Foreign medical schools

Just studying ocean life…I mean immunology!

When considering a foreign medical school, cost is a relative factor, and so this question is not so easily disposed of.

You may think that studying in another country, say Mexico or the Caribbean, would be a less expensive option than a top notch U.S. school. But that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, studying at an international medical school can often bring even higher costs.

One way to look at this is by comparing the average debt assumed. A 2010 study by the federal government pegged average student debt for foreign medical students at $235,000; U.S. medical students accrued an average of $158,000. That number is now closer to $177,000.

But here’s where apples are not oranges. If you graduate with $250,000 in debt and are unable to get into a residency program, your medical school education will not only be expensive, but it may prove useless. Even if the education were cheaper, it may be the most expensive mistake you’ll ever make.

This is not to say foreign medical schools aren’t the perfect option for many medical students. Just make sure you attend a school with ECFMC certification, and with an excellent reputation for not only training doctors, but obtaining residencies. Each institution keeps statistics on the number of residencies obtained by their medical students, and you can get those numbers if you ask. Some have pretty good success with residency matches, while others have pitiful numbers.

In 2013, Ross University School of Medicine, a popular Caribbean medical school, reported that 733 recent graduates got residencies at U.S. hospitals, and their students had a pass rate on the previous year’s USMLE Step 1 test of 96% on the first try. This is slightly higher than U.S. medical students. These scores from school to school will vary, but it’s a crucial gut check of the institutions you’re considering.

All foreign medical schools are required to meet the same requirement as U.S. medical schools, that is, a pass rate of 75% on the USMLE (licensing exams). Schools who do not meet this requirement will put a huge burden on their students, who also aren’t eligible for federal loans.

Bryce Johnson co-founded in 2011 and is the author of Must Reads for the Well-Rounded Pre-Med on Amazon. If you'd like to write for the site or contribute in another way, feel free to reach out to him on LinkedIn or via email.