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Study Medicine in the USA
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A guide for UK students thinking of applying for medicine in the United States.

Medicine in the USAAdmissionPre-Medical StudiesExpensesApplication ProceduresRelated Postgraduate Programmes

Medicine in the USA

Getting in

Unlike medical education in the UK, medical school in the U.S. begins AFTER completion of an undergraduate degree (the degree subject does not matter but it must contain a minimum number of hours of classes on certain topics - see below). Medical school itself usually lasts four years and is followed by 3-7 years of graduate medical education (internship/residency/fellowships). In other words, all US medical degrees are graduate entry.

A few medical schools provide limited programs beginning after US high school that link an undergraduate Bacherlor's degree with a medical degree. Students are admitted provisionally to these programs based upon their high school credentials and, if their performance is satisfactory, are permitted to progress to the M.D. degree. This program generally takes six or seven years and admission to it is extremely competitive for international students.

M.D. vs D.O.

Medical degrees in the US are titled M.D. (doctor of medicine) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine). Both degrees enable the graduate to practise medicine and enter any specialty. The D.O. degree is NOT the same as a UK osteopathy degree, and all American D.O. medical courses teach the full complement of evidence based undergraduate medicine as we would recognise it in the UK and Europe, but with some additional classes on osteopathic manipulation.


Admission statistics (correct as of 2020)

There are very few opportunities for international students (including those from the UK) to obtain a medical degree in the United States. American medical schools receive over twice as many applications from qualified U.S. citizens as can be accommodated and many of the publicly-supported medical schools are required by law to admit only state residents.

US medical schools have varying requirements when it comes to accepting non-US undergraduate degrees, with some rejecting them outright and others requiring a certain number of hours or years of study to have taken place at a US university. More info via Student Doctor Network:


Even with a U.S. bachelor's degree, medical schools admit few international students since space is so limited.

In 2019, of 53,371 total applicants, there were 21,869 accepted of which 272 were international students.




All applicants to medical schools are also required to take the Medical College Admission Test. The MCAT is computer based and lasts 7.5 hours including breaks. The exam comprises four sections: Chemistry and Physics, Biology/Biochemistry, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, and Psychology and Social Sciences.

Test dates are available multiple times throughout the year:


The admissions process in general terms

Medical school admissions committees will consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to admit a student to their medical program:

  • undergraduate academic record,
  • scores on the MCAT,
  • letters of recommendation,
  • extracurricular activities,
  • personal qualities and
  • commitment to medicine.

Pre-Medical Studies

The majority of American students who intend to apply to medical schools take their Bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry or another science-related subject, although this is not mandatory (or even encouraged). The nature of US higher education allows students to complete classes in a variety of different subject areas which may not have any direct relevance to the ultimate title of their degree e.g. a science undergraduate may be able to complete a class in the humanities: something which would not be possible in the UK.

A "pre-medical curriculum" is a minimum number of hours of subjects including Calculus, Psychology, Biology, Organic/Inorganic Chemistry, Physics and English. Note that a "pre-med" degree does not guarantee entry into a medical school and may not be the best curriculum for all students, depending upon your individual interests. It is also possible to take this sequence of subjects while majoring in an unrelated subject.


Annual tuition, fees and health insurance at public medical schools in 2019-2020 averaged $37,556 for state residents and $61,858 for non-residents. At private schools, tuition and fees averaged $60,665 for residents and $62,230 for non-residents. These figures do not include housing or living expenses.

International students seeking admission must be prepared to cover the entire cost of their medical training, as there are no scholarships available.

Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for federal student aid, which includes Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans. In most cases, international students will need to secure private loans or institutional loans if offered by the medical school. In some cases, medical schools require applicants to prove they have sufficient financial resources to pay for all four years of medical school or will require applicants to have the full amount in an escrow account. International students should talk to the financial aid office and admissions staff at the schools they are interested in attending to find what financing options may be available.



Application Procedures

Applications are made either to individual schools directly or, where required, through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). AMCAS is a centralized, non-profit application processing service and does not make admissions decisions nor does it advise students where to submit applications. It provides a single application form which is sent by AMCAS to as many medical schools as the student specifies, each for a fee, and this may considerably reduce the time and expense necessary for multiple direct applications. As of 2020, 145 medical schools participate in AMCAS. The AMCAS form is obtainable from:

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

655 K St NW #100, Washington DC 20001, United States

E-mail: [email protected]


Related Graduate Entry Programmes

Dentistry, Optometry, Osteopathy, Podiatry and Veterinary Science

As with medicine, these are 4-year programs which are taught only at the postgraduate level and which require an American Bachelor's degree including the pre-medical curriculum for admission. Physical Therapy is another field that is developing into a postgraduate program, although there still are a few bachelor programs in physical therapy at this time. They rarely accept foreign students. Optometry and veterinary schools usually will not even consider applications from foreign students unless they are already practicing professionals who wish to complete advanced studies.


Pharmacy is a 5 or 6-year program, consisting of a 2-year pre-pharmacy curriculum followed by 3 or 4 years of professional studies. The pre-pharmacy segment is similar to the pre-medical curriculum and may be completed at any university offering those courses. The professional segment must be completed at one of the 72 recognized pharmacy schools. Admission to pharmacy schools is highly competitive, especially for foreign students.

Source: Fulbright Commission

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The original content for this page was taken from this thread by "Hurricane" and updated by Democracyin July 2020.

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