Getting Into Medical School

Getting Into Medical School

Nov 24, 2010

How do you become a medical doctor?

In the United States, Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) are the only degrees enabling you to become a physician. Both require four years of training—after college—in the basic and clinical sciences, as well as the successful completion of licensing exams and clinical residency training. Osteopaths also receive training in osteopathic manual manipulation.

The length of your medical residency will vary depending on your specialty: from two to three years to become a family or primary-care physician, and from three to eight years to become a surgeon, urologist, cardiologist, oncologist or other specialist.

What does it take to get into medical school? 

You need commitment to follow this career path. Make sure you are interested in the field before you embark on the journey. Volunteer or employment experiences involving health care or laboratory work will help you decide whether this area truly interests you. If it does, you can draw on these experiences to explain your career motivations and describe your strengths as you complete your medical school application.

If you are in high school, select an undergraduate college with a good premedical program. For admission to medical school, you must have taken premed courses, including chemistry, organic chemistry and physics, all with the appropriate lab work. You must also have taken English and advanced mathematics, including statistics.

If you have already graduated from college, you can take post-baccalaureate courses or consider a master’s degree.

Before submitting an application and asking your referees to send letters of recommendation to the medical schools that interest you, take the Medical School Admissions Test (MCAT). This examination measures your knowledge and aptitude in reading comprehension, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry and biology. Another section requires answers to essay questions.

Carefully prepare each part of your application, ensuring that weaknesses are addressed in your essays or in your recommendation letters. An admissions committee, after reviewing all aspects of your application—grade point average, recommendation letters and extracurricular activities, as well as your MCAT scores—will decide whether to offer you an interview. Consider the interview an opportunity to show that you are a good match for the school.

Final Tip 

Find a mentor—a premed advisor or physician—to encourage you as you pursue your career choice.

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