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Medical Study Abroad

The Opportunities—and Advantages—Are Many

The American system of medical education has four stages: a general undergraduate education that includes basic sciences such as chemistry, physics, and biology. Then there’s undergraduate medical education (medical school), which teaches basic medical knowledge and skills, concluding with the M.D. degree. That’s followed by graduate medical education, better known as residency training, where you train for a specialty like pediatrics, surgery, or gynecology. Finally, there’s postgraduate education for keeping abreast of recent advances in medical science or research specialties.

The big hurdle is getting into medical school in the first place. In the U.S. 179 medical schools offer some 20,000 spots. The applicants to admissions ratio is about three to one. But many students who would make darn good physicians just don’t have the grades to even warrant applying.

What are the opportunities for medical study abroad? Almost 90 countries with over 300 medical schools offer a medical education in English. And no MCATs! Most older students, who have virtually no chance at a U.S. admission, often find themselves welcomed at foreign universities.

Some overseas medical schools are absolutely free (though you will need to learn and study in the native language) while in others you can study in English for as little as $1,800 per year tuition at the time of this writing.

Eastern Europe is presently leading the field in low-cost medical education. While the schools are lacking in some technologies, they offer a lot more "hands-on" experience resulting in more self-reliance as opposed to reliance upon machines.

But what about after graduation? What good is a medical degree if you can’t practice in the States? First you must ascertain whether the medical school you want to attend is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is listed in its World Directory of Medical Schools. If it is, graduates are able to sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

The World Directory lists medical schools by country, in what language(s) courses are offered, when the school was founded, how many years of study are required, and much, much more.

If medicine is what you really want, don’t give up if you get turned down by a medical school in the States. Learn about all your options abroad. After all, the only thing you stand to lose is your dream of medicine.

Note: Of the many medical school recruiters, especially for Eastern Europe, some are very helpful and charge a reasonable fee. Others charge the equivalent of first-year tuition.

For More Information on Medical Study at Home and Abroad

World Directory of Medical Schools are compiled online by the World Health Organization.

Statistics about medical school applicants, matriculants, enrollments, graduates, GPA, and MCAT averages. and school lists can be found at

United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)


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