Many have asked what the typical medical school timeline looks like, and I wanted to do my utmost best to provide some insight on this. In every country, the route to becoming a doctor varies and since I’m familiar with the US system the best, I will be discussing that below. If you’re from another country, and your system is different please feel free to share in the comments below!
In the United States and the well established Caribbean medical schools, you are required to have completed your pre-medical requirements with a bachelor’s degree and an MCAT score to apply for med school. Just like how your pre-medical coursework was targeted to prepare you for the MCAT, the same goes with your coursework in medical school and board exams.
Medical school is 4 years, two of those years are dedicated to basic sciences and the other 2 are dedicated to clinical rotations. In your 4th year of medical school, you prepare to apply for the Match, which, if qualified, places you in a hospital for a real job. This is when you finally start getting paid, after 8 years of higher education! Here’s the breakdown:
- Basic Sciences, in classroom learning
- Molecular biology
- Cellular biology
- Behavioral Sciences
- Towards the end of your 2nd year, you will begin preparation for the USMLE Step 1, which is an accumulation of all the knowledge you have attained in your first 2 years of medical school (subjects listed above)
- Clinical Rotations
- Once you have passed your USMLE Step 1, you are permitted to enter the hospitals and begin your clinical training.
- Each school is different, but every school integrates the CORE rotations into your schedule
- The CORE rotations have shelf exams at the end of each one. You are required to pass these exams to illustrate you have gained the necessary knowledge.
- CORE Rotations
- Family Medicine
- Internal Medicine
- *** Rotations beyond these vary b/w schools ***
- Towards the end of your 3rd year, it is a good idea to Take the STEP 2 CK and STEP 2 CS, for it’s beneficial to have these scores in before ERAS opens (the Match application)
- Step 2 CK tests your clinical knowledge, it will be another multiple choice exam taken at a testing center
- Step 2 CS tests your clinical skills, and this will be taken at various locations around the US (depending on the test date you choose). This is NOT a multiple choice exam, instead, you will have 12 patient encounters in a 8 hour time span (with breaks of course). You will be examined on your interaction with the patient, the diagnosis, and of course, the patient notes.
- Apply for residency (ERAS)
- Opens September 15, you want to submit your application as close to this date as possible!
- You are able to work on your application earlier, but can’t submit until Sept. 15!
- Residency interviews
- ELECTIVE ROTATIONS
- take advantage of getting your foot in the door at hospitals you’d like to work in, for if they see your face and positive work ethic you’re more likely to match!
- Upon graduation, you finally will have a Medical Degree and can be titled Dr.
- This occurs on the 3rd Friday in March of every year, it’s the most exciting day for medical students because they find out where they will continue their medical education!
- A DOCTOR’S FIRST JOB!
- A resident is still being trained by attending’s in the specific field, but you finally get paid for the work you do- AKA start paying those students loans!
- USMLE Step 3
- usually taken after your 1st year of residency
- The test spans the length of 2 days
- It’s 500 questions testing everything you know about medicine
- FINAL USMLE exam!
- After the completion of USMLE STEP 3, you are on the road to finally being able to practice medicine without supervision (after completing your residency and passing your state licensing exams).
Medicine is long, hard journey filled with examination every STEP (haha) of the way. That is why it’s important to enter this field for the right reasons. If you’re thinking about medicine because you’ll be making money, sorry my friend, with the amount of schooling required- med school doesn’t really pay off as much! I hope this helps to provide some perspective on the road of becoming a Doctor in the United States.