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A Brief Synopsis of Medical School - Medical School Requirements

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You've completed your medical school requirements and medical school admissions process, and now you've been accepted. Congratulations!

Here's what you can expect to experience in the coming years.

The first two years
Most medical schools run a four-year program, the first two years of which you'll continue to spend much of your time in the classroom and the lab. The courses you'll take are the ones that will give you all the fundamentals you need to start learning the art of medicine and patient care. They will also prep you for the first of your licensing exams, which you must pass to move on to the third and fourth years of medical school.

Undergraduate science courses teach you the basics you need to know before you dive into the really good stuff (they were most likely part of the medical school requirements you've completed, and were probably essential to your medical school admission). Now is when you really start putting the pieces together and start studying the complexities of the human body. Although it may vary a bit from school to school, you can expect to take classes that deal with the following topics during your first two years:

  • Neurosciences
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Physiology
  • Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
  • Human Anatomy
  • Genetics
  • Cell and Tissue Biology/Histology
  • Clinical Ethics
  • Biochemistry
  • Human Development
  • Pharmacology

You will probably also have the opportunity to take courses that deal with things you may encounter as a physician that aren't necessarily science based. For example, some schools offer courses on how to interact with patients in an effective and respectful manner, public health issues, gender, race, and religious issues in medicine, death and dying, and the legal or economic aspects of the healthcare profession.  Schools offer a wide variety of elective courses that deal with many topics of interest, so you should have the opportunity to study non-mandatory topics or issues that interest you.

Your first licensing exam
After you complete your first two years of school, you must take Step 1 of the USMLE, or the United States Medical Licensing Exam. This is the first of a series of three exams you must take, and it measures your ability to understand and apply basic science concepts to medicine. If you can demonstrate mastery of these concepts and pass the exam, then you can move on to your third and fourth years of medical school. Consider this an addition to your requirements for medical school (for the second 2 years, at least).

The second two years
You really start getting down to the practice of medicine during the last two years of medical school. You'll continue to take classes, but also spend a significant amount of time completing rotations in hospitals and clinics. These are the years where you learn by watching and doing. You'll probably cover a little of everything including obstetrics, family practice, psychiatry, surgery, and emergency medicine -- just to name a few. In general, your third year rotations cover more of the fundamental areas that all students need to learn, but during your fourth year, you may be able to choose rotations in areas that interest you.

Choosing your path
Late in your third year or early in your fourth, you'll need to begin applying for residency.  Hopefully, you will have completed enough clinical rotations to be sure about what specialty you want to pursue, and this will help you choose which residency programs interest you. Interviews for residency usually occur from December to February of your fourth year, and matches are announced in March of your fourth year. At this point, you'll also need to work on your residency personal statement, and to do so, you'll be best off using the expert essay editing service of EssayEdge.

Licensing exam, Part Two
Near or at the end of these last two years, you must take and pass Step 2 of the USMLE, which evaluates your medical knowledge and diagnostic and clinical skills. Your scores on this exam, as well as those from your first exam, play an important role in your residency placement, as they are often used by medical schools to rank their residency applicants.

The last test
After you've completed your M.D and passed the first and second phases of the USMLE (which you can take more than once), then you can take Step 3 of the USMLE. Usually, students take this test during their residency, and they don't take it right away. The recommended time limit for completing the sequence of USMLE exams is seven years, but time limits are established by the state medical boards, so it depends on where you're seeking licensure. However, most use the recommended seven years as the time limit to complete all of the exams. Upon successful completion of this test, you'll officially be licensed as a practicing physician.

You've completed your successful transition from medical school admission requirements to licensed practicing physician.

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About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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