CHANGING CAREERS TO ATTEND MEDICAL SCHOOL AND BECOME A PHYSICIAN
Whether you’re a teacher or a nurse, a medical lab technician or a computer programmer, you can still change careers, attend medical school, and earn your Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. How do we know this? Because we’ve graduated students who have likely been in very similar situations to yours, and they’ve gone on to earn their MDs, attain residencies and fellowships, and move on to careers as physicians.
The vast majority of students who matriculate into medical school in the United States are in their early to mid-twenties. Although older students may find it more difficult to gain admission to medical schools, they may also find that their maturity and life experience are taken into consideration by schools willing to give “nontraditional” students an opportunity to study medicine.
- May be older than “traditional” medical school students who enter medical school directly after completing their undergraduate degree – non-traditional medical school students are often in their late 20s, 30s, or even 40s
- May have different levels of maturity than fresh-out-of-undergrad students
- May have broader levels of work experience, giving them a deeper understanding of business and industry
- Often have worked in a medically related profession, which can give their applications—and life at medical school—a boost
Wondering what jobs our graduates and currents students have come from when they’re changing careers? In the medical realm, they include:
- Respiratory therapists
- Physician assistants
Outside the medical realm, the list gets even more varied. The following is just a sample of careers that RUSM graduates have worked in prior to starting medical school:
- Elementary education
- Computer science
- Project management/engineering
- Athletic training
- Professional sports
Take a look below for some examples of alumni who have switched from a related medical career or another profession entirely:
Vanessa Doyle, MD, Class of 2012
Prior Career: Nursing
Undergraduate: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Where Is She Now? Neurology residency at University of Ottawa in her home country of Canada. Read more about Dr. Doyle here.
Keith Morgan, MD, Class of 2013
Prior Career: Athlete, former Olympic competitor
Undergraduate: McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Where Is He Now? Beginning a fellowship in sports medicine at University of Ottawa. Read more about Dr. Morgan here.
Marcella Perez, MD, Class of 2015
Prior Career: Computer science
Undergraduate: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Where Is She Now? Family medicine residency at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in her home state of New Jersey. Read more about Dr. Perez here.
Curtis Whitehair, MD, Class of 2000
Prior career: Computer science
Undergraduate: Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV (BS, business administration, information systems, and computer programming)
Where Is He Now? Currently program director of the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital/MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Residency Training Program and director of the cancer rehabilitation program for MedStar NRH and the MedStar NRH Rehabilitation Network. Read more about Dr. Whitehair here.
Amy Jarvis, MD, Class of 2003
Prior Career: Commodities broker
Undergraduate: American College, London, UK
Where Is She Now? Dr. Jarvis has more than a decade of experience as a neurologist, and was recently named Medical Director of the Primary Stroke Center at North Shore Medical Center, Miami, FL. Read more about Dr. Jarvis here.
Ray King, MD, RUSM Class of 2010
Prior Career: Faculty positions at several medical schools in the Boston area and abroad, including Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass), and even such far-flung locations as Kathmandu University Medical School in Nepal.
Undergraduate: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (originally double major in music and biology)
Where Is He Now? Completed residency in surgery at Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, Augusta, where he was named Resident of the Year in 2015; now at University of Minnesota for a colorectal surgery fellowship, with an eye on joining at practice at University Hospital in Augusta. Read more about Dr. King here.
Jason Lester, MD, Class of 2006
Prior Career: Engineering/project manager
Undergraduate: University of California, Riverside, CA
Where Is He Now? Dr. Lester serves as attending physician, Department of Emergency Medicine and assistant medical director, Department of Emergency Medicine at Mercy St. Charles Hospital in Oregon, Ohio. He is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, a Diplomate of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and a Diplomate of the National Board of Medical Examiners. Read more about Dr. Lester here.
Kelsey Carrio, MD, Class of 2014
Prior Career: Second-grade elementary school teacher
Undergraduate: University of California, San Diego, CA
Where Is She Now? Family medicine residency at Inspira Medical Center, Woodbury, NJ.
Kenneth Drane, MD, Class of 2010
Prior Career: BS in engineering, BS in nursing
Undergraduate: University of Mississippi and Alcorn State University
Where Is He Now? Opened a sleep disorders clinic in Natchez, MS in November 2014; has admitting privileges at Merit Health Natchez. Sleep medicine attending at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, Shreveport, Louisiana. Gradus faculty in the Department of Neurology and Sleep at LSU Shreveport. Completed internal medicine residency at University of Louisville, Kentucky. Completed sleep medicine fellowship in 2014 at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center (LSU Health), Shreveport.
Ariel Gavino, MD, Class of 2008
Prior Career: Respiratory therapist, physician assistant
Undergraduate: California State University, Northridge, CA
Where Is He Now? Dr. Gavino completed his residency training in psychiatry at Maricopa Medical Center, Arizona, and is now an attending physician at Kaiser Permanente (addiction medicine) and psychiatrist for the California Department of Corrections. Read more about Dr. Gavino here.
If you have the drive, commitment, and desire to become a physician, you may be a strong candidate for medical school, regardless of your age. Before you start on any of the steps below, we strongly encourage you to contact the RUSM Office of Admissions at email@example.com. Our admissions team can help you determine if medical school is right for you, what you need to do to be prepared, and the process of applying and potentially enrolling.
Once you make the decision to apply to medical school, you need to complete these steps:
Step 1: Fulfill our admissions requirements.
RUSM considers not just your overall cumulative undergraduate GPA, but also your GPA for required coursework. Depending on your GPA in either of the above scenarios, you might need to take a good, hard look at re-taking some courses to boost your academic record as necessary. Our admissions team can help you determine what classes you’ll need and whether you need to retake any courses, so be sure to reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember: RUSM also considers non-academic qualities, like maturity and professionalism, and supporting materials, like your personal essay, interview, and letters of recommendation.
- Inorganic or General Chemistry: Two semesters (eight semester hours) with laboratories
- Organic Chemistry: Two semesters (eight semester hours) with laboratories
- General Biology or Zoology: Two semesters of biology or zoology with laboratories
- Physics: Two semesters (eight semester hours) with laboratories
- Mathematics: One semester of college-level mathematics (three semester hours), preferably calculus or statistics
- English: Two semesters (six semester hours). Canadian students may satisfy the English requirements in 4 possible ways: (1) 2 semesters of University humanities where essays composed at least 40% of the overall mark, (2) those holding a grade 13 English credit in Ontario, (3) International Baccalaureate English and (4) Advanced Placement English.
Step 2: Take the MCAT.
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is an exam that most medical schools, including all US medical schools, require from prospective students before they offer admission. MCAT scores make up a significant part of your medical school student profile, and it’s critical that you know what to expect. The MCAT recently changed in 2015, adding new content and coursework, so take a look at our dedicated MCAT resource here. For upcoming test dates, visit our MCAT calendar page.
Step 3: Get some experience, and remember that it isn’t all about your academic record.
If you aren’t coming from a medically related field, it might be worth it to try to gain exposure to healthcare, either through a job in a healthcare environment or through volunteering or shadowing a physician. Not only will this give you an inside look at the world of medicine, but it’ll give you valuable medically related experience that will go a long way toward boosting your medical school application. For more on that, check out a blog post written by Associate Dean of Admissions Carey James about the value of medically related experience, plus some tips on where to go to earn some.
Keep in mind, though, that medically related experience will help—but it won’t get you all the way to medical school. Your academic record plus other qualities, like maturity, professionalism, and documents like your personal essay or letters of recommendation, all play a role too.
Step 4: Apply.
To check out our application and for other fast facts about the application process, go here.