Studying Medicine in the US

Studying medicine in the US generally is a bit different than studying Medicine in the rest of the world where you would be going to Medical School after completion of high school and pre-medical education. In the US, it is generally a requirement that you have a first degree in almost any discipline (given prerequisite courses in the biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics, behavioral and social sciences, and humanities). In most cases, it is advantageous to complete your undergraduate degree in any of the US Universities to apply to medical school given the high degree of competition and limited space. EducationUSA states that less than 50% of US citizen applicants actually get into medical school and it is even typically more difficult for international students to get into.

While getting into medical school would require more planning and preparation and in some cases may seem a daunting task and too much work, quite a number of international students seem to manage it very well. But the most important thing is being able to understand how it works. Your way into medical school in the US can be seen in three portions. Your Undergraduate education (4 years), your Medical school (4 years), and your residency program (3-4 years). These are the three major phases that eventually lead to accomplishing your doctorate studies in the US, and hence, you are looking at a total of 11-12 years of you go at it without any time in between. Most students take time off after undergraduate studies to prepare for Medical school and get good grades on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which is a standardized computer based exam administered in the US and internationally at test centers. 

Getting into medical school, like getting into most other competitive programs not only requires students to have good grades and good results academically, it also requires a certain degree of awareness and exposure and leadership capabilities built through extracurricular activities, work experience and volunteering in communities or professional organizations. While being an excellent student is a definite requirement, international students especially have to show something special they can bring; a unique perspective and exceptional experience that would make them different and more roundly experienced for admission committees to consider. Because the competition is high, personal attributes of candidates become just as equally important in judging who gets accepted and who doesn’t.

Though doing your undergraduate studies in the US and applying to Medical school directly is one option, it is not the only way to get Medical Education in the US. Over the years, a popular access to US Medical Education has become joining the program at a graduate level. This is to say students who have already gone through Medical school in their home country or other countries will be able to do residency programs and sub-specialize further if they can meet the entry requirements. The entry requirement in this case is a separate certification program administered by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). The ECFMG requires proficiency in English Language(TOEFL), Degree in Medicine; pass both steps of the United States Medical License Examination (USMLE) and at the end pass Clinical Skills Assessment exam.

Over the years, students that have not been able to bear the costs of going though medical school in the US seem to have favored the second option mentioned above to obtain US medical education. It has also opened doors for a lot of medical professionals who already have gone through medical schools elsewhere to pursue more specialized trainings and sub-specializations.

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