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Career Spotlight: Doctor

In this episode we will explore what it takes to become a doctor. We hope this will shed some light from an insider point of view.

This podcast is a new endeavour for us and we welcome any comments that will help us improve our episodes, so let us know what you think!

Many students dream of becoming a doctor, helping people, saving lives. Shows on TV such as Grey’s Anatomy, House MD, and Binnelanders portray being a doctor as glamorous, exciting, and rich. It’s no wonder so many people strive to become a doctor.

The reality is a little different from the TV. Medical students study for 5 or 6 years and then have 3 years of service in government hospitals before they may start in private practice. Training in government hospitals include ward rounds and being on call after hours. Sadly most South African state hospitals are in less than ideal condition. Problems include shortage of supplies and medicine, shortage of permanent staff in rural hospitals, and language barriers which can all lead to mounting frustration.

Doctors have to be passionate about helping people, both young and old, of all religions, races and cultures. They have to make tough decisions about another person’s life and sometimes they can do everything in their power and still lose a patient.

Doctors work long hours during the day and also have to work night shifts and on weekends. People don’t stop getting sick or having accidents on national holidays and long weekends, which means that doctors have to work on those days as well.

Doctors earn an above average salary, but that doesn’t automatically make them rich. They have many expenses since a practice is essentially a business.

Once you are a registered physician there are many career possibilities, including private practice family doctor, medical officer in a specific field, administration, or you can choose to further your studies to become a specialist in a field that interests you. This means another 4 or more years of intensive studying.

Specialist fields are very diverse and range from a more hands-on approach (like surgery and orthopedics), diagnosing and treating adult illnesses (in internal medicine), helping patients with mental illnesses (in psychiatry), doing diagnostic imaging (in radiology), treating cancer patients (in oncology), treating only children (in pediatrics) or the elderly (in geriatrics) and many more exciting fields.

Doctors are constantly putting their patients’ needs ahead of their own and their families’ needs. With long working hours they often push through on minimal sleep to do the best they can for their patients.

If you want to become a doctor because of the perceived financial prosperity, turn around right now and find something else, because you will be overwhelmed by the amount of yourself you need to give to strangers and no amount of money can make up for that.

No, you have to be passionate about people, you have to be strong to overcome setbacks and disappointments, you have to be able to handle stress, and you have to love the difference you make in strangers’ lives.

Degree: MBChB

5-6 years

2 years compulsory internship

1 year compulsory community service

Admission requirements

NSC: 36

English/Afrikaans: 60%

Mathematics: 60%

Physical Science: 60%

Life Sciences: 60%

Medicine is a very popular field of study so don’t let the admission requirements fool you. Universities have limited availability and only the very best academic performers will be accepted.


According to you can expect a salary of between R230 000 - R790 000 per annum (R19 000 - R66 000 per month) with an average of about R440 000 per annum (R37 000 per month).

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