How Can I Go From Nursing to Medical School?

Working as a nurse can provide great preparation for becoming a doctor. Your background and training in the medical field can help you to be seen as a strong candidate for medical school and can also help you to adjust more easily to the demands of medical training. Here's a look at what it takes to move from a nursing career to medical school. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Moving From Nursing to Medical School

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses have already earned a diploma, associate degree or bachelor's degree. If you completed a diploma or associate degree program, you may need to return to school to earn your bachelor's degree. Medical schools typically require three years of undergraduate education, but many applicants choose to earn a 4-year undergraduate degree.

To become a doctor, you need to complete four years in medical school and a residency that can take three to eight years, according to the BLS. Your experience as a nurse can't be used as part of your training to become a doctor, but it can help you get accepted into medical school.

Important Facts about Medical School

Common Courses Foundations of Microbiology, Cardiovascular System, Respiratory System, Hematology, Behavioral Sciences
Degree Options Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Key Skills Taught Problem-solving, leadership, resilience, adaptability, team-work
Continuing Education Required Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses vary by state
Median Salary (2018) $200,890 (for all physicians and surgeons)
Job Growth (2016-2026) 13% (for all physicians and surgeons)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Entering Medical School

Admission to medical school is competitive, the BLS reported, and most schools are very selective in choosing students. The combination of competitiveness and limited selection means admission requirements are often strict. Since you've already worked in the medical field and have medical training, you'll find you can meet many admission requirements easily.

Standards vary, but most schools have the same basic admission requirements. Many medical schools prefer that applicants have completed basic science courses, such as biology, chemistry and physics, which you'll likely have encountered as part of your nursing program. You'll typically be able to meet the requirements for technical skills through your work experience.

Most schools also require you to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and they will consider your scores when making admission decisions. You may also need to provide letters of recommendation from colleagues or your employer.

Completing Medical School and Licensing

Medical school takes four years to complete, with the first two years mainly devoted to classroom work and the last two years focusing on clinical work. After completing medical school and before your residency program, you'll need to obtain your medical license. To qualify to take a licensing examination, you must have graduated from a medical school accredited by either the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association.

The licensing exam for allopathic, or traditional, physicians is called the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Aspiring osteopathic physicians take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). You'll get your license for the state in which you will practice. Each state's medical board handles its licensing requirements.

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