Physician Education and Scholarship Center

U.S. Medical Education

The process of becoming a physician in the United States is lengthy and requires undergraduate education, medical education, and graduate education. Those aspiring to take this path are strongly encouraged to consider all aspects of both becoming and being a physician before taking the first step. PEC has compiled an abundance of data to assist you on your journey, from start to finish.

Between 1980 and 1990 no new medical schools were opened, which ultimately led to an increase in applicants to a fixed number of medical schools. This accounted for the decrease in acceptance rate. In 2007 a hand full of medical schools began to open their doors but this still has not shown any significant increase in acceptance rate. In 2012, there were 43,919 applicants of which 19,517 matriculated to one of the 137 US medical schools this represents a 44% acceptance rate. (


This means that the applications for medical schools in the United States is very competitive, so you must have the right information in order for you to compete for these positions, with the best application packet. This will give you a better chance of getting accepted into a U.S. medical school


In 2009, there were 10,945 applicants in Canada for 2,865 places available, meaning that roughly 26% of applicants gain admission to at least one of the 17 medical schools ( This is fiercely competitive because there are few medical schools.


According to the Medical School Application Guide website in 2008 there were roughly 19,000 applicants for approximately 8,000 places in 32 medical schools to study medicine in the United Kingdom meaning that there is a 42% acceptance rate into medical school. The number of positions available pale in comparison to the number of applicants.

A comparison of the U.S., Canada, and U.K. shows that you have the greatest chance of getting accepted into a medical school in the United States.




Path to Medical Education and Training in the U.S.




You must complete a 4 year program and attain a BS or BA degree from a college or university. Some of the disciplines possess a strong emphasis on basic sciences, such as biology, chemistry, bio-chemistry, physiology, microbiology, genetics, neuroscience, public health, molecular biology.


Four years of medical education at a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). After which students earn their doctor of medicine degree or MD. Alternatively, some attain a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from a college of osteopathic medicine.


The duration of residency training ranges from 3 - 7 years depending on your chosen area of interest, which upon completion, gives you the opportunity to obtain a license to practice in the U.S.


An option for physicians looking to sub-specialize in a particular field once residency has been completed. This includes one to three years of training depending upon the specialty.

If you are unable to get into medical school in the United States, you can still realize your dream of becoming a doctor by applying to Medical Schools in the Caribbean. These Caribbean medical schools utilize the US system of medical education in which the students undertake 2 years of basic medical sciences in the Caribbean and finish of the last 2 years in the United States where they undergo clinical rotations in clinics and hospitals.  CLICK HERE for more information.

Medical education does not end with the completion of a Residency Program. A physician must still obtain a license to practice medicine from the state or jurisdiction in which they are planning to practice. To view information for the different state medical boards CLICK HERE.

-Some of the information above was adapted from the American Medical Association.


Many students feel they are not qualified to attend medical school. Just like the old saying “There are many ways to kill a rat,” so also, there are many ways to get into Medical School, whether you remain in the U.S. or transition to the International Medical education system. The below graph depicts the general routes taken for those in and entering medical school. There are also options for those who may not have a high GPA, have taken time away from their education, or have had other circumstance. More options on how to continue in your path of being a doctor of medicine can be found HERE.

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