A common question many potential applicants ask is, “How long is medical school?” It is a valid question because before getting into anything, especially a lifelong dedication like medicine, it is wise to find out exactly how much time is required.
The road to becoming a doctor is a long one. First, you will need to graduate from college. Next you will need to graduate from medical school. Lastly, you will need to finish your residency and fellowship.
To answer the question of how long is medical school, it is not enough just to tell you about medical school itself. Instead, I would rather talk about the medical training as a whole.
Most likely, if you are serious about attending medical school, you are already in college or are planning to attend college. You will need to graduate from college before you can matriculate to your medical education. Many people can graduate college in around 4 years. Obviously, if your take on extra courses, it could take you longer.
Afterwards, it will take most people another 4 years to finish medical school. Why most and not all? Because a few people fail. They will need an extra year.
And after graduating, the medical training is not over. Residency and fellowship (which is additional training after residency) awaits. They can last anywhere from 3 years to 6 years. So as you can see, it’ll take at least 7 years after college before you can practice medicine in the United States.
Breakdown of a Medical Education
In the first and second year, you will be mainly in the classroom. You will be building upon your foundations of medicine by studying anatomy, physiology, pathology, and other courses. Most of my friends who have gone through medical school consider the first 2 years the hardest.
After the two classroom years, it is supposed to get easier.
You will get a summer break between first and second year. It is the ONLY summer break during medical school. So be sure to make the most of it.
In the third and fourth year, you will mainly be in a clinical setting (most likely a hospital). You will be following attendings and residents around learning the tricks of the trade. You will also experience the joy of getting “pimped,” which basically means the doctors ask you questions and will make you feel stupid if you get the questions wrong. The rotations will rotate among the different medical fields, such as family medicine, surgery, and more. You will get a taste of different fields before deciding which field of medicine and which residency to apply to.
After graduating from medical school, you are officially a doctor. However, you cannot practice medicine until after you have finished residency. If you are going into general medicine, such as family medicine or internal medicine, you will finish residency in 3 years. However, if you go into neurological surgery, you will finish residency in 7 years.
Answer to: How Long Is Medical School?
So the answer to the question, “how long is medical school,” is 4 years.
But medical school alone is not enough to practice medicine as a doctor. If you include residency and fellowship, you will need at least 7 years from the first day of medical school before you can practice medicine in the United States. If you are specializing, it will most likely take longer.
Therefore, it will take at least 11 years from the first day of college before you can practice as a doctor:
- 4 (or more) years for college
- 4 (or more) years for medical school
- 3 (or more) years for residency
Want to Learn All About Medical School?
Currently, I am on my second year of medical school.
I am documenting what I have experienced so far, hoping that it will benefit you. And if you are planning on attending medical school, browse through the “how to get in” section for advice on how to get accepted. If you are already in medical school, visit the how to survive medical school section for tips regarding each course.
This article is part of the Get into Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about getting accepted into medical school.