of South Africa to practise freely as a qualified medical doctor.
  4. University of the Free State Medical School
  5. University of Pretoria Medical School
  6. University of Limpopo Medical School
  7. University of Stellenbosch Medical School
  8. Walter Sisulu University Medical School
  9. Nelson Mandela University Medical School
  10. Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University Medical School

Enrollment into any of these reputable institutions guarantees you a place in medical school once you’ve met the requirements. These criteria are distinct to different universities, depending on which you are applying for. Medical doctors produced from these various institutions are seasoned and competent, capable of defending themselves and their profession confidently in skills, attitude, and knowledge of medicine and the healthcare field in general. Students are further equipped with long-lasting learning skills, communication, and critical thinking. Professionalism is the watchword as they are taught teamwork, competence in clinical practice, attention to details and core values, in the various aspects of health care delivery, primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Doctor In South Africa?

Acquiring an MBChB degree in a medical school in South Africa takes an average of six years. In general, the first two years are spent laying a solid foundation for your career in medicine by learning basic sciences like physics, chemistry and biology, and other basic medical sciences, which include psychology, immunology, anatomy, physiology, and a host of others.

The next three to four years are used to acquire in-depth knowledge, in addition to hands-on practical experiences in various hospitals and clinics, while the fifth and sixth years are structured to be for Student Internship.

How Much Does It Cost To Study Medicine in South Africa?

Medical school fees in South Africa vary; however, if you want to study medicine in South Africa, a safe estimate of ZAR 50,000 to ZAR 70,000 is to be considered. Typically, international students pay higher fees than indigenous or home students. Still, it is essential to note that the exact price or cost of tuition is solely dependent on your chosen institution.

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