This is a question we receive over and over again. How long is medical school in the Caribbean? Well, most US & Canadian medical schools are 4 years in duration. There are a handful of schools that offer 3-year programs which eliminate the summers and condense the curriculum. In South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, medical school is roughly 5-6 years long and includes a mandatory year of unpaid internship training. During that year, students are evaluated and graded since it’s a part of their educational curriculum.
Attending a Caribbean Medical School
Most Caribbean schools offer a 4-year MD program that mirrors American and Canadian medical schools. Regardless of where you go, the curriculum is essentially the same across the board and you’ll receive the same medical education attending an international medical school.
What are you actually learning during these four years? The subjects that you’ll cover in the first two years of medical school, also known as the ‘foundation years’ or the ‘basic sciences’ include courses like:
- Gross Anatomy (with or without human cadaver dissection)
- Histology and cell biology (with or without lab)
- Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine
- Medical Ethics
- Microbiology & Immunology
- Medical Psychology
- General & Systemic Pathology
- Physical Diagnosis and Management
- Introduction to Clinical Medicine
- Some form of a board review course (e.g., Kaplan, Becker’s)
- Some research project spread out over a few semesters
This is what you’ll be covering for the first 2 years of medical school in the Caribbean. After that, you’ll usually be asked to write a Shelf Exam or Comprehensive Assessment through your school which is usually offered by the NBME (National Board of Medical Examiners). This is the organization that helps write the USMLE exams (the slew of national licensing exams that all physicians have to write in order to gain their medical license).
Some schools have their own internal comprehensive exam, and as the name implies, it’s a cumulative MCQ-based test covering all the subjects from those first two years of medical school. Once you pass your school’s ‘COMP’, then you’ll be able to attempt the USMLE Step 1 Exam, the first of a handful of these licensing examinations that medical students/graduates must pass in order to compete for residency training positions in the United States or Canada.
Some Caribbean medical schools will also give you an entire semester (4 months) to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam on your own, usually after completing your first two years of Basic Sciences. Some schools have partnered with national private exam prep companies like Kaplan and Becker’s to help their students have a fighting chance at passing the Step 1 on their first attempt.
This is extremely important because not only does a competitive passing score on your first attempt put you into a much better position for a residency match, but your school can use your success to market to successive students interested in attending their institution.
Once you’ve gotten that far, you’re halfway through medical school! Well, kind of. Soon enough, you’ll be on your way to clinical rotations and working with patients to perfect your knowledge and sharpen your skill set. International medical graduates not only get the chance to practice medicine but also come home with a wealth of new knowledge from experiencing culture in a completely different country.
Attending an International Medical School
If you’re still deciding on where to go to medical school abroad, then don’t get too ahead of yourself on your own. Start your journey with UMCAS! Use 1 universal application to apply to various medical schools in the Caribbean that participate on our platform. You can also read up on each school’s offerings, compare their curriculums, fees, available scholarships or bursaries, and other resources available to you. Deciding to pursue a career in medicine is a path of lifelong learning. Start your journey with UMCAS today.
Did you just get a rejection letter from the medical school you wanted to attend? Check out our last blog post on how to handle medical school rejection depression.