Medical Schools

Medical jobs can be very challenging and rewarding. Before embarking on your journey, you will have to choose a concentration. There are many different career paths and as many different career schools. Which program is right for you? Some concentrations include medical care, dental care, therapy and service, medical office administration and management, and technology programs. Where do you want to work? Various work locales include the hospital, doctor's office, medical laboratory, dentist's office, physical therapy office, pharmacy, and business office. Which degree program should you pursue-associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctorate? What should you look for in a career school? Some factors are convenience, focus of programs, class size, employment services, effectiveness of instructors, affordability, availability of financial aid, and accreditation.

Many people dream of a career in medicine. Is medical school the right fit for you? It takes determination, hard work, and commitment to complete the grueling years required to become a physician. Only about 50 percent of those who apply to medical schools are accepted. Some apply multiple times before achieving their goal of being accepted. The following discussion focuses on preparation to undertake and complete this goal, including undergraduate studies, selecting a medical school, applying to medical school, and accreditation of medical schools.

Undergraduate Studies

If you hope to go to medical school, great care should be taken when considering a college or university for your premedical education. You should consult guidance counselors, college guidebooks, libraries, and bookstores. You should definitely pay a visit to campuses and tour the institutions you are seriously considering for your premedical education. There are some questions that should be considered. Is the school accredited? What is the student-to-faculty ratio? Does it offer all of the required courses for application to medical school? Does it offer the type of degree you need to get accepted to medical school? What is the school's track record for placing students in medical school? What's the overall reputation of the science and mathematics departments? Is it affordable, and are you eligible for financial aid? Do you like the city and location of the school? Are there extracurricular activities that fit your interests? Does it offer your interested major? Does the school offer special programs for those interested in medical careers?

Undergraduate studies are the foundation upon which medical careers are based. Science and mathematics form most of this foundation. Most medical schools require course work in general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, mathematics, and English. Education in liberal arts is another important part of this premedical foundation. Course work in the humanities and social sciences should round out your premedical education as medical schools do place a certain amount of importance on the people side of medicine.

Extracurricular activities also play an important role and should enhance your undergraduate study experience. Collegiate or intramural sports can highlight leadership and teamwork. Volunteering at a local hospital or clinic can underscore your dedication to health care. Musical undertakings can highlight special talents that set you apart from other applicants to medical school. Publication of original research in your area of concentration can be an invaluable experience that will be noticed by medical school application committees. Summer vacations are not to be overlooked. Instead of just working, consider premedical programs that are geared toward preparation for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), or give a sampling of the medical school experience through minicourses. These programs are sometimes offered by medical schools and can provide valuable networking prior to your application at that respective institution. Remember, only half of all medical school applicants are accepted in any application cycle. You should do anything and everything within your power to increase those chances.

Choosing a Medical School

Choosing a medical school is a process similar to choosing an institution for your premedical education. You should consult college academic advisors, medical careers guidebooks, libraries, and bookstores. You should visit the campus and tour affiliated hospitals that you are seriously considering for your medical education. You should attend medical career fairs as there are typically representatives and faculty from medical schools in attendance. There are questions to be answered. Are class sizes large or small? Is there world-renowned faculty at the institution? Do you want to pursue medical research, clinical practice, or both? What electives can you undertake during your medical education? How are classes taught-traditional lectures, computer-aided learning, guided syllabi, or externships? What types of specialties do graduates undertake? Do you like the medical school's location? How will you pay for your medical education? It goes without saying that you should select a medical school that best fits your career goals. You will be spending four long, grueling years developing and honing your medical skills to go on to the next stage of your medical career. The investment of time it takes to carry out the above tasks will pay many dividends in the years of your medical career to come.

Applying to Medical School

Having done your research on undergraduate studies and medical schools, you are now ready for the task of applying to medical schools. The majority of those interested in becoming physicians apply to medical schools near the end of their undergraduate junior year. A few take advantage of early admissions programs at those medical schools offering such programs. Some work several years before pulling the trigger and applying to medical school. Others enroll in postbaccalaureate programs. Postbaccalaureate programs are designed for those pursuing medical careers after they have already received their bachelor's degrees. These programs vary and are designed to assist students needing to enhance their academic records, students underrepresented in medicine or from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, or those wishing to change direction and pursue medical careers.

You will have to prepare and register to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The MCAT analyzes your mastery of the basic sciences, problem-solving skills, and reading and writing abilities. Most students enroll in a preparation class sponsored by a company such as Kaplan or undertake a period of self-study in preparation for the exam. The MCAT is offered at various intervals from January to September. You can take the exam up to three times in one calendar year. The test is extremely difficult, and the higher a medical school's ranking , the higher a score you'll need to be admitted.

You will have to register with the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The service acts a clearinghouse for your information and, in effect, streamlines your application process to medical schools. You will have to submit an application, official academic transcripts, and the correct fees. In turn, they verify the information you have submitted and distribute it to the medical schools you have selected. Some medical schools will require you to separately submit additional information, such as a secondary application and letters of recommendation. Medical school admissions committees evaluate all the documents and information you have submitted to make their decision to grant an interview or possible acceptance for matriculation.

Medical School Accreditation

You have now navigated the maze of medical careers and find yourself accepted at your medical school of choice. Here's a bit about medical school accreditation, as this will go a long way to helping you finish the path to achieve medical licensing and have access to future training and residency programs. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) maintains the standards for accreditation of all medical education programs leading to the M.D. degree in the U.S. To be accredited, a medical education program must meet the national standards set forth by the LCME in their document "Functions and Structure of a Medical School." Full accreditation by the LCME is good for a period of eight years and is usually contingent upon periodic status report surveys administered by the committee. Graduation from a medical education program accredited by the LCME assures eligibility to take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). It also assures access to training and residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) represents all 133 accredited medical schools in the U.S. The list of U.S. accredited medical schools is public record, and you should access this list so you can verify the accreditation of the medical education programs of interest to you.

Last Updated: 09/18/2014