The decision to study Medicine is a huge undertaking. The decision to study Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) is an even bigger one. Several considerations must be made before anyone commits to such a programme. Let me tell you a secret – they are not all easy.


Those eligible for the course must have secured a second-class honour (2.1) undergraduate degree as well as a completed GAMSAT, the Graduate Medical Schools Admission Test. This requires the investment of study time and the €338 fee. Those with a university background in science may require studying for 4 – 6 weeks, for others it can take longer. However, the study time invested into the GAMSAT very much depends on the person. Do not forget that you can find some relatively cheap study tools from friends or from Facebook groups!

You may be interested in checking out the 2023-2024 GAMSAT Preparation Masters Series by Gold: Standard Gamsat

Many of those eligible to enter GEM have had jobs where they earned a salary. Deciding to sacrifice that for four years of fee-paying study can be challenging and not everyone can make that sacrifice. The programme requires payment of ~€15,500 per year. There are some great loan schemes, Bank of Ireland has a dedicated loan for GEM students which can be paid back within 10 years after graduation. To devote yourself to the GEM programme, it is wise to gain some experience in the medical field to ensure that this is something that is worth the personal and financial commitment.

How I made the decision

For me, choosing to study GEM was not a painless decision – my immediate family and friends can testify to this having listened to me lament about it for more than a year! Despite loving my Bachelor’s in Biomedical, Health and Life Sciences I learned that lab-based medical research was not for me. Pursuing a Masters or PhD in this area simply did not make sense and ultimately would not make me happy. I tried to push away the desire I harboured for many years to study medicine. Why? Because it was going to be hard. Because I would be anchoring myself to Ireland/Dublin for another block of four years; I would be in debt before ever earning a salary; I would be forfeiting a social life. These were the thoughts that flew through my head on a regular basis. Not the most uplifting thoughts.


Regardless of  my pessimistic thoughts concerning Medicine I applied for the GAMSAT and filled out my CAO with GEM in UCD as my first choice. I also applied for Master programmes in Public Health and Biotherapeutics both in Ireland and abroad. I had my options “covered” and sat on my decision for nine months. I rejected the decision of taking a year out to mull over my choices, I felt that it would be too intimidating and that I would find myself lost. On reflection, this may have been a good option and I have since learned that if in the face of uncertainty, simply doing nothing may help guide you.

A passion for medicine

Whilst working full time for a digital health start-up during the summer in between my degrees, I became increasingly aware of what I wanted out of a job. I am impatient – I longed for a role with an immediate impact, ideally a personal one. I missed interacting with people. During the days at the office, I got excited when I saw a meeting/brainstorming session in my calendar for that afternoon. People energise me and I work so much more productively and creatively when doing it with others. I yearned for a role where I could constantly learn, challenge myself and ideally help somebody in need. Researching and writing about health outcomes and clinical landscapes made me feel like I was constantly on the outskirts of Medicine. I was a spectator looking in. So close, yet so far away from an environment that I wanted to be in.

My reservations about sacrificing my life and freedom still held me back from making my decision. I needed guidance; I needed an insider’s perspective. So, I started to reach out to those around me. I had phone calls with my GP, I called the Registrar I met walking onto UCD campus months previously, I asked for meetings with the senior medical staff at the company I worked for. The consensus: it is doable, nothing can beat the immense satisfaction of helping someone in need, and nothing can compare to a working day that can be completely different from the previous one.

If all things go well, I will be working for approximately 40 years, I needed a job that I will be excited to do when I wake up in the morning in 15 years’ time. I had my special interests in Public Health and Pharmacology, these are interests that I could pursue with greater authority, having a medical degree. GEM is an investment and a worthy one that I have chosen to make for my future and for my job satisfaction.

If you are serious about your career, regardless of what field you are in, you are investing your time, overtime, blood, sweat and tears – why not do it for something that will make you happy? I chose to study Medicine in the end. I do not yet know where it will take me, but I know that I will be empowered to choose my right path with a medical degree in my back pocket.