Deciding to become a doctor is a hugely rewarding career choice; there is a lot of scope for career development, the salary and opportunities are top of the range, and you get to spend every day helping people and making a huge difference in their lives.
The downside, however, is that medical school is a pretty tough place to get into. Applicants must possess a flawless academic background to be considered for admission onto any medical programme, let alone the top colleges and universities, although you shouldn’t let this put you off. With the correct preparation and research, a successful application is certainly not impossible, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t aim big.
In order to get you started, we’ve consulted various top 10 ranking sources – including the Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds – to bring you the crème de la crème of the clinical education world.
So, dust off that Scrubs box set, start revising and pay attention: these are the best medical schools in the world in 2018…
Location: London, UK
Degree type: MBBS BSc
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): £9,250 ($12,020) for UK/EU students and £33,650 ($43,735) for overseas students
Based in central London and, therefore, with direct access to the biggest and most active trauma departments in the UK, UCL’s MBBS is one of the most sought-after medical courses in the UK and beyond. As one of the most prestigious universities in the country, you’ll also be surrounded by some of its brightest minds.
UCL also boasts a proud tradition of innovation and discovery; both adrenaline and the human immune system – two of the most significant advances in medical history – are credited as being discovered here. If you can meet the grade requirements (A*AA, including chemistry and biology), then you could represent the next instalment of scientific and clinical pioneers.
Notable alumni include: Josephine Barnes (the first female president of the BMA), Hugh Owen-Thomas (surgical pioneer) and Ben Goldacre (noted doctor and writer).
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Degree type: Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): A$68,544 ($50,380/£38,770) for Australian students and A$81,344 ($59,790/£46,010) for international students
Pipping its biggest rival, the University of Sydney, to the list, Melbourne arguably offers the best medical education outside of Europe or the US. Lasting four years, applicants are expected to pass the six-hour-long GAMSAT exam, alongside a strong academic performance in their undergraduate studies, before embarking on a clinical and theoretical-based learning programme. Students are also expected to complete a single discipline research project in their final year.
As an added bonus, Melbourne is regularly rated as one of the best cities to live in the world, so away from campus you’ll have an enviable lifestyle, too. The university is also regarded as the best in the country, so there’s more than one reason to stay.
Notable alumni include: Sydney James van Pelt (pioneer of hypnotherapy), Sir Frank Burnet and Sir John Eccles (recipients of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1960 and 1963, respectively).
Location: New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Degree type: MD
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): $59,630 (£45,880) + additional exam and insurance fees
Founded in 1810, the Yale Medical School has a long-established reputation for innovation, having performed the first X-ray and administered the first use of penicillin on US soil, as well as being the first faculty to try chemotherapy as a means of cancer treatment.
This creative approach has filtered into its teaching, too. Adopting what is known as the ‘Yale System’, students are not graded for the first two years of study and sit exams anonymously. Large lectures are also thrown out of the window, with the department instead preferring intimate seminars and tutorials. If you prefer a more independent approach to study, then this could be the school for you.
Notable alumni include: Sherwin B Nuland (noted surgeon and author), Lisa Sanders (noted physician and author) and Harvey Cushing (Pulitzer Prize winner and pioneer of brain surgery).
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Degree type: MD
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): $40,714 (£31,330) + additional administrative fees
Despite being named after a movie executive/record producer with seemingly little connection to the medical world, be in no doubt: the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA is one of the foremost clinical colleges in the world.
Its four-year course is split into two theoretical years, followed by two clinical years, including a whole year of rotations and placements across Los Angeles’ many busy hospitals. If you want to be close to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood in between your study breaks, then this could be the school for you.
Notable alumni include: Terry Dubrow (cosmetic surgeon and TV personality), David Ho (HIV treatment pioneer) and Steven Hoefflin (celebrity cosmetic surgeon).
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Degree type: N/A
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): Free for EU/EEA students and 238,333 kr ($26,680/£20,520) for international students
As a small, one-faculty school in the quiet suburbs of Stockholm, the Karolinska Institute may be much smaller in size than many of its counterparts on this list, but don’t let that fool you. It is widely regarded as one of the best medical schools in Europe and, since 1895, has been responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – an award that five of the institution’s own researchers have won at some point.
Remarkably, for EU and EEA students, it’s also free (international students are required to pay tuition, although they are among the cheapest fees on this list). The downside is that your foreign language skills will have to be up to scratch; although there are several master’s courses in English, the main medical programme is, unfortunately, taught in Swedish only.
Notable alumni include: Jöns Jacob Berzelius (inventor of chemical notation and discoverer of four elements, including silicon), Carl Gustaf Mosander (discoverer of three elements) and Tomas Lindahl (DNA/cancer research expert and 2015 Nobel Prize winner).
Location: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Degree type: MD
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): $53,400 (£41,090) + additional administrative fees
Run in partnership with the famous hospital of the same name, Johns Hopkins is the oldest medical research university in the US and is a name synonymous with advancements in medicine. Among its attributed achievements are the development of CPR, treatment development for sickle cell disease and the creation of the first biological pacemaker.
There are four colleges within the school and, as a result, students are encouraged to foster a competitive spirit. Indeed, this ethos is reflected throughout the campus as a whole, particularly in the notable success of the university’s lacrosse teams.
As an indication of the school’s standing, it is also often regularly referenced in popular culture; some of the fictional doctors to have ‘attended’ Johns Hopkins include Perry Cox (Scrubs), Gregory House (House), Julius Hibbert (The Simpsons), Preston Burke (Grey’s Anatomy) and Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs).
Notable (real-life) alumni include: Dorothy Andersen (identifier of cystic fibrosis), Fuller Albright (noted endocrinologist) and William Halstead (inventor of the residency training system and often referred to as the ‘father of modern surgery’).
Location: Palo Alto, California, USA
Degree type: MD
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): $56,229 (£43,270) + additional administrative fees
Although better known for its technological achievements and influence within the nearby Silicon Valley, Stanford University also has a world-renowned medicine programme; it’s also one of the most difficult to get into, with an acceptance rate in 2017 of just 2.3%.
For the lucky few who do get in, you’ll get to enjoy the close proximity to San Francisco and San Jose, although you won’t want to get too distracted. The school boasts eight Nobel Prize winners and a host of internationally recognised faculty members, so you’ll have a lot to live up to
Location: Cambridge, UK
Degree type: BM, BCh
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): £9,250 ($12,020) for UK/EU students and £70,131 ($91,135) for international students
Steeped in tradition and focused on thought processes over practical learning, medical students at Cambridge focus solely on theoretical and classroom-based learning until Year 3 of the programme. When med students are eventually let loose, though, it happens to be at Addenbrooke – one of the world’s most renowned and prestigious teaching hospitals.
Pursuing a similar medical curriculum to that of its eternal rival Oxford, Cambridge does offer one unique difference: alongside the aforementioned clinical placements, students are encouraged to diversify by choosing a specialisation that is not medical in nature, such as philosophy or business.
Notable alumni include: Ieuan Hughes (noted paediatrician), Barbara Sahakian (noted clinical psychologist) and Arthur Graham Butler (highly decorated military surgeon of the Australian Army Medical Corps).
Location: Oxford, UK
Degree type: BM, BCh
Annual tuition fees (2018/19): £9,250 ($12,020) for UK/EU students, and £18,620 ($24,200) to £32,895 ($42,750) for international students
Ultimately, though, if you want the best medical education that Europe has to offer, then Oxford is the place to be. Despite its reputation for excessive essay assessments and a ruthless approach to information delivery, it is consistently voted as one of the best medical schools in the world.
Much of the curriculum is focused on the scientific aspect of medicine, with students encouraged to work from and draw conclusions from primary pieces of research. This innovative approach to teaching ensures that Oxford graduates ready-made pioneers in their field, with the wider medical community benefitting in the long run.
Notable alumni include: Howard Florey (co-discover of the properties of penicillin and 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner), Severo Ochoa (DNA specialist and 1959 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner) and Baruch Blumberg (creator of the Hepatitis B vaccine and 1976 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner).
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Degree type: MD
Annual tuition fees (2017/18): $59,800 (£46,020) + additional administrative fees
The top spot is, however, shared; after all, no educational compilation would be complete without the inclusion of Harvard.
Its medical school is regularly at the forefront of various clinical studies and research papers, while the MD programme also offers an alternative Health Sciences and Technology pathway in collaboration with MIT. There are also numerous high-profile teaching hospitals and research institutions within close geographical vicinity, so there is no shortage of access to brilliant minds and top-quality facilities.
Indeed, if you can meet Harvard’s stringent pre-med requirements – and if you can afford it – then you can look forward to four years of some of the finest medical instruction in the world.
Notable alumni include: Sidney Farber (noted oncologist/pathologist who is considered the ‘father of chemotherapy’), Helen B Taussig (pioneer of paediatric cardiology and co-developer of the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt) and Michael Crichton (qualified physician and creator of the Jurassic Park franchise).