Do you have questions about Caribbean medical school? We have answers!
We’ve compiled a list of the 13 most frequently asked questions about starting your career as a doctor at a Caribbean medical school.
And while all Caribbean schools are different, these answers will give you the knowledge you need to make a well-informed decision about your path to becoming a physician.
1. Are Caribbean medical schools LCME accredited?
Medical school programs outside the US and Canada are not accredited by The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) as it’s simply not allowed. In fact, if a Caribbean school says that they have that accreditation...that could be a warning sign.
In order to get US student loans, the med school should be accredited by the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA) – here’s a list of all accredited Caribbean Med schools.
Beginning in 2024, the ECFMG will only extend certification to graduates who attended an international medical school that meets the WFME’s accreditation standards. It’s important to note: Students who graduate from international programs must obtain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) in order to practice in the US. Without certification from the ECFMG, students at Caribbean medical schools will not be able to pursue clinical rotations in the US, and graduates of Caribbean med schools cannot secure US residencies and fellowships.
2. Do Caribbean medical schools accept anyone who applies?
Some Caribbean schools have rightly earned the reputation as being too accommodating for unqualified applicants, but others are much more selective. It’s up to you to make sure you carefully evaluate criteria like admission requirements at schools you are considering. Examine average MCAT scores and GPA for accepted students to make sure to choose a reputable school that will provide a good education, and one that is eligible to match students into US and Canadian residencies. While Caribbean medical schools tend to have larger class sizes, that doesn’t mean that students who don’t meet the school’s standards are accepted. The accredited institutions are still very competitive and typically have high-quality candidates who matriculate.
3. Why choose one of the big Four Caribbean medical schools?
Graduates of the one of the Big Four Caribbean medical schools (St. George’s University in Grenada, American University of the Caribbean Medical School in St. Maarten, Saba University School of Medicine on Saba Island, and Ross University School of Medicine in Barbados) are able to apply for licensure in all 50 US states and Canada, each school produces relatively high USMLE Step 1 passing rates and low attrition rates, and students are able to receive federal student loans.
In addition, each of these schools has a proven track record of providing a viable path to residency, in part due to their network of clinical training sites in the US, Canada, or the UK. It’s important to note that students who want to return to the US for residency should only be considering and applying to reputable international schools.
4. How long is Caribbean medical school education?
A traditional Caribbean medical school program is four years, with the first two years (M1 and M2) being basic science classes that are completed on the school’s campus. The last two years of the medical school program (M3 and M4) involve clinical rotations, which take place at affiliated hospitals all over the world.
If you are beginning your path in a pre-med program, your educational journey could be longer, depending on how much undergraduate coursework you need to complete before you are able to begin M1.
5. Is it easier to get into a DO medical school vs. a Caribbean medical school?
Most medical schools, no matter their location or whether they are allopathic or osteopathic, are difficult to get into. That being said, osteopathic medical schools, or DO schools, tend to use MCAT scores and GPA to admit students due to the limited number of open spots versus the large number of applications.
Caribbean medical school admissions standards vary from school to school; in most cases, the school’s admissions criteria tends to take a holistic approach at the student as a whole to determine if an applicant is the right fit, and not simply rejecting an applicant based on an MCAT and GPA score alone.
6. Are you able to transfer from a Caribbean medical school to a US medical school?
Nearly all medical schools in the US only consider transfer applicants who come from institutions accredited by the LCME, which only accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada. However, there are a few schools that do consider transfer applications from students enrolled at Caribbean medical schools.
In most cases, before a student can transfer, the USMLE Step 1 exam must have been taken and the student achieved a score at or above 200 (240 and above is considered competitive). The prospective student must also have outstanding academic credentials while attending the international medical school.
7. Is the MCAT required for Caribbean medical schools?
While some Caribbean medical schools do not factor in an applicant’s MCAT score to their decision to admit a potential student, taking the MCAT is a requirement for matriculation into the school upon acceptance. Others only use the score if it’s high enough to help with other scores that may be lower, like an applicant’s GPA. Other schools do not require it at all.
8. Is going to a Caribbean medical school worth it?
There are pros and cons to going to any school, whether it is located in the US, the Caribbean, or elsewhere. Caribbean medical schools may seem like a secondary path, but they can provide a solid foundation for a path to becoming a doctor. They welcome students who are dedicated and willing to work hard for a rewarding career as a physician, as a strong student will be competitive enough to match for US and Canadian residency positions in multiple specialties. They contribute around 70 percent of the primary care physicians to the global workforce. As a plus, Caribbean medical schools are all located in beautiful areas of the world, which creates a calm learning environment.
9. What are the start dates for Caribbean medical school?
Typically, Caribbean medical schools have multiple start dates to accommodate incoming students, ranging anywhere from 2–3 times per year. Each school has its own calendar, with rolling start dates in January, April/May, and August/September.
10. How do Caribbean medical schools compare to US medical schools?
If a student has applied to a US medical school and has been rejected, applying to a Caribbean medical school can be a viable option for a number of reasons.
First, Caribbean medical schools consider students with a lower average GPA score, and MCATs are required but the score isn’t the only means of measurement in the admission decision.
Second, US medical schools for both MD or DO programs admit students starting in the fall only. However, Caribbean medical schools have rolling admissions of 2–3 cycles per year. Caribbean med schools tend to reply faster to applicants and the application process is less tedious compared to US med schools.
Third, Caribbean medical school students can enter the National Residency Match Program and have consistently provided a path to a competitive residency program.
11. Can you use federal student loans for Caribbean medical schools?
You can receive federal funding for a Caribbean medical school if the medical school is approved by the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA). The NCFMEA does not review or accredit individual foreign medical schools; it only reviews the standards that a foreign country uses to accredit its medical schools. For example, the NCFMEA (of the US Department of Education) has deemed Grenada’s accreditation standards to be comparable to those utilized by the United States, which is why students at a school like St. George’s University have access to US student loans.
12. How expensive are Caribbean medical schools?
Tuition is typically higher for Caribbean medical schools than tuition for US medical schools. Depending on which school you choose, the tuition varies from $3,000 per term up to $31,000 per term. Accredited Caribbean medical schools offer financial aid packages to help defray the cost, and a student can use federal loans towards tuition as long as the school is approved by the NCFMEA.
13. How do I apply for Caribbean medical school?
Applying to Caribbean medical schools is very much like applying to a US medical school. Caribbean medical schools typically allow for prospective students to apply online; there is an option to use an existing application that was submitted to either the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS) or to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). Schools’ admission counselors are available to walk applicants through the process and to answer questions along the way.
This article has been updated from a previous version to include current facts and figures.
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