Physician School: Training and Schooling Information

Physicians are licensed professionals who are educated at medical schools. These schools prepare students to administer a wide range of health-care services, from routine check-ups to emergency life-saving procedures. The decisions students make about their medical education should reflect their career and scholarly goals.

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Aspiring physicians are trained at medical schools across the country, which can be found at 4-year colleges and universities. Upon completing the M.D. or D.O. program, they must enter into residency programs; they can choose residencies based on their desired specialties, which could include anesthesiology, pediatrics, surgery or oncology.

Top Medical Schools for Research

Based on 2016 rankings from U.S. News and World Report, these are the top ten medical research schools in the country:

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition (2015-2016)*
Harvard University Boston, MA 4-year, Private $55,850
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, Private $52,491
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private $48,750
University of California - San Francisco San Francisco, CA 4-year, Public $32,751 in-state, $44,996 out-of-state
University of Pennsylvania (Perelman) Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private $52,210
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Private $58,460
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private $55,418
Duke University Durham, NC 4-year, Private $53,575
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public $33,519 in-state, $63,954 out-of-state
Yale University New Haven, CT 4-year, Private $55,680

Sources: * U.S. News and World Report

School Selection Criteria

When choosing a physician training program, students may want to consider the following:

  • Prospective M.D.s should look for schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, while potential D.O.s should find schools accredited by the American Osteopathic Association.
  • Curricula across medical schools cover most of the same coursework, but differ in how much time is given for students to pursue their own specific scholarly interests and conduct research, so students should choose between them based on their educational interests.
  • Some medical schools have a pass/fail system, while others give letter grades, so students may want to ask about the grading systems used by programs that interest them.
  • Depending on their career goals, students can choose between residencies that have a focus on research or residency programs that are clinically-focused.

Doctor of Medicine

M.D. programs last four years and require prior coursework in the sciences and scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The first couple of years of an M.D. program are spent completing intensive science coursework. Clinical rotations during the third and fourth years allow students to apply their knowledge in healthcare settings and to identify which area of medicine they want to specialize in. Opportunities to conduct research allow students to deepen their scholarly interests.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

Students in a D.O. program spend two years completing coursework and two years doing clinical rotations. Their training emphasizes body systems and how the different systems affect one another. For example, classes may cover the neurological system, the reproductive system or the endocrine system. Admission requirements for entering a D.O. program are similar to those for entering an M.D. program. The curriculum is also similar.

Residency Programs

Residencies train students in clinical settings in their desired specialty. Residencies take 3-8 years to complete. In residency programs, students may be assigned mentors and could receive reviews on their performance. By the end of the residency, a student will finish taking licensing exams, become licensed and be prepared to become board-certified in his or her specialty. Examples of the types of residencies students can choose from include surgery, pediatrics, dermatology, internal medicine and radiology.

If you want to become a physician, you should try to find a school with a good reputation that will support your academic interests and career aspirations.

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