One of the biggest challenges that many dental and medical students face is the cost of living. With the increased price of food and bills, we’re hearing from more and more students who are having to make difficult choices.
Not everyone has a family who are in a position to support them. You may be using food banks or being careful about when you put the heating on during these colder months.
And all of this is against a backdrop of feeling the pressure to obtain extra-curricular achievements and pursue additional activities to enhance your CV for working in an extremely competitive field.
As a medical or dental student, your time is precious, and a lot of it will be taken up with studying and focusing on passing exams. However, many of you may also take up work to supplement your student loan instalments.
While it can be a balancing act to manage work and study, it isn’t impossible. So, if you’re thinking of taking on a job while studying, here are some tips for how to go about it.
Choosing what to do
The job that is right for you will be based on your skills, experience and expertise. You may have a hobby that you want to expand on to make money, or you might want to try and find a role that relates to your course in some way to gain experience before starting work.
Working in a role related to your course
You may choose to work in a field aligned to your studies. For example, dental students often work as receptionists in dental practices, and medical students might work as healthcare assistants, carers or support workers.
These types of jobs can give you an idea of what the working world might look like when you qualify, and where you’ll be spending your time as part of your chosen career path.
They can also give you confidence when dealing with patients, relatives and working within a team, as well as gauging what life is really like on a ward or in a dental surgery, rather than relying on hearsay.
Interestingly, this sort of work can teach you about responsibility and the consequences of doing your job incorrectly. For example, if you’re working as a healthcare assistant and you don’t wash a patient properly, they may develop an infection. In the dental world, working as a receptionist can provide you with experience of dealing with conflict, including what to say and what not to say.
Working outside of healthcare
Alternatively, you may decide to work outside of healthcare to give yourself a break from your studies.
There are a number of jobs you could consider, including:
- Waiting tables
- Driving (for example, Lyft or Uber)
- Being a delivery person
- Working in a supermarket
There are also many online options:
- Fiverr is a platform for any type of digital freelance work, including graphic design, web design, marketing and video editing
- Tutoring, which can be done independently or through an agency
- Social media, such as vlogging on YouTube
- Selling unwanted items through sites like Vinted or Spock
- E-commerce – for example, Shopify or Etsy
- Drop shipping, which is when the product you sell is only placed when someone places an order (for example, greetings cards)
- Creating eBooks to sell online
Choosing when to work
Creating a work schedule will come down to how busy you are during term time. You might choose to balance work alongside your studies, or perhaps decide to only work during holidays.
This will depend on the school you attend and your timetable, as well as what year of study you’re in. Some jobs can be quite flexible. For example, if you work online or sign up to an agency, let them know your flexibility so they can work around your availability.
Advantages of working while studying
- Extra cash
- Developing transferrable skills, such as teamwork
- Socialising and getting to know people outside of university
- Spending time on an activity other than studying, which may make you feel more relaxed and focused when you return to your coursework
Disadvantages of working while studying
If you don’t manage your schedule properly, working while studying can:
- Be tiring, and leave you with less time and energy for your course
- Contribute to burnout
- Take up a lot of your time
- Add to feelings of stress
There is also the potential cost of missing out on some of the fun of being a student if you’re working a lot
Weighing up your options
Once you’ve weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of working while studying, you can decide what is and isn’t feasible for you.
Medicine and dentistry courses come with their own unique challenges. If you feel like you are struggling, the most important thing is that you don’t suffer in silence. Here are some resources, should you want to reach out for support:
- Help for medical students - Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (rmbf.org)
- Money advice | BMA Charities
- Financial support for doctors and their families (doctorshelp.org.uk)
- Home | BDA Benevolent FundHardship funds: emergency cash at university - Save the Student
Medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health profession students can apply for:
- NHS Learning Support Fund if you’re studying a pre-registration nursing, midwifery or allied health profession course
- NHS bursaries if you’re studying certain medical or dentistry courses
- A grant to cover some travel expenses if you’re studying a medical or dentistry course
Students on a low income can also apply for:
It’s also worth noting that many universities offer extra help directly to students too, so be sure to check what is on offer.