Please note: Pomona College is not a medical school. This information is merely for the purpose of providing an overview of a career in medicine and medical school school requirements to our undergraduate students.

Clinical Physician (MD and DO)

Medical doctors work to maintain, promote, and restore the physical and mental health of their patients. A career as a clinical physician involves studying, diagnosing, and treating injuries and diseases.

Training to become an MD or DO

Becoming a clinical doctor can take 7-12 years, depending on the specialty.

  • Medical school is four years, which can be completed through an allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) program. 
  • After medical school, students from both MD and DO programs enter a residency program in their chosen field to receive supervised hands-on training.
  • Residency programs can last anywhere between three and five years depending on the specialty. Sub-specializing requires further training.
  • Both MD and DO graduates can practice in the same settings in the US.

Medical school can be expensive, though there are scholarships and loans available.  The median costs of tuition, fees, and health insurance at allopathic (MD) medical schools during the 2021–2022 academic year ranges from $40,372 (in-state, public medical schools) to $66,635 (out-of-state, private medical schools).

Learn more about becoming a doctor from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) or the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).  Learn similarities and differences between MD and DO from the AMA.

Research Physician - MD/PhD and DO/PhD

MD/PhD and DO/PhD dual degree programs provide training in both medicine and research. Most programs are MD/PhD, though there are a few DO/PhD programs. Graduates of dual degree programs often go on to become faculty members at medical schools, universities and research institutes. MD/PhDs also conduct research in institutes such as the National Institutes of Health or other government or private agencies, or work for pharma or biotech companies.

Training to be an MD/PhD or DO/PhD

An MD/PhD or DO/PhD program typically lasts 7-8 years.

  • The timeline for training is often divided into three stages, termed 2-4-2:
    • 2 years of medical school for basic science concepts
    • 4 years of graduate coursework/dissertation
    • 2 years of clinical training
  • Most MD/PhD graduates train in a residency program and become licensed to practice in a specific field of medicine.
  • MD/PhD programs usually provide significant financial support.

Learn more about MD/PhD Dual Degree training from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Undergraduate Preparation

Academic Preparation

Check out our pre-med planning guide.

For specific medical school course requirements, refer to the AAMC/MSAR listing or view the AACOM “Choose DO Explorer”.

Personal Preparation

In addition to strong academics, applicants need to demonstrate personal qualities that reflect their commitment to and suitability for the medical profession. The AAMC developed a set of fifteen core competencies that medical schools look for in their applicants. At Pomona College, we encourage students to find something they are passionate about – community service, clubs, athletics, etc., and through their experiences show their commitment, competence, purpose, and growth.

Shadowing: It is essential that applicants have some clinical experience with direct patient care. Shadowing a doctor allows you to learn (and discuss in a medical school interview) what a typical day in the life of a doctor involves, beyond 1:1 care. Plan to shadow a few physicians and/or nurses prior to applying for medical school. Some DO schools require that you specifically shadow a DO physician. While not a ton of hours are required, a few medical schools will not consider your application if you have zero hours of shadowing.

Application Process

Admissions Testing

Both MD and DO medical schools require the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). MD/PhD programs also require the MCAT (they do not require the GRE.) The MCAT is a 7.5-hour exam that consists of four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.


  • The application cycle begins about 16-months before the expected date of entry. Applications open in early May for submission in early June.
  • Medical schools in the United States use a centralized application
    • MD: American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
    • DO: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS).
    • Certain schools in Texas require separate applications: TMDSAS.
  • MD/PhD programs also use the AMCAS application. Students designate themselves as MD-PhD applicants and complete two additional essays: one related to why they are interested in MD-PhD training, and the other highlighting their significant research experiences

Letters of Recommendation: Medical schools typically request between 3-6 letters of recommendation. We recommend 2 sciences faculty, 1 faculty from social science/humanity, and 1-2 additional recommenders. If you are applying to DO schools, check admissions requirements, as some recommend/require a letter of recommendation from a DO physician.

Medical schools either prefer or require a committee letter of recommendation. Pomona College will provide a committee letter to students who follow our “Pomona Process” and are within three years of their graduation date.

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