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Why Get a Degree in Medicine?
A degree in medicine, also known as an allopathic medicine degree, is a postgraduate degree conferred on those who complete the education and training necessary to become a doctor. In the past those wishing to pursue a degree in medicine would initially take a 4 year course in pre-med, but recently obtaining a bachelor's in a related field, such as biology, chemistry or engineering has become common place.
Though any bachelor's degree along with a high Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) score can be used to obtain admission to medical school, pursuing a related major helps prepare students for the kind of work and knowledge necessary to be successful. Most schools require that students complete the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) prior to graduation. Those who successfully complete a medical degree program are given the title of M.D (Doctor of Medicine) and are qualified to become physicians.
Careers in Medicine
The medical field provides professionals with a wide swatch of career options. There are approximately 150 accredited medical schools in the United States. Med schools on this list award a Medical Doctor designation to graduates. Additionally, there are around 30 accredited medical schools that award a Doctor of Medicine. A doctor can be a graduate of a college of medicine, dentistry, osteopathy, podiatry, chiropractic, optometry, or veterinarian medicine. Graduates can then go on to pursue medical careers as a licensed:
Med School Requirements
While every university will have their own admissions criteria, the degree programs and courses will be quite similar. As such, we have gathered essential admissions data from years of research. Our goal is to help prospective med school students understand the admissions process and connect with schools that make sense through our portal.
Students will need to have a qualifying four-year college degree prior to applying to a medical school. Qualifying bachelor's degree programs must include prerequisite programs that may typically include organic chemistry, biology, English, physics, and general chemistry. There are distinct differences between the requirements for a Medical Doctor programs and Doctor of Medicine degree detailed out below.
Medical Doctor (MD) College Admission Requirements
A specific application is required for students interested in applying to med schools conferring a MD designation. Students must utilize the AMCAS or American Medical College Application Service application. The AMCAS application contains 9 different sections including: 1) transcripts, 2) personal information & work experience, 3) extracurricular activities, 4) memberships, 5) letters of evaluation, 6) awards, 7) desired medical schools, 8) written essays, and 9) standardized test scores such as MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, and/or MAT.
Several medical schools offering MD designations also offer dual degree programs like the MD/PhD or MD/MPH. A dual degree will serve specific purposes for the student and university with varying areas of specialty and emphasis. Case in point, a MD/PhD track will frequently lead students into faculty positions at medical schools, research institutes, and universities while the MD/PhD dual degree will invest in research and patient-facing activities.
After successful completion of the MD program, students connect with the NRMP (National Residency Match Program) and gain entrance into a qualifying residency program in their area of specialty. The final step in the process is to sit for the required 3-part United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) needed to earn licensure as a medical doctor.
Doctor of Medicine (DO) College Admission Requirements
Doctor of Medicine students will utilize the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). The AACOMAS application will include a number of similar features as the AMCAS. Elements of the AACOMAS include applicant information, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement from a prospective Doctor of Medicine.
Upon completion of the DO program, students get matched to one of five-hundred osteopathic residency programs. After students complete their residency, they must then sit for the COMLEX-USA examination to be eligible for medical licensure in their state.
Job growth in the medical field is expected to expand over the next decade due to various factors, such as an increasing trend toward obesity, an aging population and increased life expectancy. Demand for physicians in particular is expected grow faster than average. Those willing to work in lower income and rural areas will also have an easier time finding work. Physicians can choose to specialize in a particular field or practice general medicine.
How Long is Medical School?
Medical school will typically take four years to complete. For a physician and other specialty doctor’s, however, another 3-7 years will be spent in a residency program which must be added to the list below. For the first two years of med school, we have detailed out a few requirements for the first two years and the second two-year span of time.
Medical School, Years 1-2: The first 2 years of med school will be a mix of lab and classroom time. The classes required by colleges and universities require students to take general education courses like psychology and sociology to help understand human behavior coupled with science-rich classes such as pathology, biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, pharmacology, and physiology.
Course clustering four to five similar subjects is common for med schools as a way to aggregate knowledge in common areas. For example, some schools invest an entire class on a particular organ of the body followed by another such class and tie each class together by understanding the interdisciplinary nature of body organs within the human body system. Students will need to sit for the USMLE Step 1 at the completion of their second year of med school.
Medical School, Years 3-4: Students in year 3 and 4 of med school, will begin their clinical rotations with school-approved hospitals and medical institutions.
Clinical rotations are designed to help marry the academic elements of classroom-based learning with pragmatic hands-on experience in a real-world setting. While performing clinical rotations, med students will often align themselves with a specialty (pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, oncology, etc.) and begin to communicate with patients about medical events and treatments. Before completing year four of the program, med school students will need to sit for the USMLE Step 2.
Top Doctor Specializations
There are myriad vocational tracks for professionals holding a DO or MD that can be broken into 3 job clusters. The three primary areas of specialization for medical professionals include 1) surgical, 2) medical, and 3) diagnostic.
Surgical doctors are medical specialists focusing manually operative and instrumental techniques to help treat diseases. The American College of Surgeons has formally recognized a total of 14 surgical specialties that include: cardiothoracic surgery, colon & rectal surgery, general surgery, gynecology & obstetrics, orthopedic surgery, otorhinolaryngology, pediatric surgery, gynecologic oncology, neurological surgery, plastic surgery and urology, ophthalmic surgery, oral & maxillofacial surgery, and vascular surgery.
Surgical doctors perform a number of procedures where elements can include one or more of the following:
- Time-bound: emergency, elective, semi-elective
- Procedure-based: transplant, replantation, amputation, reconstructive
- Purpose-driven: cosmetic, exploratory, therapeutic
- Invasiveness: minimal invasiveness to open surgical
- Equipment specific utilizing: scalpel, laser, microsurgery, robotic
Medical Doctors are specialists invest resources in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of a variety of known and unknown diseases. With patients in this arena being dependent upon medical care, doctor’s in this area of specialty are often found working in a hospital. The 16 primary specialties within internal medicine include: oncology, sports medicine, pulmonology, pediatrics, oncology, hepatology, hematology, infectious disease, neurology, nephrology, geriatrics, cardiology, vascular medicine, critical care, gastroenterology, and endocrinology.
Diagnostic doctors are specialists in pathology. They are highly trained doctors that diagnose and manage changes in body fluids and tissues caused by diseases. A diagnostic doctor can specialize in the following:
- Clinical Laboratory Sciences: hematology, cellular pathology, clinical microbiology, clinical chemistry, transfusion medicine, and clinical immunology
- Pathology: cytogenics, morphologic, flow cytometry, physiologic, gene rearrangement, polymerase chain reaction, and fluorescent in situ hybridization
- Clinical Neurophysiology: evoked potential, electromyography, electroencephalography, nerve condition, polysomnography, and evoked potential
- Nuclear Medicine: studying organs with radiolabeled substances and imaged by a PET or gamma scanner
- Diagnostic Radiology: ultrasonography, x-rays, nuclear magnetic resonance tomography, and x-ray computed tomography
Employment Outlook for Doctors
Doctors and physicians will experience a 14% increase in job growth through 2026 adding 99,300 highly paid, well trained medical professionals to the field. The rage of growth for physicians is more than twice the average composite for all professions in the United States. The primary driver for this increase for highly trained, well qualified medical professionals can be explained via a growing and aging population.
Top States of Employment for Surgeons
Top Paying Cities for Surgeons
|New York-New Jersey||$247,870|
Average salaries for physicians can range wildly based on location and specialization. Primary care physicians had a median annual salary of $186,000 per year; those practicing medical specialties had a median annual salary of $340,000 per year. Physicians with their own practice can earn significantly more than those who are salaried.
Resources for Med Students
Those interested in a medical degree may also wish to consider a degree in osteopathic medicine. For additional information about a career as a doctor, read our Definitive Guide to Becoming a Doctor. Our guide includes various medical career paths, vocational outlook in medicine, income, and med schools by state.