Medical education abroad is one of the most popular and sought-after areas of higher education. It is distinguished by a long training time, the complexity of training courses, the variability of programs and a very high competition. This article covers the main aspects of educational programs in medicine in different countries.

Varieties of medical education abroad

It should be noted that graduation from a medical faculty and obtaining any medical degree does not mean direct employment as a doctor. In any country in the world, after receiving a medical education, it is necessary to undergo an internship (medical practice at the hospital) and only then gain access to the medical labor market. The following briefly describes the varieties of medical education in various countries.

Medical education in the USA
In the USA, it is impossible to begin medical training immediately after high school graduation. To qualify as a Doctor (MD), you must have a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from the United States or Canada, with particular emphasis on obtaining academic credits in organic chemistry, biology, and general chemistry. Therefore, training takes place in two stages:
  1. Undergraduate with a bias in chemistry and biology — 4 years;
  2. Medical school — 4 years (2 years of preclinical training and 2 years of practice).
The entrance test for admission to any medical school in the United States is the unified MCAT exam. It should be noted that the process of medical education in the United States has been copied by most English-speaking countries of the Caribbean: Grenada, Barbados, Anguilla, Jamaica, etc. After graduating from medical schools in the Caribbean, it is possible to gain access to an internship in the United States.
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Medical education in the UK
The medical education process in the UK takes about 10 years. It is divided into several main stages:
  1. Six-year medical education at a medical school at the university;
  2. Two-year Foundation program for doctors;
  3. Specialty and general practice — the duration depends on the type of medical specialty.
When entering medical schools at British universities, various unified examinations are considered (BMAT, GAMSAT, UKCAT).
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Medical education in Canada
The format of Canadian medical education is a mix between similar education in the UK and the USA. The duration of educational programs varies. There are 4-year medical programs and in this case you need to confirm your education under the undergraduate program in chemistry or biology (by analogy with the system adopted in the USA). There are also 5-year programs where the first year is preparatory.
As in the United States, Canadian medical schools require MCAT as an entrance exam. At some universities in Canada (for example, at the University of Quebec), training in French is possible.
Medical education in Australia
Australian medical education lasts 4-6 years depending on the chosen study program:
  • Undergraduate medical programs last for six-years. Admission is similar to any other bachelor's program in Australia. For undergraduate medical programs most of the Australian medical schools review the results of UMAT exam.
  • Graduate medical programs last for four years. Admission is only possible after obtaining a bachelor's degree (with an emphasis on biology and chemistry) and passing MCAT or GAMSAT exams.
Medical education in Germany
In Germany, medical education lasts for six years: two years of theoretical training, three years of clinical work, one year of practical work. Today, medical education in Germany is offered only in German, with the exception of several master's programs. The country has the Numerus Clausus principle for medical specialties — this means that there is a limit on the number of students studying at medical faculties.
Medical education in France
Medical education in France takes about 9 years. As in Germany, the Numerus Clausus principle applies in France, which means that the number of places in medical specialties is regulated every year. Despite this, approximately one in five students in France cannot complete their first year and pass the PACES exam on the basics of medicine. It is important to note that the number of foreign students from countries outside the EU cannot be more than 8% of the total number of applicants.
Medical education in France is divided into three main stages:
  1. Two-year general theoretical training;
  2. Four-year training, which includes practice in hospitals and seminars;
  3. Internship that can last from three to five years, depending on medical specialization.

Admission to medical programs

Today, more and more universities offer medical education programs in English. It should be noted that the competition for these programs in Europe is constantly growing, as more and more students from English-speaking countries seek to get an inexpensive medical education abroad. This is because the cost of studying at state European universities is much lower than the prices at the US, British or Australian universities.
When enrolling in such a program, it will be necessary to take into account that among the competitors there will be not only applicants from English-speaking countries, but also the best graduates of schools in local countries who want to study in English.

The cost of medical education abroad in English

ItalyUniversity of Milan800-4,000 USD
ItalyLa Sapienza800-4,000 USD
SpainCardenal Herrera University25,000 USD
NetherlandsUniversity of Groningen38,300 USD
NetherlandsMaastricht University38,300 USD
PolandHoney University of Bialystok11,300 USD
PolandMedical University of Poznan16,350 USD
Czech RepublicPalacky University10,000 USD
Czech RepublicCharles University13,300-16,750 USD
SlovakiaComenius University11,500 USD
SlovakiaSafarik University12,500 USD
BulgariaHoney Pleven University8,900 USD
BulgariaMed. University of Plovdiv9,500 USD
HungaryPecs University15,300 USD
HungaryDebrecen University16,900 USD
RomaniaArad Western University4,300 USD
RomaniaCarol Davila University7,200 USD
CyprusUniversity of Nicosia
  • 21,400 USD
  • 26,000 USD
LatviaPaula Stradina University14,500 USD
LithuaniaHoney Lithuanian University Academy12,000 USD
CroatiaUniversity of Zagreb10,800 USD
Bosnia and HerzegovinaUniversity of Sarajevo7,500 USD
IsraelBen-Gurion University37,000 USD

Requirements for admission to a medical course in English

ItalyUniversity of MilanIMATNoNoJuly 25October 1
SpainCardenal Herrera University BMATNoNoFebruary 28September 1
NetherlandsMaastricht UniversityYes906.5January 15September 1
PolandMedical University of PoznanYes796.5July 16October 1
CyprusUniversity of NicosiaNo796.0June 20September 1
Czech RepublicCharles University in PragueYes605.5May 31October 1
SlovakiaComenius UniversityYes605.5May31July 31September 15
BulgariaPlovdiv UniversityYes606.0June 15October 1
HungaryPecs UniversityYes665.5June 30October 1
LatviaPaula Stradina UniversityYes906.0June 1September 1
LithuaniaHoney Academy of Lithuanian UniversityYes655.5June 15September 1
RomaniaCarol Davila UniversityYes656.0July 30September 15
CroatiaUniversity of ZagrebYes606.0June 20September 25
Bosnia and HerzegovinaUniversity of SarajevoNo606.0May 15September 1
IsraelBen Gurion UniversityMCAT896.0May 1July 26
The standard set of documents for admission to the English-language program in medicine at European universities includes the following documents:
Examinations for admission to a medical university vary greatly from region to region, but almost always are mandatory. In Eastern Europe, exams in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics are held at universities. In Western Europe and the USA unified exams MCAT, BMAT, IMAT, GAMSAT, UKCAT, HPAT are a common practice. More about exams
Entrance exams to some European universities (for example, to Charles University) can be taken not only at the university itself, but also in other cities, but only on certain days of the year. All entrance exams for programs taught in English are conducted in English as well.

Medical education in English-speaking countries

USA1Harvard University47,500 USD
USA2Johns Hopkins University51,900 USD
USA36Georgetown University50,900 USD
United Kingdom1Oxford University48,500 USD
United Kingdom4Imperial College London53,350 USD
United Kingdom23Warwick University28,500-49,700 USD
Ireland2University of Dublin Trinity College45,000 USD
Ireland4University College Cork36,900 USD
Canada1University of Toronto72,840 USD
Canada14University of Saskatchewan16,642 USD
Australia1University of Sydney76,000 USD
Australia9University of Newcastle57,750-64,320 USD
New Zealand1University of Auckland52,000 USD
Dominica1University of Ross22,345 USD
Caribbean Netherlands1University of Saba16,000-18,350 USD

Requirements for admission to medical education programs in English-speaking countries

Johns Hopkins UniversityMCAT1107.0January 1August 1
Harvard UniversityMCAT1037.5January 1August 1
Georgetown UniversityMCAT907.0November 6August 1
Oxford UniversityBMAT1107.0October 15October 1
Imperial College LondonBMAT1007.0October 15October 1
University of WarwickUKCAT1007.0October 15October 1
University of Dublin's Trinity CollegeHPAT886.5February 1September 20
University College CorkHPAT, GAMSAT906.5December 31September 10
University of TorontoMCAT1006.5October 2September 1
Saskatchewan UniversityMCAT866.5October 2September 1
University of SydneyGamsat967.0June 20February 1
Newcastle UniversityUMAT1037.0June 2February 1
University of AucklandUMAT1007.0October 1March 6
Ross University Medical SchoolMCAT807.0until a study group is assembledSeptember 1, January 1, May 1
Saba UniversityMCAT806.5until a study group is assembledSeptember 1, January 1, May 1

Medical education abroad in European languages

LanguageUniversityLevel of languageCost
FranceUniversity of Pierre and Marie Curie / Université Paris 6B2300 USD
FrenchUniversity of BordeauxB2200 USD
FrenchUniversity of MontrealC121,000 USD
GermanHeidelberg UniversityB11,500 USD
GermanUniversity of HamburgB1385 USD
GermanMedical University of GrazC1890 USD
GermanUniversity of BernC1895 USD
ItalianUniversity of MilanB2156-4,000 USD
ItalianUniversity of Rome La SapienzaB21,140 USD
SpanishUniversity of BarcelonaB21,000-3,000 USD

Transfer to a foreign university for medical studies

While studying medicine in a home country it is possible to transfer to a foreign university, but this will require to go through a number of formalities to prove that you are ready for medical education. Most of the documents will coincide with the requirements for applicants entering the first year, with the exception of information on disciplines already completed.

Firstly, this will require passing entrance exams to the university, including examinations in the language of instruction, or providing an appropriate language certificate. Secondly, you need to make an extract of grades from the current university, where it is necessary to demonstrate several basic items:

  • Student performance — should be higher than the average student performance of the university where the transfer is planned;
  • Number of courses and exams. In Europe, the number of courses completed will be evaluated in ECTS points;
  • Course duration;
  • A brief description of the courses (curriculum) — will speed up the process of matching curricula.
Each case of transfer from university to university is considered individually, after which the admission committee decides to which year the student will be transferred to. It happens that the admission committee does not agree to transfer the student to the appropriate university course. The decision depends on the difference in curricula in different countries, as well as on the competition.
For this reason, transfer to UK universities is only possible to the first year. For example, in 2016–2017 Imperial College London received 68 transfer applications to a medical school, 15 students were invited for an interview, but only six of them had proposals for admission to the university.
US medical schools also stipulate the possibility of transferring a foreign student in advance. It is much easier to transfer to Eastern European universities, including medical programs in English.

Training programs of medical education

For students who have great potential, but feel inadequately prepared to immediately apply, special medical Foundation programs were developed, which put a greater emphasis on biology, chemistry, physics, math, and language. Usually they take from 3 to 9 months and allow you to prepare for the entrance exams, as well as language exams. Training programs are available for professions such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, and pharmacology.

IrelandDublin International Foundation College7 months5.020,000 USD
AustraliaThe University of Newcastle8 months5.519,200 USD
UnitedKingdom King's College London9 months5.524,500 USD
In the USA preparatory programs called Pre-Med exist, which are aimed at students entering bachelor studies at medical schools.

What degrees are awarded after receiving a medical education abroad?

In different countries, it is customary to assign various degrees.
  • MD — medical doctor, the degree that is assigned after finishing medical education in the USA, Canada, Europe, some universities of Australia, Israel;
  • MBBS, BMBS, BMed, MB — Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. The degree that is awarded in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland.
In many countries there are scholarships designed specifically for medical students. Most often, they are awarded by universities to the most talented and capable students. There are scholarships for students of bachelor’s programs, as well as for those studying a master’s. For example, at the University of Edinburgh there are scholarships for both categories, and the citizens of the United Kingdom, or citizens of Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic or Poland, can apply for the scholarship. Similar scholarships, but for the master’s students, exist at Karolinska Institute, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Amsterdam.
King's College London has a 11,811 USD annual scholarship for students from the World Health and Community Medicine program, and Queen Mary has a scholarship for students in need.
There are also national scholarships, which are issued by special funds. Among them are the Carl Duisberg scholarship for study at German universities, the Novo Nordisk scholarship for Denmark and John Snow grants to study medicine in Australia and New Zealand.
It should be noted separately that for graduate students, researchers and students who wish to obtain a PhD degree, there is a whole set of scholarships. For example, in the USA there are guest fellowships of the American College of Surgeons and the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME). Research and doctoral scholarships exist at universities, for example, there are such options at the University of Calgary, the University of St. George in London and the University of Auckland.

Employment prospects after receiving a medical education abroad

According to OECD, the profession of doctor is on the 5th place in the world among the most popular, however, medical education abroad carries a number of pitfalls.
This is especially true for medical programs conducted in English but in countries where English is not a native language. 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 he underwent basic training. This means that even when enrolling in an English-language program in the Czech Republic, a student will probably have to learn the Czech language in order to gain access to the local medical labor market in the future.
After mastering the local language and completing an internship, the graduate opens up the prospects of not only practical work, but also the opportunity to build a scientific career. Today almost all countries have international scholarships for PhD programs, so if a graduate feels the strength and potential for scientific work, he should continue his studies — this will significantly increase his value in the labor market.
Another difficulty may await a graduate if, after completing his studies, he decides to return to the home country and apply the acquired skills there, but realize that a diploma from a foreign university may not be valid.

Interesting facts about medical education

  • University medical education has more than a thousand-year tradition. Medical science has been developing 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 four separate medical schools in the world: the University of Pennsylvania, King's College London, Harvard and Dartmouth College.
  • Medical specialties are on the first lines in all possible ratings of the highest paid professions in the world. Surgeons, psychiatrists and therapists are considered the most paid. 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. At least 10 years should be laid from the beginning of training to access to the labor market.
  • Among the Nobel laureates in medicine, the most representatives are from the USA (99), Great Britain (31), Germany (17), France (11), Sweden (8), Switzerland (7) and Australia (6).
General medicine4-6 years
Veterinary medicine6 years
Dentistry5-6 years
Pharmacology and pharmaceuticals5-6 years
Physiotherapy3-4 years
Biomedical technologies2 years
Obstetrics4 years
Nursing4 years
Management in medicine4 years
Medical cosmetology3-4 years
Assistant medical laboratory3-4 years
Assistant pharmacist3-4 years