International Students and Health Careers | St. Lawrence University Biology

International Students and Health Careers

I am an International Student interested in a Health Career. What do I need to know?

Please note that the information below is most applicable to students pursuing Medical School in the United States, but may ALSO apply to other health professional programs such as Dentistry, Optometry, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant or Nursing. We encourage you to thoroughly consider the challenges (including those noted below) of pursuing matriculation at an American institution (after earning a bachelor’s degree in the US) for ANY Health Career.

Medical School Information for International Students

Admissions to medical schools in the United States are inherently competitive. Unfortunately, for international students who earn a bachelor’s degree from an American college/university, the chances of admission to a US medical school are extremely slim--even if the individual is a high quality candidate. Candidates with weaknesses in their applications have essentially no chance of admission. If the candidate does not have a Green Card, the likelihood of admission decreases even further.

Even if an international student had a Green Card and earned admission to a US medical school, private financing will be required to fund the student’s tuition. In some cases, students must post a bond equal to the cost of 4 years of medical school tuition prior to matriculating. An additional challenge is encountered when international students complete medical school because the residency programs required for certification to practice medicine are federally funded, meaning that the US government supports these programs for its citizens/residents.

What does this mean for you? You should think carefully about what path is best suited to your individual situation and career goal. Certainly, Green Card status is an important factor to consider first. You may also have financial circumstances that make US medical school costs prohibitive- take the time to consider what your finances will be at the time you complete a bachelor’s degree in the US.

Don’t be discouraged! There are a range of other career opportunities in the area of health and disease that you could pursue. It is easier for international students with a high quality application to matriculate into graduate programs than medical schools in the US. Consider exploring the fields of public health, clinical trial management, counseling and therapy, and social work as ways to promote health and healthy behaviors as a member of the health care team or community.

Additional questions to ask yourself:

Do I want to practice in the US or my home country? If you would like to return home to practice, it may be most efficient and feasible to complete medical school there (if possible).

If I earn a bachelor's degree in the US, what are my chances of getting accepted to a medical school in my home country?  Medical schools outside the US typically matriculate students prior to completing a bachelor's degree.  While this varies by country and situation, the combined bachelor and doctoral degree programs often mean there are limited opportunities to transfer into medical schools after earning a bachelor's degree elsewhere.

Information from external sources:

Physician: https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/applying-international-applicant/

Nursing: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2018-06-12/how-international-students-can-earn-us-nursing-degrees

Physical Therapy: http://www.apta.org/CareerDevelopment/ForeignEducated/

Dentist: https://www.adea.org/GoDental/Non-traditional_Applicants/International_students.aspx

Pharmacy: https://www.aacp.org/resource/international-students-and-graduates