Medical education abroad is one of the most popular and sought after areas of higher education. It is distinguished by the long duration of study, complexity of training courses, variability of the programs, and high competition. In this article, we will cover the main aspects of educational programs in medicine in different countries.

Specialty description

A doctor is a professional with theoretical and practical knowledge and skills to treat patients. To become a doctor, you need to hold a degree in medicine, love sciences and people, as well as be determined and patient, since the studies are difficult and take many years to complete, and the profession itself places great stress and responsibility on its owner. The duties of physicians include making diagnoses, counseling, seeing and treating patients. Doctors have a large number of specializations: pediatrician, surgeon, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, veterinarian, dentist, allergist, endocrinologist, etc.
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The best medical schools in the world 2020

The best medical programs in the world are taught in these universities.
Information is exploratory. For accurate information, refer to the official website of the school.
TitleCountryCityBachelorMaster
41University of CambridgeUnited KingdomCambridge24,831 USD24,831 USD
62University of OxfordUnited KingdomOxford20,676 USD20,676 USD
93University College LondonUnited KingdomLondon25,237 USD24,948 USD
154Imperial College LondonUnited KingdomLondon33,465 USD34,777 USD
265The University of EdinburghUnited KingdomEdinburgh20,801 USD16,076 USD
287King's College LondonUnited KingdomLondon19,948 USD21,628 USD
412Heidelberg UniversityGermanyHeidelberg328 USD1,000 USD
652University of AmsterdamNetherlandsAmsterdam9,228 USD13,841 USD
5069Karolinska InstituteSwedenStockholm29,000 USD
73962London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - University of LondonUnited KingdomLondon20,000 USD20,000 USD

Information is exploratory. For accurate information, refer to the official website of the school.
TitleCountryCityBachelorMaster
241The University of TokyoJapanTokyo4,712 USD4,712 USD
252Kyoto UniversityJapanKyoto4,712 USD4,712 USD
421National University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore26,904 USD26,904 USD
521Seoul National UniversitySouth KoreaSeoul6,775 USD4,303 USD
552Peking UniversityChinaBeijing4,659 USD5,241 USD
583Osaka UniversityJapanSuita4,712 USD4,712 USD
871The University of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong18,633 USD18,633 USD
992The Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong18,506 USD18,506 USD
1004Fudan UniversityChinaShanghai3,348 USD3,348 USD
1091National Taiwan UniversityTaiwanTaipei1,892 USD1,868 USD

Medical education by country

Graduating from a university and obtaining a medical degree does not imply direct access to the doctor’s profession. In any country in the world, after receiving medical education, it is necessary to undergo medical practice at a hospital (for example, residency) and only then gain access to the medical labor market. Below is a brief description of medical education in various countries.
In the US, it is not possible to begin medical training immediately after leaving secondary school. To qualify as a Medical doctor (MD), you must have a Bachelor of Science (BSc) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from the United States or Canada, with a particular emphasis on obtaining academic credits in organic chemistry, biology, and general chemistry. Therefore, the training takes place in 2 stages:
  1. Bachelor's degree with a chemistry and biology inclination — 4 years;
  2. Medical school — 4 years (2 years of preclinical training and 2 years of practice).
In general, it is possible for a foreigner to enroll in medical programs in the United States, but this is a rather complicated and rare phenomenon. As of 2019, only 48 medical schools were accepting international students, and of the 1890 foreign MD applicants, only 325 were enrolled[0]. The small number of universities that accept foreigners is explained by the complexity of obtaining a work visa for further residency.
Each university sets its own requirements and procedures for admitting international applicants. Before entering some top schools (for example, Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), you must study 1-3 years at an accredited college / university in the United States / Canada / England or get a bachelor's degree in the USA / Canada (less often, for example, at Mayo Medical School). Many universities also advise students to complete 30-90 credit coursework in the field of science at a US / Canadian university if previous education was obtained in third countries.
The entrance test for admission is the unified MCAT exam. Most US medical schools use the American Medical School Application Service (AMCAS). However, AMCAS does not accept foreign transcripts (or their translations) and does not verify courses taken outside the US unless they have been accepted by an accredited American or Canadian higher education institution. You can still attach them to the application, but a GPA will not be calculated. Individual medical schools request the transcript using their own application form (secondary application) and based on this form they make a decision whether to accept the transcript or not. Additionally, many educational institutions require confirmation of the ability to pay the full cost of the tuition.
It is extremely difficult to get into medicine in the USA also due to the high competition. The applicant must not only have strong academic performance (admitted applicants had a GPA of 3.72 and an average MCAT score of 511 in 2018-2019), but also a unique life story and a catchy motivation letter.
It is worth mentioning that the medical education process of the United States is copied by most of the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean. These include Grenada, Barbados, Anguilla, Jamaica, and others. After graduating from medical schools in the Caribbean, it is possible to gain access to a residency in the US.
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Medical education in the UK takes about 10 years. It is subdivided into several main stages:
  1. Six-year medical education at a university medical school;
  2. A two-year Foundation program for doctors;
  3. Specialty and general practice — the duration depends on the type of medical field.
For admission to medical schools at British universities, various unified exams (BMAT, GAMSAT, UKCAT) are considered. A foreigner also needs to prove knowledge of English (IELTS/TOEFL). More detailed information can be found in the Entry requirements for UK medical schools guide 2021.
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The format of Canadian medical education is a mixed type of British and American. The duration of training varies. There are 4-year medicine programs that require a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry or Biology (as in the US). Additionally, 5-year programs are offered, where the first year is preparatory.
To be admitted to Canadian medical schools, you must pass the MCAT. Some universities in Canada (for example, the University of Quebec) offer training in French. However, only a limited number of Canadian medical schools accept foreigners, for example, McGil University, McMaster University, Queen's University, University of Toronto. The rest of the requirements differ depending on the institution.
Australian medical education lasts for 4-6 years depending on the training program:
  • Undergraduate medical program is a six-year program, admission to which is the same as for any bachelor's program in Australia. It is often necessary to pass the UMAT;
  • Graduate medical program is a four-year program that can only be enrolled after receiving a bachelor's degree in biology/chemistry and passing the MCAT or GAMSAT.
For admission, foreigners must pass language exams (IELTS/TOEFL) and pass an interview (not always). For more detailed requirements, please, contact the universities directly.
In Germany, medical education lasts for 6 years: 2 years — pre-clinical classes in basic sciences, 3 years — training in clinical subjects, 1 year — practical year. The studies are conducted in German, with the exception of a few master's programs. The country has a Numerus Clausus principle — a limit on the number of students enrolled in medical faculties. To enter, a foreigner needs to know German at a level not lower than C1, overcome a high competition (grades in biology and chemistry are important), and have a previous education that meets German standards. You can check the suitability of a diploma or certificate from the universities themselves, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), or the Standing Conference of Ministers. If the document is not recognized, you will have to take a one-year preparatory course.
Each university sets its own requirements, therefore, it is necessary to clarify the information directly with the universities. Sometimes universities hold entrance exams.

Medical education in France takes about 9 years. As in Germany, France has the principle of Numerus Clausus, according to which the number of places in medical specialties for local and foreign applicants is regulated every year. Despite this, approximately every 5th student in France cannot complete 1st year and pass the PACES exam in basic medicine.
Medical education in France is divided into 3 main stages:
  • 2 years of general theoretical training (PCEM: Premier Cycle d'études Medicales);
  • 4 years of study, including practice in hospitals and seminars (DCEM: Deuxième Cycle des Etudes Médicales);
  • 3-5 years (depending on medical specialization) internship/residency (DES: Diplômes d 'Études Spécialisées).
For admission, as a rule, it is necessary to prove the French language proficiency (DELF) and have a certificate of complete secondary education with a high GPA.

Admission requirements to medical specialties


More and more universities start to offer medical education programs in English. Tuition fees at public European universities are significantly lower than at US, UK and Australian universities. Therefore, the competition for these programs in Europe is steadily growing: many students from English-speaking countries strive to receive an inexpensive medical education here. Moreover, among the competitors for admission are not only English-speaking applicants, but also the best graduates of schools in local countries who want to study in English.
A standard set of documents for admission includes the following:
  • Online application;
  • A transcript with a GPA of at least 3.8 (excellent grades in biology and chemistry are especially important);
  • A copy of the secondary education certificate;
  • Language certificate TOEFL or IELTS;
  • Letter of recommendation;
  • Motivation letter;
  • Results of entrance or medical exams;
  • Interview.
Medical entrance exams vary from country to country but are almost always required. In Eastern Europe, exams in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics are held at universities. Some universities, for example, Charles University, take exams not only at the university itself, but also in foreign cities, though only on certain days of the year. In Western Europe and the USA, unified exams are generally used: MCAT, BMAT, IMAT, GAMSAT, UKCAT, HPAT.
More information about the exams
CountryUniversityExamMin. TOEFLMin. IELTSDeadline
USAJohns Hopkins UniversityMCAT1007.015 October
USAHarvard UniversityMCAT1007.02 November
USAGeorgetown UniversityMCAT1007.02 November
Great BritainUniversity of OxfordBMAT1107.515 Oct
United KingdomImperial College LondonBMAT1007.015 October
UKUniversity of WarwickUCAT1007.015 October
IrelandTrinity College DublinHPAT906.51 February
IrelandUniversity College CorkHPAT, GAMSAT906.51 February
CanadaUniversity of TorontoMCAT1006.51 October
CanadaUniversity of SaskatchewanMCAT866.51 October
AustraliaUniversity of SydneyGAMSAT, MCAT856.523 July
New ZealandUniversity of AucklandUMAT1007.01 December
ItalyUniversity of MilanIMATNoNo23 July
SpainUniversity Cardinal HerreraBMATNoNo28 February
NetherlandsUniversity of MaastrichtYes906.51 November
PolandMedical University of PoznanYes796.531 July
CyprusUniversity of NicosiaNo796.5End of June
Czech RepublicCharles UniversityYesNoNo30 Apr
SlovakiaUniversity of ComeniusYes605.517 July
BulgariaMedical University of PlovdivYes606.015 July
HungaryUniversity of PecsYesB2B230 June
LithuaniaMed. Academy of the University of LithuaniaYes655.55 July
CroatiaUniversity of ZagrebYes606.020 June
Bosnia and HerzegovinaUniversity of SarajevoYes--15 May
IsraelBen-Gurion UniversityMCAT, GAMSAT896.01 May
Check the actual deadlines and requirements on the website or with the admissions office of a particular university.

The cost of medical education in English

Affordable English-language programs

CountryUniversityDirectionsCost/year
ItalyUniversity of MilanMedicine and surgery1,014 USD
BulgariaPleven Medical UniversityMedicine, pharmaceuticals, public health8,881 USD
RomaniaVasile Goldiş West University of AradMedicine, dentistry, pharmaceuticals 4,300 USD
SlovakiaPavol Jozef Šafárik University in KošiceMedicine, sciences12,433 USD
BulgariaMedical University of PlovdivMedicine, pharmaceuticals, public health, dentistry9,473 USD
PolandMedical University of BialystokMedicine, pharmaceuticals, health science13,025 USD
LatviaRiga Stradiņš UniversityDentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmaceuticals, physiotherapy, speech therapy, medical massage, pediatrics14,210 USD
CroatiaUniversity of ZagrebMedicine14,210 USD

Cost of medical education in other languages

Country UniversityDirectionsCost/YearLanguage
151-200FranceBordeaux UniversityMedicine, neurology, pharmacovigilance and pharmacoepidemiology3,280 USDFrench
51-100CanadaMontreal UniversityBiochemistry and molecular medicine, bioinformatics, neurology, kinesiology, microbiology and immunology, etc.15,969 USDFrench
31GermanyHeidelberg UniversityMedicine, dentistry, biosciences3,552 USDGerman
101-150GermanyHamburg UniversityNursing, speech therapy, medical supervision and management, medical pedagogy, medical technology, physiotherapyFreeGerman
201-250AustriaMedical University of Graz,Medicine, dentistry, nursing1,776 USDGerman
101-150Switzerland University of BernMedical, pharmaceutical sciences, veterinary medicine, dentistry1900 CHFGerman
51-100ItalyMilan UniversityDental, medical biotechnology, medicine and surgery, nursing business, pharmaceuticals1,014 USDItalian
51 -100ItalyUniversity of Rome La SapienzaMedicine, dentistry, pharmacy 3,462 USDItalian
51 -100SpainUniversity of BarcelonaMedicine, pediatrics, cardiology, immunology, allergology, dermatology, oncology3,552 USDSpanish
All data in the charts is approximate. Please, contact the universities for more details.

Preparatory programs in medicine

For applicants who have potential, but feel insufficiently prepared, special preparatory programs in medicine have been developed, which emphasize biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and language. They usually last about 1 year and allow you to prepare for the entrance and language exams.
Country DurationUniversityLanguageCost
Great Britain 1 yearUniversity of BuckinghamEnglish23,450 USD
Great Britain 1 yearUniversity of DundeeEnglish24,232 USD
Great Britain 2 yearsUniversity of St. AndrewsEnglish75,563 USD
Malta1 yearDomain AcademyEnglish15,394 USD
Malaysia 1 yearInternational Medical UniversityEnglish11,978 USD
Ireland7-9 monthsDublin International Foundation CollegeEnglish21,078 USD
Australia11/7 monthsUniversity of NewcastleEnglish19,300 USD
For more information and exact costs check the websites of the desired universities.
In the USA Pre-Med preparatory programs are common for bachelor’s who are aiming for admission to medical schools.

Transfer to a foreign medical university

Medical students have the opportunity to transfer to a university in a different country. Most of the documents usually coincide with the requirements for applicants entering the first year of bachelor’s. Usually you need to:

  • Pass the entrance exams to the university;
  • Confirm the language proficiency required for training;
  • Provide a transcript with grades from the university, which will show:
    • Academic proficiency. It should be higher than the average performance of students at the university to which the transfer is planned;
    • Number of courses and exams (ECTS credits);
    • Duration of courses;
    • Curriculum. It will speed up the process of matching curricula.
Each case of transfer is considered individually, after which the selection committee makes a decision on which year the student will be transferred to. It happens that the selection committee does not agree to transfer a student to the appropriate university year. For example, in 2016–2017 68 applications for transfer to medical school have been submitted to Imperial College London, 15 students were invited to the interview, but only six of them have been admitted to the university. The decision depends on the difference in the curriculum of the countries and on competition. For this reason, it is only possible to transfer to the first year of studies at UK universities. It is much easier to transfer to Eastern European universities, including English-language medical programs.

Types of medical programs

DirectionDescription
MedicineThe program of general medicine, after which students can work as practitioners or get specialization of surgeon, cardiologist, pediatrician, obstetrician, etc. The usual duration of study is 6 years.
PharmacyA branch of medicine about the discovery, production, control, disposal and use of drugs and medicines. The practice of pharmacy requires knowledge of drugs, their mechanisms of action and side effects, and methods of treatment.
DentistryA branch of medicine consisting of the study, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases of the oral cavity, usually in the dentition, but also in the oral mucosa, adjacent and associated structures and tissues, especially in the maxillofacial region.

Non-standard areas in medicine


FieldDescription Exemplary positions/jobsUniversities
Sports MedicineStudy the medical field that deals with the physical fitness, treatment and prevention of sports injuries. Physicians in this area diagnose, treat, and prevent sports and exercise-related injuries.You can work in sports clinics, professional sports teams, sports events, national sports governing bodies. University of Melbourne, University College London, University of Georgia, University of Northern Iowa
OncologyThe branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancerous tumors. Clinical oncologists treat patients with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological agents, and hormone therapy. University of Cambridge, University of Manchester, University of Helsinki, University of Auckland
EpidemiologyA branch of medical science that studies the emergence, spread and control of chronic and infectious diseases. Work in government medical organizations, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology startups, non-governmental organizations, universities, research institutes. Positions: researchers, scientists (lecturers, senior lecturers and professors of epidemiology), public health policy advisers, etc.Imperial College London, University of Bristol, Utrecht University, University of Melbourne
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Medical degrees

In different countries, it is customary to assign different degrees:
  • MD — Medical Doctor, a degree that is awarded after completing medical education in the USA, Canada, Europe, some universities in Australia, Israel;
  • MBBS, BMBS, BMed, MB — Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. Assigned in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
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Scholarships and free medical education

In many countries, there are scholarships designed specifically for medical students, both bachelor’s and master’s. They are most often awarded by universities to the most talented and capable students. For example, at the University of Edinburgh there are scholarships for citizens of the United Kingdom, Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland. Karolinska University, University of Amsterdam and the University of Glasgow have scholarships for master’s students. King's College London awards a 9000 GPB scholarship annually to students in the Global Health and Community Medicine program, and Queen Mary University of London has grants for students in need.
There are also national scholarships that are awarded by special funds. Among them are the Carl Duisberg Scholarship to study at German universities, the Novo Nordisk Foundation scholarship in Denmark and the John Snow Scholarship to study medicine in Australia and New Zealand.
Financial assistance for researchers and PhD candidates can be singled out separately. For example, in the US, there are guest scholarships from the American College of Surgeons and the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME). Research and doctoral grants also exist at universities, for example, at the University of Calgary, St. George’s in London and the University of Auckland.

Internships for doctors

  • Internships from the World Health Organization (WHO) are intended for medical students and graduates (within 6 months after graduation) in various fields of medicine. Available positions are posted on the WHO website. The main criteria are: be over 20 years old, complete 3 years of full-time study at a university and speak one of the working languages ​​of the internship. Other requirements depend on specific proposals.
  • Internships from Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) are mainly held in France and last from several days to six months. More than 100 students work as trainees in this program every year. For an internship, it is necessary to sign an agreement with an educational institution. The organization covers travel expenses for trainees working less than 2 months. For longer internships, Doctors of the World provides an allowance of 3 USD.60 per hour, covers 50% of travel expenses and offers meal vouchers.
  • International Medical Aid (IMA) provides medical internships abroad for master’s students and medical practitioners in East Africa, South America and the Caribbean. IMA is an American organization founded by Johns Hopkins University that accepts students from different countries for internships. Programs usually last 4-6 weeks. Participation fee is 2,750-4,250 USD depending on the country and duration. The payment covers accommodation, meals and insurance, but not air travel.

Job prospects with a medical degree

According to Indeed.com, healthcare workers are among the 15 most in-demand occupations[1], but medical education abroad is fraught with pitfalls.
This is especially true for medical programs in English in non-English-speaking countries. After receiving a diploma, before becoming a doctor, a student will need to undergo an internship, which is available only in the language of the country where the training was received. This means that even when entering an English-language program in the Czech Republic, a student will most likely have to learn Czech in order to gain access to the local medical labor market in the future.
After mastering the local language and passing the internship, both the prospects of medical practice, and scientific career are open for a graduate. Today international scholarships for PhD programs are present in almost all countries, so if a graduate has the strength and desire for scientific work, then he should continue his studies — this will significantly increase his value in the labor market.
Another difficulty may await a graduate if, after training, he returns to a home country, since a diploma from a foreign university will need to be recognized.

How much does a doctor earn?

Country Min. salary/yearWed salary/year
USA68,922 USD105,968 USD
United Kingdom40,387 USD83,488 USD
Australia47,680 USD83,607 USD
Canada53,230 USD111,844 USD
Hong Kong379200 HKD1030000 HKD
South Korea 35,545 USD972,617 USD
Germany46,750 USD126,702 USD
France50,681 USD 145,648 USD
Czech Republic658800 CZK1728000 CZK
Russia3,934 USD 5,507 USD

Interesting facts about medical education

  • University medical education has more than a thousand-year tradition. Medical science developed in medieval European universities since the 10th century and was included in the set of basic sciences along with jurisprudence, theology and philosophy.
  • By 1800, there were only 4 separate medical schools in the world: at the University of Pennsylvania, King's College London, Harvard and Dartmouth College.
  • Medical specialties are at the top of all sorts of rankings for the highest paid professions in the world. The highest paid positions are surgeons, psychiatrists and therapists. Also in the top ten are the professions of pharmacists, dentists and orthodontists.
  • The process of obtaining a doctor's qualification in all countries is considered one of the longest. It will take at least 10 years from the start of training to entering the labor market.
  • Among the Nobel laureates in medicine, most of the representatives are from the USA (99), Great Britain (31), Germany (17), France (11), Sweden (8), Switzerland (7) and Australia (6).
CourseDuration
General Medicine6-10 years
Veterinary medicine6 years
Dentistry7 years
Pharmacology and pharmaceuticals5–6 years
Physiotherapy3–4 years
Biomedical technologies2 years
Obstetrics4 years
Nursing4 years
Management in the field of medicine4 years
Medical cosmetology3-4 years
Medical laboratory assistant3-4 years
Assistant pharmacist3-4 years