Study Medicine in USA: 7 Things to Know

The United States is not only an economic superpower, but it’s also a force to reckon with in terms of education. To date, about 1 million foreigners are studying in the USA. However, only a few get to study the competitive course that is Medicine. As it requires good grades and exceptional test scores, getting into an American medical school can be quite a hurdle. However, if you read these must-know things, you can potentially increase your chances of getting in.

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1. What are the requirements to study medicine in the United States?

The primary requirement is the completion of a 4-year undergraduate pre-medical course. While the student may take any degree, it will help the applicant if he/she has completed the pre-requisite courses of biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English.

Pre-requisites may vary according to school. At the California Health Sciences University, applicants need to take Behavioral Science courses as well.

Students also need to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which evaluates the applicant’s knowledge of biology, physics, and chemistry. This also tests the student’s critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Apart from these documentary requirements to study medicine in USA, medical schools may require other papers. At Duke University, for example, applicants need to submit four letters of recommendation and an admission interview.

Some schools may also require a personal statement and volunteer, research, or leadership experience

Most schools accept student applications through the American Medical College Application Service.

2. In what language do you study medicine in the United States?

All American medical schools teach Medicine in English.

3. Can you study medicine in the United States as an international student?

Yes. 49 American medical schools accept foreigners.

4. What are the components of the medical curriculum in the United States?

Compared to other Western countries, studying medicine in USA requires 4 years of undergraduate education. This is followed by another 3 to 4 years of medical school, wherein students can opt for an allopathic program (Doctor of Medicine or MD degree) or an osteopathic one (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or DO).

Doctor of Medicine Program

The MD program starts with 2 years of basic science courses. These often include classroom lectures in subjects such as Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Pathology, and Immunology, to name a few.

At schools such as Harvard University, subjects in Professional Development are offered as well.

Apart from lectures, schools incorporate some patient interaction during the first two years as well. Here, students learn about professionalism, humanism, effective communication, and the patient-doctor relationship.

The third year is comprised of clinical clerkship, which includes rotations in Internal Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Family Medicine, and Psychiatry. Some schools may also require rotations in Radiology, Emergency Medicine, Neurology, and Critical Care.

The last year entails more clinical clerkships, including a rotation known as sub-internship. Here, students take an ‘acting internship’ role in the fields of Surgery, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, or Obstetrics & Gynecology. Activities of a sub-intern include documenting, writing orders, performing procedures, presenting reports, and communicating with other health professionals.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Program

The osteopathic program, on the other hand, focuses on holistic care and osteopathic manipulative treatment. Although this is the case, the curriculum is somehow similar to the traditional MD program.

At NSU Florida for example, the first two years include subjects in Anatomy, Histology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Physiology, Clinical Medicine, and Medical Procedures, to name a few.

Like MD students, DO students also start their clinical rotations during the third year. In schools such as NSU Florida, some training is done in rural and underserved areas too.

Medical Specialist Program

Applicants also have the option to complete a dual MD-Ph.D. degree. This course, which is also known as the Medical Specialist Program, is available in schools such as Duke University. But since funding from this 7-8 year program comes from the National Institutes of Health, it only admits American citizens and permanent residents.

5. How many medical schools are in the United States?

141 allopathic medical schools award the Doctor of Medicine degree. On the other hand, 33 osteopathic schools offer the DO degree.

6. How difficult is it to study medicine in the United States?

The initial hurdle comes in the form of completing the studies in medicine. the pre-medical undergraduate course. According to a study, this phase sees an attrition rate of up to 50%. This is mainly due to the students’ negative experiences with completing the requirements.

In medical school, the dropout rate is comparably lower at 15.7 to 18.4 percent. However, this is still higher than the global average of 11.1%. According to a study, this attrition results from academic difficulty, social isolation, and psychological morbidity.

7. What do you need to become a doctor after you study medicine in the United States?

Aspiring doctors need to take the US Medical LicensingExam, a process that starts early on while studying medicine in USA

Step 1 is a one-day, multiple-choice exam that covers basic science knowledge. It is taken during the second year is schooling. A good score in Step 1 is essential if the student wants to enter a competitive residency training program.

Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) and Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) are tests taken during the fourth year of medical school. CK is a one-day, multiple-choice exam that assesses medical knowledge through case questions. CS, on the other hand, is a one-day test where the student documents the findings, makes a differential diagnosis and provides management for 12 cases.

Apart from taking the Step 2 test, seniors also need to apply for a residency program through the Electronic Residency Application Service simultaneously. Requirements include medical school transcripts, USMLE results, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a list of extracurricular activities, and published papers if any.

Step 3, which is the final phase of the USMLE, is taken during the first or second post-graduate year. This 2-day, multiple-choice exam covers clinical science knowledge.

After completing a residency program, which can range anywhere from 3 to 7 years, a physician is entitled to a full medical license. He/she may also opt to undergo board certification, however, this is optional.


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