How Long is Medical School?

How Long is Medical School – Overview

According to surveys, 150 accredited MD-granting institutions and several DO-granting institutions are in the United States. 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.

How Long is Medical School

How Long is Medical School

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 typically involve classroom learning and lab time, focusing on basic sciences and foundational medical knowledge. 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. Some medical schools employ block scheduling, where students focus intensively on a single subject or closely related subjects for a few weeks.

Many medical schools have adopted an integrated curriculum that combines subjects like pathology, pharmacology, and anatomy based on organ systems or clinical themes.

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 clinical rotations typically depends on the medical school’s curriculum design and educational objectives, not the hospital’s goals or staff strength. Clinical rotations, including surgery, vary in length between medical schools but are commonly structured to meet educational requirements and objectives, usually lasting several weeks. 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.

Students interested in academic medicine or biomedical research may benefit from attending medical schools with strong research programs and opportunities. Such opportunities are rare at medical schools focusing mainly on primary care.

Combining Degrees

You can also complement your MD with advanced courses in another discipline. Many medical schools offer dual degree programs or elective courses in other departments for students interested in complementing their MD with additional expertise.

Post Medical School

Once you have completed four years of medical school and acquired your MD, you can continue your education with postgraduate medical courses. Before this, you must pass the board exams and spend 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.

See Also

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How to Get Into Harvard Medical School

Current Version
September 22, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 18, 2024
Updated By
Franco Cuevas, MD

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