Steven Gist (USA)

Medical School in The U.S.

by Steven Gist | February 13, 2012 | Steven Gist (USA) 0 Comments

In my work with non-U.S. students, I’m often asked about the possibility of going to the U.S. to train to become a medical doctor. If this is something you’re considering, this blog post will help you understand the basics of medical training in the States, as well as the opportunities and challenges for non-U.S. students wanting to pursue this educational path.

Medical training in the U.S. takes about eight years. This is usually a combination of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a U.S. college or university (to obtain the prerequisite courses needed to apply to medical school), and a four-year medical degree from an accredited U.S. medical school.  These eight years are typically followed by two years of residency to begin specialization.

In addition to studying the prerequisite courses needed to apply to medical school, students must also take the Medical College Admission Test , commonly referred to as the “MCAT”.  More information about the MCAT can be found here.

In general, gaining admission into medical school is a highly competitive and challenging process for U.S. students. As you will see in the section below on medical school and international students, it is an even more competitive and challenging process for international students.

In 2010-2011 the median total cost of attendance was $49,298 US and $66,984 US for public and private universities, respectively.  There are not many scholarships or grants available for medical school in the U.S., and most students finance their training using loans.  In 2010, the median debt at graduation was $150,000 US at public institutions, $180,000 US at private, and $160,000 US combined.  This does not include the cost to obtain one’s four-year degree prior to entering medical school.

U.S. Medical Schools and International Students
Gaining admission to a U.S. medical school can be challenging for non-U.S. students. Much of this is a funding issue. Since international students don’t have access to funding sources that are available to most U.S. students, there is a fear that non-U.S. students will lose funding before they can complete their education. And since the tuition that medical students pay doesn’t actually cover the cost of medical training, medical schools are wary investing in students who may not be able to complete their training.

Because of this, some U.S. medical schools don’t admit international students, and those that do require students to show the ability to pay two to four years worth of educational costs up front ($40,000 to $200,000 US).

Non-U.S. students determined to pursue medical training in the U.S. should visit the following websites, and also consider if loans or funding would be available from their home country. international.asp

In addition to funding issues, of the 125 or so medical schools in the U.S., only 50 accept non-U.S. students. These tend to be the more expensive private universities.

To give you an idea of how challenging the admissions and funding process is, consider that in 2003, the American Association of Medical Colleges reported that of the 559 international students that applied to medical school in the U.S., only 82 actually enrolled. And so, of the 16,538 students that entered U.S. medical schools in 2003, only 82 were non-U.S. citizens.

Most of this information comes from an excellent article that can be found on the website for the National Association of Advisors for Health Professions. In fact, I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety at the following URL:

Another great article at this website lists most of the medical schools in the U.S. along with their admissions policies toward international students. This can be found by following this link:


  • Consider an MD/PhD. These programs are highly competitive but may be more open to international students.
  • Consider an international medical school either in your home country, the Caribbean, or another country.

In Summary

Medical training in the U.S is an expensive, lengthy and competitive process. International students who are committed to medical training in the U.S. must be outstanding students with the ability finance $180,000 to $250,000 US (or more) in educational and related costs over the course of four years. The total cost of a student’s education will vary depending on the cost of education prior to entering medical school.  This is usually three to four years at a U.S. college or university, which can cost between $60,000 to $200,000 US, depending on financial aid awards.

In addition to considerations of time, cost and competitive admissions, those that plan to return to their home country to practice medicine need to consider what their government (or the entity that regulates licensure for medical doctors in their country) requires of foreign-trained physicians to become licensed practitioners.

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