How Long is
Medical School?

This is a very common question and an important question to ask. How long is medical school? There is a short and a long answer to this question.

The Short Answer

The short answer is four years.

Medical school itself is four years long. These years are composed of two years of "book work" and two years of "clinical work." There will likely be various times throughout the medical school curriculum that you are asking yourself "how long is medical school?"

Many people ask this during their first year of medical school. They wonder what they got themselves into! It's definitely a big transition from your undergraduate studies to your first year of medical school. It can be very intense, although it does depend somewhat on your school's grading system. At UCLA medical school, for example, the grading system is pass/fail. This took some of the edge off of the transition from undergraduate to the medical school curriculum. I could focus on learning more than scoring well on the test. The grading system is important in choosing a medical school. For more on how to choose the best medical schools for you, click here.

The first and second years of medical school are similar to what you are used to from undergrad. Subjects taught in medical school include anatomy, physiology, pathology, histology and pharmacology. These may be similar to classes you took as an undergrad. I suggest taking some of these subjects taught in medical school as an undergrad, even if they're not part of your premed major. Taking these classes will make it less frequent that you ask yourself "how long is medical school?"

How long is medical school? Students training on a SIM man as part of the medical school curriculum.

Photo courtesy of anolobb

After your first two years of the medical school curriculum, you will enter the clinical years. During these years you are in the hospital taking care of patients. These are exciting years because you are doing what you signed up for when you decided to go to medical school. Third year is very difficult with many required rotations and lots of time in the hospital (6 days a week, 12+hours per day). Fourth year is more relaxed and you have the option to choose electives that interest you. Fourth year is kind of a reward for all of your hard work during third year! Your medical school curriculum is not complete.

So, after those four years, you will have a medical degree. Congratulations! Are you now a doctor? Not quite.

The Long Answer

Now for the longer answer to "how long is medical school?" To receive your medical license, you must complete at least one year of medical residency following the medical school match. You must also pass usmle step 1, 2 and 3 to receive your medical license.

However, almost all medical school graduates do more than just the one year required to be a "general practitioner." They complete a medical residency.

This is when a "doctor" becomes a surgeon, a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, etc. There are many, many different fields to choose from. This is one of the nice things about medical training. You can choose the medical residency that's right for you. The residency you choose will have a large impact on the answer to the question "how long is medical school?"

Residency training programs range from 3 years for specialties like family medicine and emergency medicine to 7 years for neurosurgery. Most surgical specialties require 5 years of residency training after the four years of medical school. For more information about the different medical residency options and medical specialties, click here. You can choose the specialty in the top right corner. This is a great site that gives information about the length of training programs, the salary and how competitive the programs are to get into.

How long is medical school?

So, as you can see, medical school is a long, long process. Medical school itself is four years long, followed by anywhere from 3 to 7+ years of medical residency. So, before you decide to go to medical school, make sure that this is the career you want! When you do decide, go here to find out how to make yourself a great applicant.

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