How to study medicine in the United States?

Please read our guide on studying medicine in the United States as an international student. Is it possible? What is necessary? How is the process? Find out here!

Medicine is one of the most sought after and sought after areas anywhere globally, which means that competition is fierce and selection is rigorous. However, even before you start to consider studying medicine in the United States, it is essential to know that, as an international student, you will necessarily need all American documentation to be able to apply for a university place in the country, such as  Social Security Number  ( SSN) – the American CPF – and Green Card. Understand more below!


The  American Medical Colleges Application Service ® (AMCAS), as its name implies, is the centralized enrollment service at American medical colleges, organized by the Association of American Medical Colleges  (AAMC).

To enroll in the vast majority of medical courses in the United States, you will need to use this online enrollment service. AMCAS is responsible for collecting, evaluating, and sending your registration information directly to each of the medical schools you choose. Thus, the first “sieve” of candidates is made by the AAMC, but it is not it that decides its admission; each faculty is responsible for the individual evaluation and selection of candidates after receiving applications through AMCAS.

To register, you must complete the form provided by AMCAS. For various reasons, the service does not accept applications from international students. First, few American medical schools accept applications from international students, and it is the candidate himself who must verify what they are and their requirements.

Candidates’ transcripts and diplomas must be from North American schools, and AMCAS does not accept international assessment services to validate this material. Besides, all applicants are required to have an American SSN to complete the application form.

Is registration different for international students? 

Most medical schools use AMCAS to facilitate and simplify the application process. Although you can use the service to register, AMCAS does not accept international academic/academic records (nor translated and evaluated by an official agency). This means that you will not have an essential document for your application and admission because your proof of completion of high school or higher education will not be valid in the United States.

However, some American medical schools may request your international history through what AMCAS calls a  secondary application, which is like a second application – when the university evaluates your first application and asks for more information or additional documents to continue with the process.

What if I have a diploma from an American or Canadian university abroad?

In this case, you must follow the AMCAS instructions because each case is treated individually and may vary according to the institution.

  • Citizenship / Student Visa: Identify your citizenship and your student visa status (if applicable) with AMCAS and the second application.
  • English language proficiency:  Through the centralized service, you will also identify your native language and your English proficiency.

Read the complete AMCAS application guide here.

AMCAS service fee

AMCAS registration costs US $ 170 for 2019 and includes sending your documents to only one medical school. If you want to try a place in more places, you must pay the US $ for each additional medical school. Rates are adjusted every year 

Pre-Med: preparation for medical studies in the USA

One reason foreign applicants cannot enroll directly in a medical course is that the study area is considered graduate school in the United States. This means that you must have a completed bachelor’s degree to take any course in the area. During graduation in the United States, there is a pre-med study program, which is nothing more than a preparation for medicine.

With the pre-med, the student takes a chosen degree in the area he wants – preferably in one related to health or science – and at the same time studying a curriculum with specific prerequisite subjects by medical schools, such as general chemistry, organic chemistry, mathematics, physics, biochemistry and various disciplines in laboratories. The introductory course may also involve volunteer work, clinical experience, internships, research, and preparation for the selection process for a medical course after graduation.

The bachelor’s degree will be an essential document for admission to a medical school in the United States, and the pre-med will prove the student’s preparation for the area.

Learn more about pre-med here.

Other requirements

Like any other course, what highlights a potential candidate for the vacancy in the school record – your GPA,  Grade Point Average  (the student average). However, in medicine, only those who excel in studies and have above-average grades in the bulletins will be accepted by academic institutions. AMCAS calculates the student’s GPA from the school / academic record received.

It is necessary to dedicate a lot to physics, biology, mathematics, and chemistry. In addition to the grades of these subjects being the main ones in your school curriculum at the time of application, the learning acquired during high school and graduation will be your basis in the challenging beginning of university life in medicine.

But in one respect, the situation is indifferent to any other country: to enter medicine in the United States, you must be prepared to spend at least four years on your studies. There are classes, activities, laboratories, clinical training that will require the student to spend a good part of the day at the university, plus exhausting hours of individual studies.

MCAT exam and other selection tests

There are different admission tests for North American institutions. The tests and the minimum grades required in each of them vary according to the university or medical faculty. To apply for a position in medicine, you will typically need to reach 500 to 900 in SAT, 19 in ACT, 6.5 to 7.5 in IELTS, and 80 in TOEFL (in the version made on the internet, IBT –  Internet -Based Test ). 

Cut scores vary by university and course, so check this information directly with your medical school before taking any tests.

Most institutions require that you take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT –  Medical College Admission Test ). It is an exam designed to assess candidates’ skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and writing, and knowledge of the concepts and principles of science (physics, chemistry, and biology) and mathematics – all prerequisites for studying medicine. It is common for pre-med courses to have modules dedicated to preparing students for the MCAT before taking it. 

Learn more about the MCAT  here.

Examples of Medical Colleges in the United States 

According to the US News ranking, these are the top ten medical schools in the United States focused on academic research in 2019:

1. Harvard University

2. Johns Hopkins University

= 3. New York University (Langone)

= 3. Stanford University

5. University of California – San Francisco

= 6. Mayo Clinic School of Medicine

= 6. University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)

= 8. University of California – Los Angeles (Geffen)

= 8. Washington University in St. Louis

10. Duke University

There are also rankings focused on specific areas of medicine, such as Radiology, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Surgery. Harvard won first place in all of them. 

The  Harvard Medical School accepts applications from international students who have studied for at least one year at an accredited institution in the United States or Canada and have met all the school requirements. They are expected to be fluent in English. However, TOEFL is not required. While accepting applications from students with international education backgrounds, applicants with American or Canadian academic degrees will be prioritized.

For Texas State University medical courses in the Clinical Laboratory Science and Respiratory Care specializations, international applicants need two years of study at a United States school and a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university.

The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences at the  University of Bridgeport, which offers pre-med studies, requires international applicants to complete high school at a regionally accredited – that is, American – school and also 16 approved academic work units: four from English, three in mathematics, two in laboratory sciences, two in social sciences and at least five electives.

Begin studies in the United States

Even if it is possible to register, it is essential to be prepared for the challenge. Competition is already high even among American students, who have all the necessary documentation.

So, based on the examples above, if you desire to study medicine in the United States, you not only have to be willing to go through the heavy load of studies but have the conditions to start your study journey in the country long before even from admission to a medical school. Your chances are greater if you have graduated with a  pre-med in the United States and, consequently, earned your American diploma and Social Security Number as a student. 

Revalidation of medical diploma in Brazil

Brazilian students who graduate in medicine through foreign courses, whether in an undergraduate or graduate course, must pass the National Examination for the Revalidation of Medical Diplomas, known as Revalida, to practice the profession in Brazil.

Revalida is valid for degrees taken in any country globally, not only in the United States. The test is the same for everyone who wants to revalidate a foreign medical degree. The purpose of the exam is to ensure that these professionals have had a good education, regardless of the country, to practice medicine with authority and confidence in Brazil. 

The test is done in two eliminatory stages: the theoretical test, with multiple choice and essay questions, and the practical test of clinical skills. This revalidation requirement is current and became an annual test only in 2011, created by the Ministry of Education and applied by the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research.

On Inep’s website , you can find all the important information about Revalida, such as test dates, results of each stage and the Brazilian public higher education institutions that apply the test. In total, you can provide Revalida in 45 locations across Brazil, including 30 federal universities and ten state universities in Amazonas, Bahia, Alagoas, Ceará, Campina Grande, Goiás, Brasilia, Mato Grosso do Sul, Ouro Preto, Espírito Santo Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Sergipe, etc.

FMT and UFMG are universities that offer courses to complement their studies for candidates who did not pass the exam narrowly to complement the grade with additional studies and achieve the revalidation of the diploma. Revalida may undergo minor changes depending on the institution, in the format, in the cut-off note, and in the registration fee, which can reach R $ 1,500.

 Read more:

  • Reasons for choosing to study in New York as a study destination.
  • Already graduated in medicine? How about a  graduate degree in the United States.


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