By Dan Miller, WCI Contributor
There's no denying that medical school can be extremely challenging and that it may not be the right choice for you. If you are thinking of dropping out of medical school, you'll want to make sure that you understand all of the ramifications of what happens if you ultimately decide to quit. That can help you decide whether it might make sense to drop out of medical school or whether you are just in a rough patch and should stick it out.
Medical School Graduation Rate
Most doctors and medical school students have considered giving up on medical school at one time or another. So, if you are wondering what percentage of students actually end up dropping out of medical school, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has tracked that information. The average graduation rate of medical school students has remained fairly stable from 1997-98 through 2016-17, with 84% of students graduating in four years. If you extend the timeline to six years, the average graduation rate of medical school is 96% for nondual-degree students.
How many people drop out of med school will vary depending on which medical school you're talking about, but it's clear from the data that the average medical school graduation rate is quite high. That suggests that the medical school retention rate is high for students who are admitted, and the overall medical school attrition rate or dropout rate is relatively low.
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What to Do After Quitting Medical School
If you've already quit or failed out of medical school, your first step might be to take some time for self-reflection. Do you still have a passion for becoming a doctor? Then, your next step might be to try and challenge your dismissal. Depending on your specific medical school and its policy, it could be possible to reclassify to the next year or retake the class you failed.
If, on the other hand, you have decided that a career in medicine is not for you, you might be wondering what to do after quitting. Depending on how far along you are in medical school, you may have a few options. You might consider a career in a research and/or a scientific field (depending on your bachelor's degree), or you may consider another career that is medical-adjacent.
Jobs for Medical School Dropouts
Here are some possible jobs for medical student dropouts to consider:
- Medical Research Scientist
- Physician Assistant
- Medical Writer
- Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Digital Health Specialist
- Massage Therapist
- Post-Secondary Medical Instructor
As you can see, there are plenty of possible jobs for medical school dropouts that share some similarities to being a physician but don't require an MD. Take a look at some of these options and consider if one of them might be right for you.
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What to Do About Student Loans When You Leave Medical School
Besides choosing another career, there are a few other things that you'll want to consider. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you continue to have health insurance coverage. Your current coverage may be tied to your school enrollment, so make sure you have a plan for continuing to take care of your health. You'll also want to reach out to your support network and to practice self-care—this is likely to be an extremely stressful time, so make sure you have the support that you need.
Another thing you'll want to consider is how leaving medical school affects your student loans. Many student loans have a contingency that requires you to start paying them back if you're no longer in school. You might consider seeing if you could qualify for public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) or an income-driven repayment plan. No matter what, make sure to contact your loan servicer and come up with a plan that works for your specific situation.
The Bottom Line
Knowing if or when to give up on medical school comes down to the individual, but you should also consult trusted friends or family members before making such a large decision. Another thing to consider is really honing in on why you want to drop out of medical school. Is it because you are at risk of failing a class and possibly being dismissed? Or have you decided that becoming a doctor is no longer the career you're interested in?
In either case, you'll want to make sure to have a support network in place to help you through a stressful time. You'll also want to make sure to contact your student loan servicer and your health insurance provider to make sure you have both of those important aspects of your life covered. But knowing and understanding why you're considering leaving medical school can help give you an insight into the best path forward.
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