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Five Countries to Study to Become a Doctor

If you seek to study medicine abroad but haven’t decided on a destination yet, this article might help you. Here, we are trying to figure out where prospective doctors should look for the best programs and career opportunities.
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According to the QS World University ranking 2021, the world’s top ten medical universities include five schools in the US and four in the UK.

Apart from the high competition, prospective students may be discouraged by tuition fees in these countries. In 2019/2020, the average cost of a four-year program in the US was 250,222 $ at a public university and 330,180 $ at a private one.

In the UK, international medical students from non-EU countries often have to pay more. For example, obtaining the degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Leicester costs 9,000 £ a year for UK and EU students. Meanwhile, other international students have to pay 17,270 £ for the first and second years of study and 35,170 £ for each of the following ones.

However, there is no need to give up your aspirations. Let's take a look at some other places where they offer programs that are good value for money.

Sweden

Why choose this country? Sweden is known for its high living standards and life expectancy. One of the reasons for this is a solid healthcare system. That is why doctors and medical workers are in high demand here. Over the coming years, a shortage of medical workers is predicted in Sweden due to population growth and aging.

Medical school in Sweden usually runs for five and a half years or 11 semesters. One may take a medical degree right after high school by enrolling in a bachelor's program.

Where to study? Sweden has 14 universities and institutes offering medical programs. Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm is not only the leading medical university in the country but also ranks sixth among the world’s best medical schools in 2021. Only 160 students are accepted to its Medicine program a year.

Among popular universities is also the University of Gothenburg, which offers master's programs in medicine under the Sahlgrenska Academy Institute of Medicine.

Sweden's oldest institute of higher education, the Uppsala University, offers PhD programs in six areas: Cardiology and Respiration, Endocrinology, Infection, Inflammation, Laboratory Medicine, and Oncology and Haematology.

How much does it cost? A year of study at a medical university in Sweden costs on average between 80,000 and 130,000 SEK (about 7,800 $ and 12,800 $ respectively).

What to keep in mind? Medical programs at all levels in Sweden are only taught in Swedish. However, there are alternative degrees related to health that are taught in English. Among them are bachelor's degree Biomedicine at Karolinska Institutet, master's degree Global Health at the Uppsala University, Medical Engineering at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Food Technology and Nutrition at Lund University.

International students applying for bilingual courses must show proficiency in English and Swedish. Such programs are offered by the Karolinska Institutet, for example.

Career opportunities. Graduates of medical schools in Sweden must complete a year-and-a-half or two-year paid internship (residency) at a Swedish hospital. After that, you have to take the Kunskasprovet proficiency examination in Swedish. You will then receive a license to practice medicine.

Depending on their experience and qualifications, doctors in Sweden make an average of 112,000 SEK a month which is about 13,000 $ before taxes.

Australia 

Why choose this country? Australia is one of the leading countries in medical research. This is where in vitro fertilization (IVF) was discovered and  the Gardasil vaccine against cervical cancer was developed.

In 2021, six Australian universities were ranked among the top 100 medical schools by QS World University Rankings.

Where to study? One can study medicine in over 20 universities in Australia. The best medical programs are offered by the University of Melbourne (18th in the top 100 universities with medical programs in 2021), University of Sydney (19th), Monash University (36th), the University of New South Wales — UNSW Sydney (45th), and the University of Queensland (51st).

How much does it cost? An international medical student would have to pay between 57,760 A$ (about 42,600 $) and 71,488 A$ (52,800 $) a year on average.

What to keep in mind? Some medical programs in Australia require 12 years of school education. Those who have finished 11 classes in Russia, need to either take a preparatory year in Australia or complete a year of university at home.

Doctor of Medicine (MD) programs, which run four years, require a bachelor's degree in any field.

Applicants must complete the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT). This standardized test consists of three parts and is designed to access the knowledge of prospective medical students. It is mandatory to be admitted to a four-year Doctor of Medicine program. International students also have to demonstrate a sufficient level of English proficiency.

Career opportunities. Doctors in Australia make good money. For example, neurosurgeons earn from 5,913 $ to 49,535 $ (here and below, salaries per month and before taxes are mentioned, depending on one’s experience and qualifications). The average salary for an anesthesiologist is 12,792 $, while the maximum is 25,000 $. For a cardiologist, it’s 10,000 $ and 33,333 $ respectively, for a gynecologist — 9,093 $ and 32,623 $.

The Australian government has launched the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) — Doctor Stream to financially encourage doctors who work in rural and remote areas.

Germany

Why choose this country? Germany is known for its high-quality medicine. More than 250,000 foreigners come here for medical services every year.

In most public universities in Germany, international students can learn medicine almost for free.

Where to study? In Germany, over 40 universities offer programs in medicine. The most prestigious ones are Heidelberg University, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin (a joint medical institution of the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Free University of Berlin), and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

How much does it cost? Studying at public universities is free of charge. You only have to pay a fee of 400-700 € per year depending on the university to cover administration costs. Note that international medical students cannot be awarded a DAAD scholarship.

What to keep in mind? Medical programs are only taught in German. You need at least a C1 level to study efficiently.

Medical programs in Germany are not integrated into the standard bachelor's and master's systems. All courses last six years and three months and are followed by a state examination (Staatsexamen). Passing this exam is the prerequisite for getting a license to practice (Approbation). Follow here to find out more about how a career of a doctor works in Germany.

Career opportunities. 20% of doctors in Germany will retire in the near future, so the demand for medical personnel is high. Some regions of the country, such as Saxony, have even started to offer jobs to doctors from abroad. In 2019, the number of foreign doctors in Germany has grown by 7% and is now around 58,000.

The average pay rate of a doctor in Germany is 8,960 € per month before taxes.

Singapore

Why choose this country? When it comes to quality of life and safety, Singapore is one of the best countries in Asia. It is a world’s leader in research and education. Medical programs in Singapore are taught in English, and degrees obtained at local universities are recognized in many countries around the world.

Where to study? There are three medical schools in Singapore: the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (ranked 11th by QS), the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University, and the Duke-NUS Medical School.

How much does it cost? The average cost for a year in a medical program in Singapore is 28,004 S$ (approximately 20,500 $). Every year, the government awards partial scholarships covering some of the living and study costs for international students.

What to keep in mind? The MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) degree is available at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. The program lasts five years and is open to applicants immediately after they finish high school.

The study process at Duke-NUS Medical School is similar to the American system. First, you need to complete an undergraduate degree in any major, then pass the MCAT exam, and enroll in the three-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) program.

Career opportunities. The average salary of a doctor in Singapore is 19,900 S$ (about 14,500 $) per month before taxes.

Canada

Why choose this country? In 2021, seven Canadian universities were ranked among the top 100 best medical schools in the world.

Among other reasons to choose Canada to study medicine are a high standard of living and safety, great career prospects, and an opportunity to immigrate and obtain Permanent Residency relatively easily.

Where to study? Not all universities in Canada accept international students for medical programs, and some offer only limited admission. This is because most medical schools in Canada are funded by provinces that give priority to their residents. The second priority is all the other Canadians and then international students.

We’d recommend you to consider the University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, McGill University, Queen's University, Laval University, McMaster University, and the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Université de Montréal and Université de Sherbrooke offer medical programs in English and French.

How much does it cost? The average cost for a year of a medical program for international students is 23,000 $.

What to keep in mind? To enroll in a four-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) program, you need to graduate from high school and obtain a bachelor’s degree, preferably one in natural sciences.

Medical school applicants must complete the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) with a high score and take a language test to meet the university English language requirements.

To enroll in medical programs, international students must have permanent residency in Canada since medical students cannot get student visas. You can complete your bachelor's degree in Canada, get your local credentials using Express Entry, and then apply to a medical school.

Career opportunities. Healthcare workers in Canada are in high demand. In the last quarter of 2020 alone, the number of job openings in this sector increased by 36,400, or 56.9%, compared to 2019. Thus, the number of job openings has hit a record of 100,300.

The average pay rate of a doctor in Canada is 16,250 $ a month before taxes. 

Daria Shvaikovskaya, a degree in Biomedicine, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

I got a bachelor's degree in biomedicine at the Karolinska Institute. Medical programs are only in Swedish in this country, but biomedicine can be studied in English at all levels. I thought it would be interesting to work in a medical or research laboratory. The university's high ranking was also an important factor for me. 

The learning process at my department included various formats, from conventional theoretical lectures in classrooms and laboratory practice in pairs to team projects and visits to pharmaceutical companies. I appreciated the professors’ willingness to help and answer questions. Besides, I liked that our group was diverse in cultures.

I enrolled in 2015. The application process wasn't complicated. I had to submit my preliminary final grades for specific disciplines. The admission took place in April, while final exams at school were to be taken in May and June.

After graduation, the certificate with final grades had to be translated into English and notarized. Besides, you need to provide a certificate confirming your level of English proficiency (IELTS, CAE, or TOEFL).

When applying for a master’s program, a motivation letter and extracurricular activities are important. The latter may include participation in summer programs and courses, internships, volunteering, projects in student communities, conferences, competitions, etc.

Education in Sweden is free for EU citizens. International students who pursue a master’s degree have a chance to be granted the Swedish Institute Scholarship.

If you have a medical degree from a Swedish university, finding a job in Sweden would not be much of a challenge for you, especially outside the capital. To work in Sweden with a medical degree from another country, you will have to certify it by completing a professional Swedish test and a general medical exam.

If you have a laboratory science degree, for example in biomedicine, like me, you don't have to know Swedish. You can find a job in a research laboratory or get employed as a laboratory technician by different companies. Both medicine and biomedicine professionals can continue their education by enrolling in a master’s or postgraduate program and then go into science.

After I finished my studies, I worked in laboratories in Sweden and Estonia. Later, during the pandemic, I worked in a coronavirus laboratory in Tallinn

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