Choosing Medicine as a Career | General Statistics | Preparing for a Career in Medicine | The Admissions Process | Sample Undergraduate Program | Relevant Websites and Resources | Frequently Asked Questions |
Physicians are licensed practitioners who perform medical examinations, diagnose illnesses, treat people who are suffering from disease or injury and advise patients on maintaining good health (www.bls.gov). They may be general practitioners or specialists. There are 24 specialty boards; the largest medical specialties include internal medicine, family medicine, general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, psychiatry, pediatrics, radiology, anesthesiology, ophthalmology, pathology, and orthopedic surgery. Medicine is both an art and a science; therefore, a physician must develop the skills to interact with a patient, obtain a medical history, conduct and interpret diagnostic and laboratory studies, and develop a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan. Physicians work long hours, often with unpredictable schedules. A physician is committed to a lifetime of learning and helping others.
Fast Facts (PDF)
Choosing Medicine as a Career
The medical profession seeks a diverse mix of individuals interested in pursuing medicine as a career. The number of women applying to medical school continues to increase and in recent years, has represented approximately half of all applicants and matriculants each year. Students from racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented are strongly encouraged to consider a career in medicine. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of older and "nontraditional" individuals pursuing medicine later in life, or as a second career.
There are many reasons students choose medicine as a career:
- Excellent Salary: average compensation for a physician is between $160,000 to over $320,000 depending on area of specialization.
- Rewarding Career: to be a "doctor", one must also be a "teacher". Physicians educate his/her patients and promote healthy lifestyles. The care of a patient throughout the lifespan is a privilege that requires complete dedication and commitment from a physician
- Future Job Outlook: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for physicians and surgeons will grow faster than the average for all other occupations through the year 2014. It is believed that the United States will experience a deficit of physicians in future decades, and as a result of these projections, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recommended an increase of 30% in medical school enrollments during the next decade.
- Commitment to a Lifetime of Learning: medicine continues to evolve as new research is completed and new findings are incorporated into everyday medical practice. A physician must continue to learn throughout their lifetime and be intellectually curious of the changing world around them.
- Role Model in the Community: many people view physicians as role models and look to them for advice, guidance, and assistance. Practicing physicians speak of the privilege they feel in being permitted to care for patients and to be of service to the community.
There are approximately 821,000 allopathic physicians in the United States today. In addition, there are another 59,000 fully licensed osteopathic physicians. Many of these physicians work in primary care (family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics). Others specialize in obstetrics/gynecology, psychiatry, various medical specialties (e.g., dermatology, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology), general surgery or various surgical subspecialties, support specialties (e.g., anesthesiology, pathology, and radiology), emergency medicine, and other clinical areas.
The majority of physicians work in an office setting either in solo practice or with a team of physicians. Others work in academic settings, outpatient clinics, hospitals, research, or for the military or government. Most medical students graduate after 4 years of medical school ("undergraduate medical education") and enter residency programs ("graduate medical education") that range from 3 to 8 years of additional training.
As of March, 2007, there are 148 accredited U.S. medical schools. They include 125 allopathic (M.D.) and 23 osteopathic (D.O.) schools (new schools are being added each year). It is important to note that students from Ohio who want to go to medical school will always have their best chance of getting accepted to medical school in the state. Ohio has seven medical schools which include: Case Western Reserve University (private); The University of Toledo College of Medicine; Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine; The Ohio State University; University of Cincinnati; Wright State University; and Ohio University (D.O.). Medical school admission statistics can be found at the following links:
While being an Ohioan is a great advantage to get into these schools, it is a disadvantage for getting into any school outside of Ohio since the other states know we have a large number of medical schools that give preference to our own residents. Consequently, very few applicants from Ohio go out of state. However, if you are intent on getting out of Ohio, please remember you can do your medical residency anywhere you choose, in any state. Once you finish medical school and pass your boards you are competitive for residencies in pediatrics, internal medicine, family practice, surgery or whatever you choose, in all states.
For more information on medical school admission statistics, please visit the Association of American Medical Colleges website at www.aamc.org or the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine at www.aacom.org.
Preparing for a Career in Medicine
Does it matter what you major in if you want to pursue medical school? While the answer is "no", to be a competitive applicant for medical school, students need to take a science-intensive curriculum, adding as many arts and humanities classes as possible. Medical schools look for well-rounded individuals who have demonstrated that they care about others. It does not matter what major you select as long as you complete your pre-med requirements. A student should select a major based on their interests and aptitudes, so that they will enjoy the courses and do well in them. Should a student change their mind about medicine or not be accepted into medical school, their major might also prepare them for an alternative career choice.
Please remember the pre-med requirements are minimum requirements for medical school. In addition, some medical schools strongly recommend upper-level science courses such as biochemistry, physiology, immunology, genetics, and microbiology.
Admission requirements to the medical schools include:
- One year of college biology with labs
- One year of college general chemistry with labs
- One year of college organic chemistry with labs
- One year of college physics with labs
- One year of college mathematics (through trigonometry; calculus preferred)
- The math requirement differs among medical schools
- One year of college English
While most pre-med students major in biology or chemistry, you can choose any major you want (English, math, theater arts, Spanish, nursing, etc.) as long as you add the pre-med courses to your major. Please remember to meet regularly with your academic advisor and Pre-Health advisor for guidance.
The Admissions Process
Factors Evaluated by Admission Committees:
- Academic Record: one of the most important factors in admissions decisions. Committees will evaluate cumulative GPA as well as science GPA, courses completed, academic rigor, and trends in performance. A competitive applicant will have a GPA of at least 3.5 - with a separate science GPA near 3.5. Employment and extracurricular activity participation are taken into consideration.
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT): required by all medical schools in the U.S. This score is extremely important for admission since medical schools use this score as a predictor of your performance on the medical boards. The MCAT test is divided into four main areas:
- Physical Sciences (15 pts): reading and analyzing scientific questions related to general chemistry and physics.
- Verbal Reasoning (15 pts): reading passages and answering questions related to them. The ability to score well here is dependent upon good reading and comprehension skills.
- Biological Sciences (15 pts): reading and analyzing scientific passages related to biology, organic chemistry, immunology, genetics, physiology and microbiology.
- Writing Sample (scored J through T): writing on two topics. Each essay is meant to demonstrate one's skills at writing a cohesive, unified first draft exploring the meaning and implications of the questions.
- The MCAT is scored from 1 to 45 with the average being 24. A good predictor of how you will do on the MCAT is how you do on the ACT.
- Letters of Evaluation: letters of evaluation should come from individuals such as science professors, researchers, health-care providers, etc.
- Interview: medical schools will use the interview process to gain a better understanding of who you are as a person and how well you communicate with others. Questions may be asked that are personal regarding your background and beliefs, as well as questions about moral and ethical issues affecting medicine.
- Extracurricular Activities and Work Experience: an applicant should be able to demonstrate leadership, commitment, service, responsibility, and the ability to interact effectively with others.
- Health Related Experience: volunteering in a hospital, doctor's office, nursing home or health clinic will clarify the validity of an applicant's decision to enter the medical profession.
- Research Experience: although not required, research experience allows an applicant to gain experience in a laboratory setting and develop critical thinking skills necessary in the field of medicine.
Relevant Websites and Resources
- Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR): published annually by AAMC. This publication provides latest available information on selection criteria for each medical school. The book is available for purchase through the AAMC website, or can be found in the school library or the Pre-Health Advisor's office.
- Associate of American Medical Colleges (AAMC): www.aamc.org
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM): www.aacom.org
- American Osteopathic Association (AOA): www.osteopathic.org
- MCAT Essentials: available as a PDF document from the AAMC website at www.aamc.org/mcat.
- Exam Krackers: MCAT exam preparation www.examkrackers.com
- Student Doctor: information and feedback from applicants; chatroom www.interviewfeedback.com
- Kaplan: MCAT exam preparation and courses www.kaptest.com
- Princeton Review: MCAT exam preparation and courses www.princetonreview.com/medical
- www.tomorrowsdoctors.org: a comprehensive website for those considering a career in medicine.
- www.aspiringdocs.org: information for persons from underrepresented populations who are considering a career in medicine
- American Medical Association: www.ama-assn.org. Provides information about becoming a physician, how to prepare for and apply to medical school, and choosing a specialty.
- Writing for Success: Preparing a Professional School Application: a booklet written specifically to help applicants best present themselves to medical schools. The booklet can be purchased at www.naahp.org
- Interviewing for Health Professions Schools: a booklet offering information that helps students prepare for the interview. The booklet can be purchased at www.naahp.org
- Health World: alternative medicine www.healthy.net
- National Institutes of Health: medical news, career opportunities, research www.nih.gov
- National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical students: www.oldpremeds.com
- www.ExploreHealthCareers.org Sponsored by the American Dental Education Association, it provides about all health-related occupations.
- Health Professions Admissions Guide: Strategy for Success. www.naahp.org
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between an M.D. and a D.O.?
There are two types of physicians in the United States, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) and Doctors of Allopathic Medicine (M.D.).
There are similarities between an M.D. and a D.O. They include:
- Both require a bachelor's degree for admission
- Both require an emphasis on sciences and share the same entrance requirements
- Both are four-year medical schools
- Both can compete for all the same residencies (M.D. or D.O. residencies)
- Both can practice all fields of medicine (surgery, family care, OB/GYN, etc.)
- Both must pass comparable state licensing exams
- Both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities
A D.O. differs by:
- Osteopaths stress preventive medicine and use the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health
- They are the original professionals to pioneer the concept of "wellness" and health lifestyle habits
- The majority of osteopathic physicians (65%) become primary care physicians (pediatrics, family practice, internal medicine, and OB/GYN)
- They have a higher percentage of graduates who practice in the much-needed field of rural medicine, or in underserved areas
- Osteopathic physicians feel they have an additional tool in treating their patients: osteopathic manipulative treatment (or OMT), which is part of a holistic approach to medicine.
When should I apply to medical school?
Follow the Pre-Med Checklist and sample undergraduate programs to prepare yourself in a timely way throughout your undergraduate years. Study the websites of interest and movies and authors to add to your knowledge of the application process and options. Ideally, the MCAT is taken in the spring your junior year, you apply to medical school in the summer between your junior and senior years, and have medical school interviews during your senior year. Contact your academic advisor and the Pre-Health advisor on a regular basis.
How do I go about applying to medical school?
Instead of filling out an application for each medical school you are interested in attending, you fill out only one application which goes to a central agency. These agencies, AMCAS (American Medical Colleges Application Service) and AACOMAS (Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) process applications through the World Wide Web. When you submit your completed application to AMCAS or AACOMAS, you will designate which schools are to receive your application.
AMCAS and AACOMAS then check your application against your transcripts (which you also have submitted to them from all the undergraduate institutions you attended), verify the information and the grades are correct, attach your MCAT scores, and send your application to the schools you choose. Each of those medical schools then sends you a secondary application that is specific to that particular medical school. After you return the completed secondary application, that medical school will start to evaluate your complete package (application, GPA, MCAT scores, letters of recommendation, etc.)
Once your secondary applications have been submitted, you need to contact the Pre-Health Advisor and request that your letters of recommendation be sent. This evaluation process can take until March or April. If they decide to grant you an interview, you will generally receive a letter any time before March 1, asking for you to select a time for an interview. If you have not heard from any medical school by March 1, chances are you will not get into medical school that year. Medical schools routinely conduct interviews from September through March or April.
Are there any workshops or classes I can take to help me understand the application process better?
Yes. Annually, the Pre-Health Advisor offers evening workshops in the month of May. These workshops are geared towards those students who are planning on applying to medical school that summer. The workshops will provide detailed information on the application process, writing personal statements, collecting letters of recommendation, and important deadlines that must be met. Detailed information regarding these workshops are sent out through the prehealth listserv. If you are interested in participating, please contact the Pre-Health Advising office at 775-4226.
How can I find out what my chances are of getting into out-of-state medical schools?
The Association of American Medical Schools (AAMC) publishes a book annually called Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR). It gives facts on applications, interviews, and acceptances to every medical school in the United States and Canada. The newest version of the MSAR is available on CD-ROM. In addition, AACOM lists requirements needed for every U.S. osteopathic medical college in The Osteopathic Medical College Information Booklet (CIB).
It is always best to look at the specific requirements of the school you hope to attend to make sure you have fulfilled all of their prerequisites. This information is available through the Pre-Health Advisor's office or in the reference section of the Fordham Health Sciences Library at WSU. The books are also for sale in the university bookstore, or online at www.aamc.org and www.aacom.org.
What is the MCAT? What is an acceptable MCAT score?
Just as the ACT and the SAT are tools used by undergraduate institutions to help them decide on an applicant's suitability for undergraduate admissions, the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a tool used by the medical schools to judge an applicant's preparation and suitability for medical school coursework. It is also used to predict the applicant's ability to pass medical boards.
The MCAT is delivered exclusively at computer-based testing sites and is offered approximately 24 times per year. Additional information about the MCAT can be found at www.aamc.org/students/mcat/cbt.htm. The MCAT exam is an arduous 5 ½ hour exam taken 12 to 18 months before starting medical school. Traditionally, a student takes the exam in spring/early summer of his or her junior year.
The final score is reported as a composite number score (total from first three sections plus a letter for the writing section). The highest possible score is 45-T. The average score for all applicants in 2006 was 27.4; however, the average score for matriculants was 30.2. Osteopathic medical colleges don't put as much emphasis on the MCAT score as they do the entire application; therefore, average MCAT scores for matriculants to D.O. schools are often lower (usually around 25-26).
Are sample tests available?
A sample test is available at the AAMC website: www.aamc.org/students/mcat. A free MCAT practice test can also be found at www.e-mcat.com.
Students can also purchase study materials and/or courses to help prepare for the MCAT. Please see the Pre-Health Advisor for literature regarding these materials and courses. It is important to remember that to do well on the MCAT, a considerable amount of time (several weeks to months) should be reserved for studying material on a daily basis.
Is the ACT score a good predictor of how a student will perform on the MCAT?
Yes, the scores on both tests are generally within 1 to 2 points of each other. If you receive a 24 on the ACT, you will probably receive a similar score on the MCAT, so high school students should take the ACT seriously and post the highest score they can as a predictor of their ability to get into medical school. Some schools, such as Wright State University School of Medicine, have started Early Assurance Programs (EAP) based on accepting a small number of applicants at the end of their sophomore year of college, using their ACT scores as one criterion (ACT score of 28 or above is necessary) for consideration The EAP then give students a conditional acceptance based upon:
- Finishing their bachelor's degree before they start medical school
- Experience in the medical field through work or volunteering at hospitals, nursing homes, or medical facilities
- Involvement in extracurricular activities
- Involvement in community volunteer activities
- Letters of evaluation from professors
- Personal qualities including outgoing personality, leadership skills, team skills, intellectual curiosity, compassion, empathy, and others.
What is the Early Decision Program/Plan (EDP)?
The Early Decision Program/Plan is a program at many medical schools that allows an applicant to send their materials to only one school well before the usual deadline and to receive a decision from that school promptly (by October 1st). If accepted, you agree not to apply to any other medical school; if you are denied or wait-listed, you are eligible to apply to other schools. Students should only make an EDP application to the school they would be thrilled to attend.
Do I really have to take calculus and biochemistry?
No. There are only a handful of medical schools that require calculus and/or biochemistry for admission, most of those schools being in the eastern or western part of the United States. If you are particularly anxious to get into one of those schools (Stanford, Johns Hopkins, etc.), meet with the Pre-Health Advisor who can show you the individual requirements of that school to make sure you plan your undergraduate courses accordingly. While the overwhelming majority of medical schools do not require these courses, most medical schools notice if you have taken them.
Performance in biochemistry is a strong predictor of success in medical school, so doing well in biochemistry helps your application. Calculus (required for both the chemistry and biomedical engineering pre-med degrees) is another course that medical schools like to see. Therefore, the best advice is: if you can take these courses and perform well in them, do so. If you do not have time to take these courses, don't worry about it. Doing poorly in biochemistry and calculus (less than a B) is worse than not taking them at all.
How many letters of evaluation are required for medical school?
Most medical schools required a minimum of 3 letters of evaluation or recommendation. At Wright State University, a composite letter written by the Pre-Health Advisor is attached to the individual letters of evaluation and sent electronically as a single file through Virtual Evaluations. A composite letter consists of individual letters of evaluation (maximum of 5 total) that are collected by the health professions advising office and supplied to the application service under a cover letter from the Pre-Health Advisor.
Medical schools require at least 2 science faculty evaluation letters. Other letters can be from other faculty members, research investigators, practicing physicians or health care professionals, or employers.
What is the medical school interview like?
Only applicants that are seriously being considered for matriculation are generally invited for an interview. Applicants will be expected to discuss their motivation for medicine, their personal and professional goals, and their assessment of current health issues. Interviewing formats vary and can either be one-on-one or in a small group. Applicants are usually provided with information about the school's interviewing process before the interview. Most students will be taken on school tours, meet with current students, and discuss financial costs with an advisor.
For assistance in preparing for the interviewing process, please contact the Pre-Health Advisor or the Career Services office to schedule a mock interview.
What types of extracurricular activities and work experience should I have in order to be a competitive applicant?
"Quality and persistence are far more important than quantity"
- Community service that demonstrates a commitment to helping others and/or increasing awareness of oral health issues
- Leadership positions, such as in student organizations, charity organizations, fundraiser activities, etc.
- Activities that demonstrate your ability to manage multiple tasks while performing well academically
- Shadowing hours with a general practicing physician
When will I find out if I am accepted into medical school?
Medical schools agree not to inform candidates of acceptance prior to October 15, except for EDP applicants who will be informed by October 1. By March 30, each school is expected to have issued a number of acceptances equal to the number of places in the first year class. Prior to May 15, accepted applicants have at least two weeks to respond to an offer of acceptance and can hold acceptance offers from any other schools without penalty. After May 15, medicals schools may implement school-specific procedures for accepted applicants, which might include a shorter response time (less than 2 weeks), a statement of intent, and/or a deposit. For a complete set of guidelines, a student can view the "AAMC Recommendations for Medical School Admission Officers" at www.aamc.org.
Medical schools will send a letter of acceptance to an applicant notifying them of the amount of time they have to respond to their offer. They expect the response to be made in writing, whether accepting or declining, within the time period they designate.
Many applicants will receive multiple offers. The suggested procedure is as follows: (1) rank the schools you have applied to in order of preference, (2) once an offer has been received, send a letter of withdrawal to all schools on your list that fall below the school to which you have been accepted, (3) as you receive each new acceptance, either accept it or reject it on the basis of how the school ranks on your list. Applicants are eligible to accept multiple offers; however, when an applicant receives an acceptance from their first-choice school, they should withdraw from all other schools so that they hold no more than one medical school place at one time.
What percentage of Wright State students are accepted to medical school?
One hundred percent of our applicants might be accepted if they..
- Had high grades
- Had high MCAT scores
- Applied to a reasonable mix of medical schools in Ohio and maybe a few in other states
- Applied in a timely fashion
- Had good recommendations and sufficient extracurricular experience
When applicants do not meet all these standards then the percentage of acceptance falls. For this reason, some undergraduate institutions do not calculate percentages at all. Others use formulas that exclude certain applicants, such as those who do not score the national average on the MCAT or have grades below the national average GPA. Selective undergraduate general enrollment policies, such as at private institutions, may also raise their percentage of applicants who actually matriculate into medical school.
At WSU we don't inflate the med school acceptance percentage. We don't exclude anyone who has not met the standards above. We look at all the applicants in a give year - whether they are our traditional undergraduates, people changing careers who are enrolled in WSU premed courses, graduate students, or students who returned to WSU after many years away from school.
Altogether, roughly half of the applicants from WSU get into medical school. Between 10 to 15 percent of the Wright State University School of Medicine is made up of Wright State undergraduates each year.
Are there any joint degree programs provided with medicine?
Yes, some programs will offer a joint Master's (e.g., Public Health, Business Administration) or Doctoral (Ph.D., J.D.). For more information on these degree programs, you can review the MSAR publication or see the Pre-Health Advisor.
Does Wright State have a pre-med student organization?
Yes, the University has a well-developed premedical society that includes undergraduates interested in a variety of health professions. This organization provides mentoring, educational speakers, volunteer and community service, and social activities. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Pre-Health Advisor.