Choosing your medical elective

Introduction to your medical elective

Medical electives were instituted as part of the medical curriculum in the 1970s, and for many students, are one of the highlights of undergraduate medical training.

Medical electives provide a fantastic opportunity for you to broaden your medical education.

Electives can be undertaken in the UK. They can also provide the opportunity to travel overseas, experience a different culture and health system, and encounter a range of medical conditions seldom seen in the UK. Most students complete their elective during their final or penultimate year at medical school.

Medical electives provide a fantastic opportunity for you to broaden your medical education by spending part of your course (about eight weeks) working abroad or in this country. It is very much up to you where you go and what you do. However, in many medical schools the Dean's approval will be necessary, so check this at an early stage.

It is important that you start thinking about your elective well in advance. Unfortunately, many students make the mistake of underestimating the amount of effort required in organising a successful elective.

Remember: funding awards will go to those with the best, most detailed plans.

This guide aims to assist medical student members to organise their elective, by collating the available information and including a rough timeline for students to use when planning their elective.

The ultimate responsibility is yours, and your elective will only be as good as you make it.

There is a lot to organise and numerous forms to complete when getting everything ready for your medical electice, but you will be rewarded with the experience of a lifetime.

Blog for us on BMA Communities

Love to write? Want to blog when you're away on your medical elective?

Tweet us your pics, videos and thoughts when you're away on your elective to @BMAstudents with #MedElective

We're looking for med students to tell us all about their elective experiences whilst they're away, on future doctors our dedicated space for medical students on BMA communities.

Get in touch with our communities team and tell us:

  • who you are and where you study
  • where you're going on your medical elective
  • what you want to gain from your time away

We'd love to hear from you.


Sign in to read the full guide and download our helpful checklists.

Watch our short video highlighting the questions you need to consider first.

This page is available exclusively to BMA members.

BMA members