When I look back at my own preparation, I was shooting in the dark. If you’d asked me for my tips on how to succeed in the Dermatology ST3 application, I’d have shrugged and mumbled ‘work hard’. There weren’t, however, the same degree of resources as are available now. It’s never to early to start preparing – yes, medical students, we’re looking at you!
The general principles remain the same – if you prepare well, you’re likely to get a post. The problem is preparing for an interview is time-consuming, stressful and can be even more difficult if you don’t know where to start.
Do the basics first
Before doing anything else, we would recommend familiarising yourself with the ST3 Recruitment website. This is the first step in your preparation. Broken down into its component parts, getting into dermatology depends on two things – your shortlisting application form score and the interview score.
While candidate scores in the two components are correlated (e.g. you are likely to score more highly on Suitability and Commitment if you have plenty of publications), the two are distinct entities. We know plenty of candidates with sparse CVs who have absolutely nailed the interview and get a post. Conversely, there are candidates every year with loaded CVs who still don’t get a post – much to everyone’s shock.
Interview performance is King
The final score is heavily weighted in favour of the interview: In 2021, there were 80 points allocated to the interview with 20.16 points available from the application form. Thus, interview performance is around four times more important than your application form. You do need sufficient points on your application form to even get an interview though.
In the remainder of this series, we’ll work through optimising your chances of success.
For those of you who haven’t graduated yet, consider an intercalated degree. A first class degree will get you 6 extra points while a 2.1 will still score you 3 points. It’s not mandatory but every little helps. You should note, however, that an extra year spent in training has a knock-on effect on your career earnings. While we don’t often flag it as such, an intercalated degree will cost you one year of consultant salary (as your career progression is delayed by a year). Despite this, we still strongly recommend intercalating – not least for the points, but because it will enable you insights that you otherwise would not have. Some people opt for management degrees, others humanities subjects. Whatever you do – you will likely learn something invaluable from the year.
We recognise that this isn’t an option for everyone though – with mounting student debt, you may not be in a position to afford another year of not earning. Don’t worry, this won’t destroy your dermatology aspirations. There’s still plenty to play for in the remaining sections.
This is always a controversial topic. A PhD scores you 6 points but takes 3 years (and you may lose your hair with the stress of it)!
A middle road might be to do an online Masters degree – some of these take a couple of years to do and could be completed alongside the Foundation Programme or IMT. This will still get you 4 points. Newcastle University offers a Masters in Clinical Research which could be completed in two years. This degree often translates into a publication which can then score you points in other categories. Some people plump for a Masters in Epidemiology. This helps get you acquainted with medical statistics, the factors that lead to disease, critical appraisal skills and can result in those all-important high impact presentations and publications!
If you don’t fancy taking on a full Masters, you could do a Postgraduate Certificate – these are usually pretty straightforward and, even better, can be completed in a few months. Many candidates opt for a Medical Education flavoured qualification here – this can be used to demonstrate your passion for teaching and score you brownie points at interview. University of Dundee and the University of South Wales both offer reputable formal educational qualifications.
Remember, the interviewers are trying to pick candidates who would be good colleagues – we don’t really fancy people who aren’t interested in helping the next generation of clinicians.
Coming up in part 2: Prizes, Publications, Presentations