How Long is Medical School – Overview
According to surveys, over 204 medical schools in the United States award MDs to undergrads. These schools are intended to train students in allopathic medicine. A much smaller number of schools also impart osteopathic medical education and award DO to graduates. Medical schools teach future doctors with a standard but rigorous core curriculum.
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However, beyond this core, no two medical schools are alike. Each medical school offers a unique academic focus, research opportunities, and teaching methods.
In general, it takes four years to complete medical school. However, you must spend an additional 3 to 7 years in residency to become a fully certified and competent physician.
Medical School Course
Let’s take a detailed look at the way medical schools work to educate and train future doctors in allopathic medicine:
Years 1 and 2 at Medical School
The initial two years of medical school combined classroom learning and lab time. During this time frame, students can take classes in basic science, biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology, pathology and microbiology. Students also learn the basics of interviewing and examining a patient during this medical school period.
Conventionally, students take around 4 to 5 courses in different disciplines simultaneously. On the other hand, some medical schools focus on a single subject for a short period, for 3 to 4 weeks, before moving to the next subject.
In contrast, medical schools take an interdisciplinary approach and focus on a single organ, examining all the pathology, pharmacology, anatomy, and behavior relevant to the particular system.
Once you finish your second year at medical school, it is time to take the USMLE Step 1 exam.
Years 3 and 4 at Medical School
The third and fourth years at a medical school consist of rotations at clinics or hospitals affiliated with your medical school. The session ends when you take the USMLE Step 2 exam.
Students doing clinical rotations assist resident doctors in a particular specialty, such as pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry or internal medicine. Students are encouraged to interact independently with patients and perform basic medical procedures under the direct supervision of the resident doctor.
The length of your clinical rotation usually depends on the hospital’s goal or staff strength. At some medical schools, surgery rotation can be 3 weeks long, while at others, it can be around three months long. The type of hospital or clinic will also influence your skills and style as a doctor.
For instance, if your rotation hospital or clinic is in an urban area, you will likely encounter emergency medicine, trauma and infectious diseases cases more often.
Clinical rotations are meant to give you a plethora of knowledge to help you choose your career path.
Research vs. Patient Care
Any medical school can train you to become a primary care physician. However, programs that emphasize primary care usually involve more patient contact, courses in patient management and long clinical rotations in general medicine.
Many medical schools are active participants and contributors to the surrounding community and offer volunteer opportunities in clinical care.
If you want to pursue a career in academic medicine or biomedical research, you should be admitted to a medical school with strong research programs. Such opportunities are rare at medical schools focusing mainly on primary care.
You can also complement your MD with advanced courses in another discipline. Some medical schools, especially those affiliated with large universities, allow students to register for classes in other departments.
Post Medical School
Once you have completed 4 years of medical school and have acquired your MD, you can continue your education with post-graduate medical courses. Before this, you must pass the board exams and spend around 3 to 7 years as a resident at a teaching hospital.
Medical schools advise aspiring doctors to be ready to study and train extensively to become successful doctors. It is a serious commitment and should not be taken lightly. Medical schools are the beginning of a lifelong commitment to helping patients, fighting diseases, and promoting wellness.