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Medical School Tips for Success

Master the admissions process and find the best medical school for you.

The demand for physicians and surgeons is expected to increase by 24 percent through 2020.
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Considering medical school? Use these pointers and suggestions to help you determine if a career in medicine is right for you.

Smart choices

Embarking on the path to become a doctor is a lengthy process. It takes a total of at least 11 years: four years of college; four years of medical school; and at least three years of in-hospital training. (Some programs require up to eight years of residency and internship training.)

The medical school applicant pool continues to increase, up to 45,266 in 2012 from 43,919 in 2011, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

[See the Best Medical Schools rankings.]

Getting in

It's important to build a base of knowledge during your undergraduate academic career. Medical school applicants should have a strong background in math and science, especially biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Being a doctor also requires good people skills, and a solid foundation of liberal arts courses such as humanities and social sciences helps, too.

Extracurricular activities like volunteering at a local hospital or medical clinic may make your application stand out, according to the AAMC, and can also be a good way to develop professional relationships that may lead to medical school letters of recommendation.

About 90 percent of medical school applicants apply during their junior year of college and start medical school right after college. Others take time off after graduation or go through an early admissions or accelerated program while they are still undergraduate students.

Insider tip

Believe it or not, it may be possible to go to medical school for free. Through research positions, scholarships, certain academic tracks and more, some students may be able to finagle earning their medical degree for a deeply discounted price — or even for free.

[Get tips on finding scholarships for medical school.]

Reality check

• Tuition increased at both public and private medical schools from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013, reports the AAMC. For 2012-2013, the median in-state tuition at public medical schools was $28,719, up from $27,014 in 2011-2012; for out-of-state students, it was $49,821, up from $47,799 the year before.

Median resident tuition at private medical schools was $46,734 in 2012-2013, up from the 2011-2012 school year's median ticket price of $44,171. For nonresidents, the median tuition was $47,150, up from $45,498 in 2011-2012.

[Explore how to pay for medical school.]

• The number of female medical school applicants peaked this year, when 20,922 females applied for the 2012-2013 school year. Male applicants still outnumber females, though; 24,338 males applied to medical school in 2012-2013, comprising 53.8 percent of the applicant pool.

• The number of minority students enrolled in medical school increased in 2012, according to the AAMC. African-Americans and Hispanic or Latino students reached a record high in application and enrollment numbers for the 2012 school year, receiving 1,416 and 1,731 new enrollments, respectively.

• The demand for physicians and surgeons is expected to increase by 24.4 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Labor Department's most recent prediction.

• Salaries vary widely by discipline. The mean salary for family and general practitioners was $177,330 per year in 2011, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; for surgeons in 2011, the mean annual wage was $231,550.

Searching for a medical school? Get our complete rankings of Best Medical Schools.