Education & Reference / How Many Years Is Medical School

How Many Years Is Medical School

If you want to be a doctor—whether you aspire to do reconstructive surgery, administer anesthesia, or treat cataracts—your first steps are clear: Fulfill your premed requirements and go to medical school.

You probably already know that medical school admissions are a challenging enterprise. Those who've succeeded, however, are often quick to point out that it is a small price to pay for the rewards reaped. You also have some help in the form of this book. In this chapter, we'll guide you through each step of the medical school admissions process, describing the hurdles you'll have to leap and the potential pitfalls. There are seven key components to the process, and all are worth separate and special consideration, as admissions committees will carefully assess your performance on each one. They are as follows:

Medical schools share a general application process, but individual schools can vary significantly in how they evaluate candidates. Here are some across-the-board commonalities: Every admissions committee does an initial evaluation by way of some type of admissions index. This is a system that assigns a set of points or category ranking to each applicant based mainly on his or her GPA, MCAT scores, and other objectively quantifiable elements from the primary application. For example, a certain number of points might be assigned to a candidate who has to work more than 20 hours a week to pay his or her way through college. This index is most commonly used in the first round to eliminate low-performing students from further consideration. It may also be consulted in later rounds for decisions between close candidates, but this is less common.

If a student's application achieves the initial minimum index, the admissions committee then reviews his or her subjective criteria—the extracurricular preparation, letters of recommendation, and essays submitted with the primary and secondary applications.

Most top schools also consider subjective aspects of a student's academic record in this phase, such as the type and difficulty of courses taken, GPA trends, special academic projects undertaken, and the reputation of the major or school attended. Students who pass this more subjective evaluation are then offered interview spaces. After the interview, the interviewers' impressions are prepared for the student's file and final admissions decisions are made, either on a case-by-case basis or with groups of applications being ranked by committee vote.

How many years is medical school?

The traditional medical student is one who prepares for and applies to medical school during college, entering a program directly upon graduation from his or her undergraduate institution. Although there is no prescribed order in which students should complete the academic requirements for medical school (which are primarily entry-level courses), most premeds do so during the first few years of college. That said, you can arrange your pre-med courses in any way that accommodates your schedule. If you feel that your academic record will suffer if you follow the standard timetable, don't adhere to it! Think creatively and find your own path.

The education at a medical school lasts for 4 years. The requirements are the same for students who are considering allopathic or osteopathic medicine. The following table is an outline of a typical premedical curriculum for a traditional, full-time undergraduate student:

Freshman Year
  • One year of general chemistry
  • One year of calculus
  • One year of biology
  • One semester of English
  • Introductory major requirements (optional)
  • Explore all the various specialties of medical practice.
  • Begin a health-care-related volunteer job or internship.
  • Research academic societies, premed clubs, and other student organizations and consider joining one.
  • Visit your school's premed advisor, review course requirements, and create a premedical game plan.
  • Continue investigating medicine. Is it right for you? Develop personal and academic goals. Write them down.
  • Build relationships with professors who can later serve as mentors, offer you the opportunity to participate in research, or write recommendations on your behalf.

Sophomore Year
  • One year of organic chemistry
  • Other introductory major requirements
  • If you had a positive experience your freshman year, continue with the same extracurricular activity; if you didn't enjoy it or were not sufficiently challenged, begin a new one immediately.
  • Toward the end of the year, begin researching medical school programs.
  • Continue seeking relationships with professors and begin a list of those who might write your recommendations.

Junior Year
  • One year of calculus-based physics
  • Upper division major course work
  • Begin drafting your personal statement in early spring.
  • Request applications from non-AMCAS medical schools in April.
  • Collect letters of recommendation to send in September of your senior year.
  • Take the April MCAT. This is the best month to take it, if you have a choice.

Senior Year
  • Finish remaining premed requirements.
  • Finish remaining major/university requirements.
  • Take upper-division or graduate-level courses in medically related subjects such as physiology, histology, pharmacology, and anatomy, if you have time. This will allow you some breathing room during the first two years of medical school.
  • Do more comprehensive research about the medical schools to which you applied.
  • Complete secondary applications and send in letters of recommendation between September and January.
  • Submit FAFSA.
  • Prepare for interviews and wait for invitations to interview. Interviews typically take place in the fall, winter, and, at some schools, early spring.
  • Interview and wait for letters!

Bear in mind that this list represents only the minimum requirements for admission to most medical school programs. Some medical schools ask applicants to take additional courses as prerequisites to their programs. If you have your heart set on a certain medical school program, you should do research about its prerequisites.
  1. GPA - the realm of education and standardized measurements within a subject area.
  2. MCAT -The Medical College Admission Test - a computer-based examination for medical students.
  3. AMCAS - The American Medical College Application Service - run by the Association of American Medical Colleges to help students apply to various schools in the US.
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