The ROAD to a Medical Degree in the U.S.
Since 2006, we have worked with pre-medical and medical students from around the globe, and have helped guide them — and their loved ones — to their best results in the process. If you're a parent of a pre-med or medical student, this page is for you.
We've broken down what the pathway to a MD or DO degree looks like, what the steps are along the way, and important facts, dates and acronyms for you to know.
Let's start with an overview of the medical training process in the United States — including the important exams students take in each phase of their medical training:
Med School Admissions Application via AMCAS and/or AACOMAS
|Basic Sciences & Preclinical Training||Basic Sciences & Preclinical Training
USMLE Step 1
COMLEX Level 1
USMLE Step 2 CK & CS
COMLEX Level 2 CE & PE
Apply to Medical Residency: ERAS, NRMP & AOA Match
|USMLE Step 3
COMLEX Level 3
Note: Some medical schools structure their curricula differently by condensing the first two years of basic sciences into one year, thus moving their students into pre-clinical training in their second year. In these programs — and during the COVID era — many students will take the USMLE Step 1 during third year.
We know these steps inside out from pre-medical education through residency.
Helpful Blog Posts & Videos:
If you haven't explored our blog yet, it is a repository of helpful information for students and loved ones alike. Below, we've collected a few of our most "high yield" (a term your student will regularly hear in medical school) for your reference:
Medical Training Exams, Acronyms, Organizations & More:
AACOM | The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
AACOMAS | The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application System.
Students use AACOMAS to apply to Osteopathic (DO) medical schools.
AAFP | American Academy of Family Physicians
AAMC | Association of American Medical Colleges
ABMS | American Board of Medical Specialties
ABMS MOC® | ABMS Maintenance of Certification
ACGME | Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education
AMA | American Medical Association
AMCAS® | American Medical College Application System
AOA | American Osteopathic Association
AOA Honor Society | Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society
Attending | Attending physicians have completed their training and are fully credentialed. You'll often hear this term when students talk about who they report to in their residency training.
Clinical Clerkship or Rotation | Often used interchangeably, Clerkships or Rotations are generally done in students' third year of medical school and are a major part of how medical students receive their clinical training. Clerkships can include:
• Emergency Medicine
• Family Medicine
• Internal Medicine
• Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN)
COMLEX-USA | Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination. Consists of 4 parts:
• Level 1 — Traditionally taken at the end of the second year of medical school. Computer-based exam.
• Level 2 CE — Cognitive Evaluation — Traditionally taken in the third year of medical school. Computer-based exam.
• Level 2 PE — Performance Evaluation — Traditionally taken in the third year of medical school.
• Level 3 — Traditionally taken during the first year of residency. Computer-based exam.
Comprehensive (Comp) Exam | An exam traditionally administered to students by Caribbean schools, with the requirement to pass the comp exam prior to taking the USMLE Step 1.
DEA | Drug Enforcement Administration
Dedicated | Many students have a dedicated study period before they take a major exam, such as the MCAT, USMLE or COMLEX. For the USMLE Step 1, for example, a student's "dedicated" may be four to six weeks.
DO | Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree
ECFMG® | Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates
ERAS® | Electronic Residency Application Service
FCVS | Federation Credentials Verification Service
Fellow | A fellow has completed their medical residency, is fully credentialed and is obtaining additional specialized training for their sub-specialty through their fellowship.
FMG | Foreign Medical Graduate
FSMB | Federation of State Medical Boards
GME | Graduate Medical Education
IMG | International Medical Graduate
IMLC | Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
Intern | This term is generally used for a first year medical resident.
MCAT® | Medical College Admissions Test
MD | Doctor of Medicine degree
NBME | National Board of Medical Examiners
NBOME | National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners
The names NBOME and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners are registered service marks of the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, Inc. (NBOME). The NBOME seal, the examination names COMAT, COMLEX, COMLEX-USA, COMSAE, COMVEX and CATALYST, and all other designated marks and styles are trademarks or service marks of the NBOME.
NRMP® | National Residency Match Program
OCC | Osteopathic Continuous Certification
Prometric Center | Testing centers where exams such as the COMLEX-USA and USMLE are administered and proctored.
Resident | When a medical student graduates from medical school, they enter their residency for their graduate medical training for 2–7 years and are often referred to as an "intern" in their first year of residency, and a resident thereafter.
Shelf Exams | Clinical clerkship exams that are taken upon completing a given clerkship.
UA | The Uniform Application service (an FSMB service)
USMLE® | The United States Medical Licensing Examination. Consists of 4 parts:
• Step 1 — Traditionally taken at the end of the second year of medical school. Computer-based exam.
• Step 2 CK — Clinical Knowledge — Traditionally taken in the third year of medical school. Computer-based exam.
• Step 2 CS — Clinical Skills — Traditionally taken in the third year of medical school
• Step 3 — Traditionally taken during the first year of residency. Computer-based exam.
How Med School Tutors Helps:
Med School Tutors was the first company to specialize in one-on-one tutoring for the USMLEs and COMLEX. Our track record of 14+ years of student successes is indicative of our dedication to our students, and to the personal touch and excellence across our team.
Whether your student needs weekly tutoring, "on demand" Pay As You Go help, or a one-time planning session to strategize about their dedicated study period or application, we guarantee that your student will be happy with the tutor they are matched with, and if not, we'll re-pair them with another tutor right away.