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  • Pursuing a Combined Degree

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    Many medical schools give students the option of pursuing another graduate degree while they earn their MD.

    This second degree must have some connection to medicine; most schools won't let you get a PhD in comparative literature while simultaneously becoming a doctor. Combined degree programs tend to condense required coursework, making them faster and cheaper than pursuing each degree individually.

    Students generally complete the first two years of medical school with their class, then enter the second degree program in the third year, returning to medical school for the final two years of clinical rotations. If you were pursuing an MD/JD, for example, you would finish your first two years of pre-clinical coursework in medical school. Then you would spend the next two years getting your law degree. Finally, you would return to medical school for two years of clinical rotations.

    Is a Combined Degree Right for You?

    The medical school curriculum is highly academic and comprehensive, and most schools offer ample research opportunities to their students. Therefore, medical students are generally satisfied with the level of training they receive. If your goal is to become a practicing doctor working in a hospital, clinic or private-practice setting, a combined-degree program probably isn't for you. Even if you're interested in a highly specialized medical field, your medical school education, internship and residency will usually provide sufficient training.

    Students who choose combined degree programs generally have different career goals than students who want to be doctors. Some are interested in academic careers and feel that their research would benefit from the broad-based curriculum and clinical skills taught in medical school. Others are aiming for a career in health care, but on the business, policy or administrative side.

    Applying for a Combined Degree

    In most cases, the admissions processes for the medical and graduate schools are entirely separate, and admission to one does not guarantee admission to the other. That means you must fill out two applications, take two tests and possibly even solicit two separate sets of recommendations.

    Most students don't apply to a second degree program until they've completed their first year of medical training. Nevertheless, if you're considering one of these programs, you should start preparing before you become a med student. You want to make sure you choose a school that allows students to pursue the combined-degree program that interests you. You might also need to take the GRE, LSAT, or GMAT. Preparing for these tests requires time—not something that first-year medical students have a lot of.