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Can you go to med school without college?

Many people dream of becoming a doctor but don’t want to spend years in college first. The typical path to medical school involves completing an undergraduate degree, taking the MCAT exam, and applying to med schools. But is it possible to skip getting a bachelor’s degree and go straight to medical school from high school? The quick answer is generally no, you typically need a college degree to apply to medical school in the United States. However, there are some special programs that allow a small number of students to enter med school without a bachelor’s degree. We’ll explore those options in more detail below.

Why Do You Need a Bachelor’s Degree for Medical School?

There are several important reasons why the vast majority of medical schools require applicants to complete an undergraduate degree:

  • To demonstrate proficiency in key prerequisite courses – Medical schools want to see that you have mastered important science subjects like biology, chemistry, physics, and math, which form the foundation of medical education.
  • To prove academic capability – Earning good grades in rigorous college courses shows med schools you can handle the academic demands of medical training.
  • To exhibit personal maturity – The college years help students develop independence, time management skills, leadership, and other qualities expected of future physicians.
  • To allow time for MCAT prep – The MCAT exam tests concepts usually learned in college prerequisite courses, so completing those courses prepares students for the exam.

While it is not an absolute requirement, the typical medical school applicant has a bachelor’s degree, often in a science field. Admissions committees prefer candidates with a 4-year degree when making their selections.

When Can You Apply Without a Bachelor’s Degree?

There are a small number of special programs that give high school students an accelerated route to medical school without needing a bachelor’s degree. These include:

  • Direct medical programs (DPM) – Also known as BS/MD programs, they allow exceptional high school students to be admitted directly into a combined undergrad-med school track, completing both in 6-8 years.
  • Early assurance programs – Students apply initially in college and if accepted, are guaranteed a spot in that school’s med school after finishing undergrad.
  • The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine – Admits a small cohort of students each year directly from high school to follow an integrated 5-year curriculum leading to an MD.

Apart from these kinds of accelerated programs, the typical path is to complete 4 years of undergraduate education first before applying to medical school.

What Are the Prerequisites for Medical School?

While a specific major isn’t required for med school admission, certain prerequisite courses are and make up much of the typical pre-med curriculum. Common course requirements include:

Subject Common Courses
Biology General Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Genetics, Microbiology, Cell Biology
Chemistry General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry
Physics Introductory & Calculus-based Physics
Math Calculus, Statistics
English Composition, Literature

Humanities and social science electives are also encouraged to provide a well-rounded foundation. While these science prerequisites can be completed without earning a bachelor’s degree, med schools want to see an applicant challenge themselves academically by finishing their undergrad education.

What About Caribbean Medical Schools?

Some prospective medical students consider attending Caribbean medical schools, which generally have lower admission requirements than U.S. medical schools. Many Caribbean schools only need 1-2 years of undergraduate credit to apply, meaning it’s possible to attend without finishing a bachelor’s degree.

However, Caribbean schools have some drawbacks to consider:

  • Lower graduation and residency placement rates – Attrition rates in Caribbean programs are often high and matching into a U.S. residency can be very difficult for graduates.
  • High cost – Tuition at Caribbean schools is typically much higher than U.S. medical schools.
  • Inadequate clinical rotations – Many students complete clinical rotations at affiliated U.S. hospitals to improve residency chances, which adds further expense.

Due to these factors, Caribbean medical schools are considered high-risk by many education experts. Students face greater challenges in successfully completing training and securing a residency after graduating.

Can Nurses & PAs Go to Medical School Without a Bachelor’s Degree?

For registered nurses and physician assistants who already hold patient care jobs but want to advance to become physicians, some med schools waive requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Many RN to MD and PA to MD bridge programs accept applicants with an associate’s degree or nursing/PA diploma plus professional experience. Accelerated 3-year medical school programs are available to streamline training.

However, bridge program applicants still need to fulfill all the necessary prerequisites, do well on the MCAT, and demonstrate they can succeed in med school. Having healthcare experience helps strengthen an application lacking a bachelor’s degree.


While there are a few special programs that offer early admission to gifted high school students, the vast majority of medical schools require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate education allows pre-meds to take important science prerequisites, achieve academic excellence, and demonstrate they have the maturity level for medical studies. Registered nurses, physician assistants, and other healthcare workers may have alternative options through bridge programs to enter medical school without a bachelor’s degree if they have the necessary prerequisites and experience. For most aspirants, the surest path to med school remains completing a 4-year undergraduate degree prior to applying.