Medical School: You’re in for a Lot of Hard Work!

Just so you know what you are in for. You worked hard to get in, the medical school curriculum will make you work hard, and it will not get much easier afterwards.

While there is significant variability between medical schools and their particular teaching methods and curricula, the four years of medical school can generally be broken down into two phases:

  • The basic sciences (first and second years)
  • The clinical sciences (third and fourth years)

Freshman Year (MS I)

Anticipate being in class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. (While there has been a movement toward students skipping these classes and using less expensive online courses to cover the same material in the convenience of your dorm, it appears the medical schools are getting close to plugging this “loop hole”.) You will be completing approximately 24 – 28 semester hours of material. As we state elsewhere on this website, the work is not as difficult as it is voluminous. (This is where the “drinking from a fire hose” analogy comes from!) Here are the classes you can expect to take your first year of medical school:

  1. Behavioral Science – Less intensive. Designed to help develop your “beside mannerisms.”
  2. Biochemistry – Very intensive. One of the “big three” first year classes.
  3. Embryology – Medium intensity. Covers the embryonic development and birth control.
  4. Genetics – Less intensive. Covers birth defects.
  5. Gross Anatomy – Very intensive. This is the class with the human cadaver. Another of the “big three” first year med school classes.
  6. Histology – Medium intensity. Usually only one semester in length.
  7. Law – Not required at all med schools. Covers malpractice laws.
  8. Neuroanatomy – Very intensive. Covers the many very intricate nerve pathways.
  9. Physiology – Very intensive. The third of the “big three” classes with biochemistry and gross anatomy being the other two.

Sophomore Year (MS II)

The studies start to become a little more interesting. Most schools will allow you to start seeing patients. Here are the courses you will most likely take your second year of medical school:

  1. Clinical Diagnosis – You will work with a physician and learn H&P (histories and physicals).
  2. Microbiology – You will learn about bacteria, parasites, and viruses and many, many, types of strept throat infections.
  3. Pathology – This is the most intensive and most important class you will take in your second year.
  4. Pharmacology – You will greatly increase your knowledge of drug interactions in this very practical class.

After finishing with these classes, you will be given 2 to 3 weeks to prepare for the National Boards Part I. This will likely make the MCAT seem like a walk in the park!

Junior Year (MS III)

You will now begin the clinical sciences part of your studies and you will make important decisions regarding your future internship and residency during these final two years. You will likely do two-month rotations in the following areas:

  1. Internal Medicine
  2. Obstetrics and Gynecology
  3. Pediatrics
  4. Psychiatry
  5. Surgery

Senior Year (MS IV)

You will augment your junior year with additional rotations in specialties of interest to you. These may include pathology, anesthesiology, or any other large number of specialties. You will also be “matched” with a residency training program by a computer that will assign you to the program that you ranked the highest and that also ranked you the highest. Finally, you will take the second part of the National Boards.