Study Medicine in Iceland: 8 Things to Know

Iceland is a small archipelago located below the Arctic Circle. Despite its cold temperatures, it’s ripe with geothermal and volcanic activities. These have resulted in the creation of the island, making it one of the world’s youngest nations.

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1. Why Study Medicine in Iceland?

As with most of Europe, Iceland boasts of high quality of living – and a particularly robust healthcare system. It has a National Insurance System similar to Medicare, thus allowing for free (if not inexpensive) hospital services.

This system is partly made possible by its only medical school, which helps Iceland produce 48 physicians a year. While this is arguably a small number, it is enough for the country’s minimal population.

If you’re interested in studying in Iceland, then here are things you should keep in mind.

2. What is the language of instruction?

Icelandic is the primary medium of instruction at the University of Iceland. However, many of its textbooks are in English and other languages (i.e. Danish or Nordic).

3. Can you study medicine in Iceland as an international student?

Yes. However, slots are fairly limited since there are only 60 openings every year. So, you will need to be a very good student to be able to study medicine in Iceland.

4. What are the requirements to enroll in medical school in Iceland?

Apart from having an Icelandic matriculation exam (stúdentspróf) or equivalent, applicants must take an entrance test given every June. Interested students must register for this through the University of Iceland website as early as May.

The test is administered in six two-hour sessions for 2 days. It covers subjects such as reading comprehension, informational skills, verbal reasoning, and problem-solving.

The questions are usually multiple-choice, but essay items are included in the Ethical Consideration chapter. For the latter, the student must achieve a minimum grade of 5.0.

The results of the exam help determine placement in the University as slots for the program are only limited to 60.

Apart from this stringent test requirement, the University prefers applicants who are competent in 2 to 3 major subjects (choices of English, Icelandic, Math, Chemistry, and Biology). At the same time, it will also help if the applicant is also proficient in 1 or 2 other minor subjects, including History, Psychology, Sociology, Natural Science, and Physics.

Since the course is taught in Icelandic, students must demonstrate proficiency in the language to study medicine in Iceland. Even so, those who don’t have English as their first language must submit a TOEFL or IELTS result upon applying.

5. What do you learn in medical schools in Iceland?

The University of Iceland offers a 6-year Medicine course that can be taken right after high school.

The first three years cover undergraduate or baccalaureate education. Compulsory courses in the first year include Chemistry, Anatomy, Medical Physics, Introduction to Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Cell Biology, and Cell Physiology. Clinical Method courses in Communication Science – Psychology and Physician/Patient are required as well. Students also have the option to take a course in Science Literacy.

Second-year subjects include Physiology, Molecular Biology, Pathology, Virology, Immunology, Passion, and 2 Clinical Method courses.

As for the third year, classes in Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Pathology, Pharmacology, Epidemiology, Biometrics, Research, and Clinical Method are administered.

After this BS degree, the student may proceed with the 3-year Cand. Med. Program. The course starts with subjects in Pathology, Pharmacology, Surgery, Neurology, and Imaging. These are then followed by courses in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Genetics, Psychiatry, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, and Venereology.

The last year features subjects in Preventive Medicine, IT in Health Science, Forensic Medicine, Clinical Toxicology, Rehabilitation Studies, Emergency Medicine, Management, Oncology, Anesthesia & Critical Care, and Family Medicine.

Students get their clinical exposure through the National University Hospital, which is the only tertiary medical center in Iceland. Other rotation areas include district/regional hospitals and primary healthcare centers.

Before the end of the sixth year, students must take the computerized Comprehensive Clinical Science Exam (CCSE). This is given to prepare the student for the clinical discipline final exam.

6. How many medical schools are in Iceland?

There is only one school that offers a Medicine degree in Iceland – the University of Iceland at Reykjavik.

7. How difficult is it to study medicine in Iceland?

As with most medical schools, the challenge starts with the admission process. As mentioned, students need to undergo a grueling entrance test. At the same time, they are required to be competent in 2-3 major subjects and 1-2 minor courses.

Upon entry, students must undertake fairly difficult subjects. Then there’s the CCSE, which is another difficult exam that must be completed before graduation.

8. How do you get a job as a doctor afterwards?

After studying medicine in Iceland, the student can apply for a 12-month internship. This usually consists of a 4-month exposure (at the very least) in General Practice, another 4+ months in Internal Medicine, and 2 months of Surgery or Emergency Medicine. After this, the intern will be given an operating license by the Directorate of Health.

With this license, the physician can now apply for residency training. But since Iceland is relatively small, the only specialties available include general practice and Psychiatry.

Recently, a 3-year program in Internal Medicine has been opened for Icelandic doctors. This is delivered in coordination with the Royal College of Physicians in London. Those who complete this training are given membership to the said college.

Since Iceland requires a 5-year training for Internal Medicine certification, doctors who complete the said program will need to take a 2-year sub-specialty program. This will help them attain dual certification.

In some cases, partial training in other specialties is available. As such, those who wish to train in other fields need to fly to other countries.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Europe Scholarships Page.