So, you have decided to spend the next six to ten years of your life tucked behind a desk in the pursuit of a medical doctorate? Well you’re in good company. In 2013, between the US and Canada, there were a record number of 60,000 students applying to medical schools based in Canada, USA, and the Caribbean. However, gaining entrance to medical school can be extremely challenging. In Canada, about 26% of applicants gain admission to medical schools, usually equipped with G.P.As roughly between 3.7 and 3.9 and MCAT scores in the high twenties to low thirties. While Canadian schools are ranked among the highest within North America, there are other options to consider when looking into medical school.
In Canada, there are seventeen medical schools offering three to four-year Doctor of Medicine degrees. The average cost of tuition is an estimated $12,000 per year, with Ontario being the highest at around $20,000 and Quebec the lowest at around $2,300. The first half of the program will generally consist of basic sciences such as pharmacology, microbiology, and physiology. The second half is mostly spent in clerkship, otherwise known as clinical rotations.
Pros – High-ranking schools and comparatively inexpensive.
Cons – Extremely competitive and the spots are limited.
In the States, there are a few options when looking to practice medicine. There are three to four-year M.D. and D.O. programs in both private and public schools. D.O., or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, is a doctoral degree only offered by osteopathic schools in the United States. D.O.s can practice in approximately sixty-five countries and all fifty states. However, in Canada each province will decide whether or not a D.O. can be practiced. Currently there are one hundred and forty-one medical schools and thirty doctor of osteopathy schools. The cost of public medical and osteopathic school averages around $33,000 whereas private schools can average about $53,000 per year. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average MCAT and G.P.A for M.D. students were 31.1 and 3.67, while for D.O. students they were 26.51 and 3.50. The first half of the program will generally consist of basic sciences such as pharmacology, microbiology, and physiology. The second half is mostly spent in clerkship.
Pros – High-ranking schools and higher chance of acceptance.
Cons – Extremely expensive and competitive.
In recent years there has been a large shift in students applying to Caribbean medical schools. Caribbean schools are less competitive, less expensive, and have a much higher acceptance rate than both Canadian and American medical schools. However, when it comes to education, the quality of Caribbean medical schools are few and far between. As of 2011 there are approximately thirty-one offshore medical schools offering three to four-year programs. Currently there are only American-based offshore medical schools. For Canadians, that means two years in the Caribbean and two years in the US before you can apply for residency in Canada, although most programs will let you do a Canadian clerkship or two.
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The average cost of these programs can range from $15-17,000 per year.
MCAT and G.P.A. scores range drastically with many programs. While some offer acceptance with low G.P.A.s and no MCATs, others require MCATs in the mid-twenties and G.P.A.s around 3.5. In the US and Canada, the first half of the program will generally consist of basic sciences such as pharmacology, microbiology, and physiology. The second half is mostly spent in clerkship. While thinking about Caribbean schools, make sure to do your research. The country and World Health Organization must accredit the program. These accreditations will allow you to sit for the board exams. Surprisingly enough most people don’t go visit the school before accepting admittance. Visit the school and talk to the students before you start the program. Remember that although it’s easier to get in, it may be harder to get a residency program that will ultimately get you a license to practice medicine.
Pros – High chance of acceptance, low cost, and beautiful surroundings.
Cons – Lower quality education, living in a new country may be challenging, and acceptance to residency may be challenging.
At the end of the day, regardless of the path you choose, there will be challenges waiting for you. For some, waiting and trying to get into a medical school in Canada is worth the effort. For other potential medical school applicants, the US or Caribbean is the way to go. The best advice would be to research the schools and be honest about what you are looking for in the next decade of your life. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.