Is it difficult to study medicine in the United States?

Medical studies in the USA: the most important information at a glance

Again and again German students resort to the alternative abroad in order to be able to study medicine. At the top of the list are countries like Hungary, Latvia and Poland. But what about the United States? Doesn't the USA also represent an alternative to conventional studies in Germany? In this article we clarify which requirements you need, how long the course will take and what costs you will have to pay.

The most important information at a glance:

  • To be able to study in the USA, you already need a bachelor's degree.
  • You have to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) and expect a lot of competition.
  • You apply directly to the respective US university. The allocation of places does not take place centrally as in Germany.
  • Most universities are private and charge tuition fees of $ 20,000- $ 40,000 per year (sometimes even per semester!).
  • The actual duration of the course is around four years (however, four years must be added for the Bachelor's degree).
  • You don't only need a visa during your studies. Completing your degree does not guarantee you a secure residence permit in the USA!


It is particularly difficult for foreign applicants to get a place in one of the coveted universities in the United States. One of the reasons for this is that many of these medical faculties do not give “non-American” applicants a chance or expect particularly outstanding performance.

The bachelor's degree as a basic requirement

In order to be able to apply for a medical degree in the USA, you must have already completed the four-year bachelor's degree. However, the degree does not necessarily have to be a Bachelor of Science (something like politics or history is also possible, for example). Of course, a basic course in the natural sciences is a good option, as the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) tests your skills in precisely this area. As a rule, American citizens complete the pre-med bachelor's degree after high school, which is intended to prepare them for medical studies. A German Bacherle degree is usually not sufficient for an application to study in the USA.

MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)

After successfully completing the bachelor's degree, participation in the so-called MCAT is essential. Basically, it is similar to the medical tests in Germany and is intended to compare the basic knowledge of the applicants, which can be very different due to the freely selectable bachelor's degree.

The most important facts about the test:

  • Duration: approx. 4 hours
  • Structure: mostly multiple choice
  • Contents: chemistry, physics, biology and "verbal reasoning" (understanding of language)
  • Test locations: worldwide, partly also in Germany
  • Cost: $ 365 to $ 415
  • Number of test repetitions: three times a year


The application for a medical degree in the USA differs fundamentally from that in Germany. The study places are not assigned centrally here. Rather, the application is made directly to the respective university. However, since every university has different requirements, it is usually not possible to send the same application folder to different institutions.

When applying, z. B. letters of motivation, certificates or awards in the sporting or voluntary sector are taken into account. It is important that your application clearly stands out from the others. With a little luck, you will then be invited to an interview. But be careful: the competition is incredibly big. As a foreign applicant, you quickly fall under the table there. Many private universities do not allow “non-American” applications at all. The problem is similarly difficult with the few state universities, as they are financed by taxpayers' money and thus give way to their own citizens.

Procedure and duration

After completing the bachelor's degree, which usually takes four years, the actual medical degree follows, lasting around four years. The course is completed with the so-called Medical Doctor (M.D.). The content of the course is relatively clear. However, it is mostly up to the university in which order and structure the subject matter is taught. This is followed by training to become a specialist. This also takes another three to seven years.

Overview of the duration of medical studies in the USA:

  • four years of bachelor's degree in advance
  • four years of "pure" medical studies
  • three to seven years of specialist training


If you want to study medicine in the United States, you must expect high costs. The majority of students start their careers with up to six-figure debts. Fees can range from $ 20,000 to $ 40,000 per year, sometimes even per semester, depending on the university. In addition, there are costs for rent, groceries, transport and much more.

If you need help with financing, “AuslandsBAföG” or a foreign scholarship may help. Those who are particularly talented in a certain area (e.g. athletic or musical) may find a way to get part of their costs paid here.


An F1 visa is usually required to study in the USA. However, this visa is only limited to the period of study. After completing their studies, the student is granted a further stay of a maximum of 60 days. During this time, however, you are not allowed to work. An automatic extension of the visa or a generalized residence permit or work permit cannot be obtained with this visa. The process of being able to stay and work permanently in the USA after studying is far more difficult and is very individual.


Anyone who actually manages to get hold of one of the coveted study places in the USA despite the strict selection process can look forward to it! On the one hand you can fulfill your dream of studying medicine in the USA, on the other hand you can expect a considerable doctor's salary. However, it should not be forgotten that studying medicine can initially run into high debts. From a purely economic point of view (in addition to the bureaucratic effort) there are definitely cheaper and easier ways to study medicine abroad.