What Classes Will You Take in Medical School?

Medical School Student and Teacher

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Medical school can be a daunting idea, even to premed students. Years of intense studying and practical application of skills prepare hopeful doctors for their professional lives, but what does it take to train a doctor? The answer's pretty straightforward: lots of science classes. From Anatomy to Immunology, the medical school curriculum is a fascinating pursuit of knowledge as it relates to caring for the human body. 

Although the first two years still center on learning the science behind the work, the last two allow students the opportunity to learn in a real hospital environment by placing them in rotations. Therefore the school and its associated hospital will greatly impact your educational experience when it comes to your last two years of rotation. 

Core Curriculum

Depending on what type of medical school degree you are pursuing, you will be required to follow a series of courses in order to earn your degree. However, the medical school curriculum is standardized across programs wherein med students take coursework the first two years of school. What can you expect as a medical student? Lots of biology and lots of memorization.

Similar to some of your premed coursework, the first year of medical school examines the human body. How does it develop? How is it composed? How does it function? Your courses will require that you memorize body parts, processes and conditions. Prepare to learn and repeat long lists of terms and take everything body-science related starting with anatomy, physiology and histology in your first semester and then studying biochemistry, embryology and neuroanatomy to round out the end of your first year. 

In your second year, course work shifts focus more on learning and understanding known diseases and the available resources we have to fight them. Pathology, microbiology, immunology and pharmacology are all courses taken during your second year alongside learning to work with patients. You'll learn how to interact with patients by taking their medical histories and conducting initial physical examinations. At the end of your second year of med school, you will take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE-1). Failing this exam can stop your medical career before it begins.

Rotations and Variation by Program

From here on out, medical school becomes a combination of on-the-job training and independent research. During your third year, you will start rotations. You'll get experience working in a variety of different specialties, rotating every few weeks to introduce you to various fields of medicine. During the fourth year, you'll obtain more experience with another set of rotations. These entail more responsibility and prepare you to work independently as a physician.

When it comes time to decide which medical schools to apply to, it is important to look at the differences in their teaching styles and their approach to the program's mandated curriculum. For instance, according to Stanford's M.D. Program website, their program is designed " to prepare physicians who will provide outstanding, patient-centered care and to inspire future leaders who will improve world health through scholarship and innovation." This is achieved through providing the opportunity for integration and individualized education plans including the option for fifth or sixth-year studies and joint degrees. 

No matter where you decide to go, though, you will get the opportunity to earn real on the job experience while completing your degree and getting one step closer to being a fully certified doctor.

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Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "What Classes Will You Take in Medical School?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/classes-you-take-in-medical-school-1686307. Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, August 25). What Classes Will You Take in Medical School? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/classes-you-take-in-medical-school-1686307 Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "What Classes Will You Take in Medical School?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/classes-you-take-in-medical-school-1686307 (accessed June 3, 2023).