Studying Medicine in South Africa: Requirements & Steps

Medicine is an extremely important course because it involves providing care for people. Every year, thousands of students apply to South African medical schools to study Medicine but the available spaces are not enough to go around for everyone.

Students who desire to be accepted must be of high academic quality due to the rigorous training involved and must meet other criteria which are non-academic. First, let’s begin by outlining the medical schools in South Africa.

List of medical schools in South Africa

There are nine medical schools in South Africa, all of which are under the Faculty of Health Sciences of universities. Below are the medical schools in South Africa:

  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • University of Stellenbosch
  • University of the Free State
  • Walter Sisulu University
  • Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (previously known as MEDUNSA)
  • University of Limpopo

All these medical schools award the MBChB degree except the University of Witwatersrand which adopts the MBBCh degree.

What are the requirements to be accepted into a medical school in South Africa?

Every university have different criteria and you can check them out by visiting the website of the university you wish to apply and downloading their prospectus. However, since medicine is a competitive course in many universities all around the world, it is not surprising that many nationals apply for admission in South African medical schools. Nationals from other African countries and even from India and Europe are not left out.

The diversity of applicants has brought about a “Quota System” which was introduced some years ago to address the imbalances in the demography of medical school graduates. What this means is that each university has a ratio system which determines how applications will be considered. Hence, it is easier for a black student to be accepted compared to Indians and whites, all other things being equal. This is the reason why many South Africans choose to study medicine in other countries as it can be hard getting accepted, especially if they’re not black or coloured.

What are the subjects I need in high school to become a doctor?

To get into any of the medical schools, you must have very excellent grades in high school as well as A’ levels in three subjects namely mathematics (not maths literacy), physical science and life sciences. You cannot and will not be considered for medical schools if you don’t have these. Additionally, you must be able to prove that you have done exceptionally well in your NBTs.

However, it’s important to note that the universities don’t just consider your academic results; they also look into areas of non-academic performance like leadership, sports, work experience within the health care profession and social awareness. Below is a breakdown of the requirements of some universities when considering applications:

 

 

Wits University Stellenbosch UCT
NSC Results

 

40% 45% 60%
NBT Results

 

40% 30% 30%
Non-academic Performance 20% 25% 10%

What are the costs of studying at a medical college in South Africa?

The fees of medical schools in South Africa vary but if you’re looking study medicine in South Africa, ZAR 50,000 to ZAR 70,000 is a safe estimate to consider. International students typically pay significantly higher than home students, but the exact cost depends on the institution of your choice.

How long does it take to become a doctor in South Africa?

Getting MBChB degree in South African medical schools takes 6 years. Generally, the first two years are devoted to laying a strong foundation for a career medicine by teaching basic sciences (like chemistry, physics and biology) as well as basic medical sciences (like psychology, anatomy, immunology etc).

The third and fourth year are dedicated to in-depth clinical knowledge coupled with hands-on experience at different sections of various hospitals while the fifth and sixth year are designed to be used for student internship.

How to get into medical schools in South Africa

There are three ways through which applicants can get into a medical school in South Africa.

A. Enrolling directly for MBChB from high school

This option is for those who are sure they want to study medicine right from high school. Going through this route means you must have exceptional SGCSE results as well as A’ levels in three subjects namely mathematics, physical science and life science. Additionally, you must put up a bright performance at NBTs.

B. Starting with a foundation BSc

This option is for those who couldn’t secure A’ levels in their academic results but want to pursue medicine. The idea is to study something closely related to medicine for a start and then transfer to medical school halfway through your first year or at the beginning of your second year. There are usually a specific number of slots available for people who want to transfer and the universities will inform you of the marks you need to have to effect a transfer to medicine.

C. Pursuing medicine after your BSc

This method involves pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree after which you can apply for an MBChB degree. While the tradition is that you will have to start from the first year, some universities like Wits University have a programme in place that allows suitable candidates to begin their MBChB degree from the third year.

To sum it up, here are the steps to studying medicine in South Africa

  1. Make up your mind and be very sure you want to study medicine.
  2. Visit your preferred university and download their prospectus which contains the key things you need to know.
  3. Have excellent academic results including A’ levels in mathematics, physical sciences and life sciences.
  4. Be sure you meet the non-academic requirements such as great leadership skills, good school co-curriculars, community service etc.
  5. Apply for medicine into any of the medical schools.
  6. Have reference letters as some schools will request for them.
  7. Register and perform well at NBTs (National Benchmark Tests).
  8. Wait for acceptance from the school.