Types of Medical School Programs
and How They Lead into Primary Care

There's more than one way to earn a medical degree. Before you apply to medical school, take time to learn about the differences and similarities among various types of medical school programs.

Allopathic Medicine

Allopathic schools, the most widely available type of medical training, confer the MD degree on their graduates. The traditional model of training consists of two years of basic science courses followed by two years of clinical rotations. Allopathic schools focus on the “systems-based” approach to medicine. The program is organized around physiologic systems, such as the endocrine system or the nervous system. Many schools employ case studies and teach through clinical vignettes. Allopathic training will give you the option to practice in any of the medical specialties and is universally recognized as the medical degree, including international practice.

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Medical schools vary in emphasis and approach to primary care education. Know what to look for as you apply.

Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic physicians, who receive the DO degree, consider the whole person, including physical, emotional and spiritual components, instead of focusing on specific symptoms or illnesses. They regard your body as an integrated whole and focus on preventive health care. They also use a hands-on system of diagnosis and treatment known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. The course work for osteopathic medicine includes two years of basic science courses followed by two years of clinical training. DOs can specialize in any medical field and practice the full scope of modern medicine.

To learn more about osteopathic medicine, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) offers a video about osteopathic medicine(data.aacom.org) and a helpful timeline for applying to osteopathic medical school(www.aacom.org).

Early Decision Programs

Some medical schools make provisions for students to submit their applications and be admitted in advance of the standard deadlines. This is referred to as an Early Decision Program (EDP)(students-residents.aamc.org). The application deadline is usually in the month of August and a decision is made by October 1. You may only apply to one school offering an EDP and, if admitted, you are obligated to attend that school. Therefore, you should only apply to a school of your first choice. If you are not admitted under this program, you will be notified in sufficient time to make the deadline for regular application to other medical schools. It is sometimes possible for a rejected EDP applicant to be admitted to the same school during the regular admissions process. Check with the admissions department in the medical school for specific requirements of their Early Decision Programs.

Joint Degree Programs

Some medical schools offer students the opportunity to earn the MD or DO degree plus another professional degree. Visit the individual medical school websites to see what joint degree programs they offer. If you are interested in BA/MD, MD/PhD, MD/MPH, DO/MBA or MD/JD or other specific programs offered by various schools, contact that school for application materials.

Get the Complete List

The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) has a complete listing of medical programs in the country along with individual program requirements. This resource should be studied carefully for selection factors and guidelines for admissions. Visit the MSAR website »(students-residents.aamc.org)

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