Being able to attend medical school is the culmination of many years of study, and represents both a great challenge and a wonderful educational opportunity. This is true for all medical students, including Canadian medical students, international students, and beyond.
However, while there are a number of fantastic Canadian medical college options available to Canadian students in their own country, not every Canadian student is interested in making a commitment to studying medicine at home.
Some want to explore and choose from among the many medical schools in America, the Caribbean, and around the world. So why do US medical schools have such an appeal? It turns out there are many reasons!
If you’re a Canadian applying to US medical school (or even just thinking about it) read on to learn more about the process, the challenges and the opportunities of studying abroad.
Why Are U.S. Medical Schools So Attractive?
Many around the world, including Canadians and international students, consider an American medical education to be among – if not the best – in the world.
Many educational publications consistently rank US medical schools as being among the top five – with some being of the opinion that American medical education programs deserve to take all five spots in the world’s top five.
This may be why applicants seeking admission to American medical programs require a good academic record and great MCAT scores, among other things.
Reason # 1: Great Pay
One reason why getting accepted to an American medical school or university attracts so many applications is related to pay.
A general practitioner in the United States will earn over $200,000 yearly, and specialists can make much more. While the US healthcare system is far from perfect and is very expensive for its citizens, the medical education remains top notch and very competitive.
Working in the industry can be very profitable for those that work in the public health field.
Reason # 2: You Can Be Accredited to Work in the United States
By gaining acceptance to (and graduating from) a competitive US medical school, you will automatically be accredited to work in the United States. This means that successful graduates from US programs will eventually be able to compete for those very high-paying clinical jobs.
For those interested in helping others while learning at the most cutting-edge academic institutions – not to mention getting paid well to do it – attending an American medical school can be a tempting option.
Reason # 3: You Can Do Your Residency in the United States
It’s important to recognize that graduating from one of the academic programs – whether it is in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, or somewhere else – isn’t the end of the journey. In some ways, it is only the beginning!
After a four year program, soon-to-be doctors will first need to complete a residency, something that takes between two and seven years.
The amount of time that residents spend in their residency will depend upon their specialization. For example, someone focusing on family practice may only need two years of effort, but those looking at options like surgery can spend up to seven years as a resident.
While residents can expect to face a grueling ordeal no matter where they land, the institution in which they do their residency matters a great deal, and can go a long way to defining the long-term path of a new doctor or physician.
Gaining admission to a coveted program can also be very difficult. According to physicians, it is generally understood that being accepted into an elite hospital (such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland or Washington School University in St. Louis) will provide a better preparation than a if a resident were to work in a smaller regional hospital for the duration of their residency.
For this reason, graduating from a US medical school and gaining the clinical experiences you can only expect in a top-tier US residency will make it more likely that you can work in the United States once you’re done, and provide better opportunities to be successful.
Do U.S. Medical Schools Even Accept Canadian Students?
Yes they do! This means if you’re a Canadian thinking about applying to US medical school but are worried they won’t accept Canadian applicants at all, then you can breathe a sigh of relief.
And while graduating from a Canadian medical school is a prestigious accomplishment, we understand the appeal of attending a medical college in the United States. However, while many US medical schools accept international students, keep in mind that not every medical school in the United States accepts Canadians.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), in addition to the Canadian medical schools available to its own citizens, there are a total of 58 Canadian friendly US medical schools to choose from.
These include programs across the country, from New York state in the northeast to California in the southwest, and from Washington state in the northwest of the country all the way down to Louisiana in the southeast.
What is Easier: Getting into Medical School in the U.S. or Canada?
In both American and Canadian schools, applicants to programs in the health sciences field will find themselves faced with a challenge, and a lot of competition.
So which is easier – getting into med school in the US or in Canada? The answer is that it depends on where you were born and where you want to pursue your studies.
One thing is certain: no matter where you do your training, the requirements will be very stringent. Those applying will need letters of recommendation and references, a good GPA, excellent MCAT scores, a willingness to do coursework, and the dedication to work very long hours for years to come.
In other words, getting into medical school is difficult no matter where you want to study.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, of the (roughly) 40,000 students that apply to med school each year in Canada, only about 3,000 (or 7%) make the cut each year. This low admissions percentage is some proof of the difficulty involved.
And if you are a Canadian classified as an international student – or if you are an actual international student from outside of North America – we have some bad news: getting into an American medical school is even more difficult.
International Students Have a Very Low Chance of Success of Getting Into a US Medical School
According to data from the AAMC, even though there are approximately 20,000 available spaces for students applying to US-based medical schools each year (seven times higher than Canada’s 3,000 spaces), and only a small fraction of those spaces – just about 200 – go to non-US citizens or non-permanent residents.
That means that 99% of the spaces are off-limits to those classified as “international students.”Depending on the school you’re interested in, this means you, even if you’re a Canadian citizen.
Part of the reason has to do with the costs of tuition. Even among private institutions, many have requirements for applicants to show proof that they can pay for all four years of the tuition, with some medical schools even requiring applicants to provide the funds via an escrow account in advance.
If you add the fact that international students do not have access to financial aid or US scholarships, along with the overall difficulty of the process, it becomes clear that finding a place in a US medical school is extremely difficult with a low probability of success.
This does not mean that all hope is lost, however.
What Other Options Do Canadians Have?
Each US medical school has its own set of regulations about how they classify Canadian students. Unfortunately, most consider Canadians “international students,” and reduce their admissions accordingly.
However, as mentioned above, some schools treat Canadian citizens just like American citizens, making those applicants from Canada eligible to attend those schools. We call these “Canadian friendly US medical schools.”
Canadians that are classified as international students by US schools face significant challenges when looking for access to a medical education in the United States.
You can find an alternative list of American schools that accept Canadians (along with their tuition amounts and GPA cut-off scores) here. Hopefully it will help anyone trying to narrow down their choice of US medical schools for Canadian students.
US Medical Schools Are Not the Only Option
Canadian medical schools are still excellent in their own right, and any Canadian student should remember how lucky they are to be able to use the excellent programs available to take in their home country.
And while Canadian students can study at home, they shouldn’t feel too limited. They can also decide to attend medical school outside of Canada or the US and still get to do their residency in the United States if they so choose.
This is true as long as that school is accredited by the right US authorities. If so, graduates can do their residency in a US hospital.
Can I Be Accredited to Do My Residency and Work in the US If I Study Abroad?
Yes, it is possible to do your medical residency at a US-based facility, even if you didn’t study medicine inside the borders of the US itself.
Besides graduating from a US medical school, one of the only other ways to gain a spot in a residency at a medical facility in the US if you are considered an international student is to graduate from a school that is properly accredited.
There are many medical schools in Canada (such as the University of Toronto), in the Caribbean (such as the American University of Antigua), and around the world that have gained such accreditation.
Opportunities Outside of Canada
In Canada, there are many medical faculties to choose from in both English and French. However, if you’ve decided that it might be best to explore options around the world, there are plenty of possibilities to consider.
For those Canadian applicants that want to avoid some of the harsh Canadian winters, there are excellent educational options in the Caribbean.
Canadian Friendly Schools in the Caribbean
There are a number of excellent schools that aspiring Canadian physicians can submit their applications to in the Caribbean. We’ve written a helpful blog on the subject of Caribbean medical schools, and our conclusion is that American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA) is one of the best options available.
Why is that? Because American University of Antigua scores well on what many consider to be the most important two factors when judging a school of medicine. Those two factors are:
- The accreditation level of the Caribbean medical school, which is an indicator of the institution’s legitimacy and education quality
- The success of that school’s students, as defined by their test scores and residency placements
American University of Antigua College of Medicine
For graduates of AUA, the proof is in the numbers.
First, the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (CAAM-HP) has determined that the AUA meets the high standard expected of a top quality medical school.
Holding accreditation from either the CAAM-HP or the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM) is generally considered to be the gold standard for determining a Caribbean medical school quality The U.S. Department of Education’s National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA) has vouched for the standards of accreditation used by both the CAAM-HP and the ACCM, describing their standards as comparable to those used to accredit medical schools in the U.S.
Additionally, AUA has received approval or recognition from various important state boards and departments, including:
- New York State Department
- Florida Department of Education
- Medical Board of California
Students from the AUA also fare well when faced with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 (USMLE), and perform very well in their respective residencies.
You can find a list of the successful AUA residency placements here. In that list, you’ll see that graduates have been placed in hundreds of individual schools in both the United States and in Canada.
Need More Information about American University of Antigua?
If you’re a Canadian student or aspiring doctor that wants to learn more about AUA, visit our website. There, you can learn more about what the application process is like, explore Caribbean medical school requirements, discover the AUA campus, search through the various scholarship options, or simply learn more about living in Antigua.