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How Old Is Too Old for Medical School?

August 8, 2022
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Does Age Matter in Med School?How Age Impacts Medical School AcceptanceConsiderations for Older Medical School ApplicantsThe Best Medical Schools for Older StudentsThe Best Specialties for Older Medical School ApplicantsFAQs: How Old is Too Old for Medical School?Is It Too Late to Become a Doctor?

”Akhil

Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 5/13/22

Plenty of students every year consider becoming a doctor over 40. With that said, how old is “too old” for medical school? It’s never too late to go to school. Here’s everything you need to know about attending med school at a non-traditional age. 

If you know anything about medical school, you know that the process is lengthy. Becoming a doctor is no walk in the park; it can take seven to 13 years to complete all your schooling. 

First, medical schools do not have a cut-off age. There is technically no age limit for applying to medical school, and your age should not impact your application. As long as you meet the requirements, you can apply to the medical schools of your choice.

Even though there is technically no age limit on applying to medical school, your age can impact your medical school journey. 

Below, we will cover considerations, impacts, and frequently asked questions about beginning your medical school journey at a non-traditional age.

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Does Age Matter in Med School?

The short answer here is no. Age does not matter in medical school. In terms of your classes, if you are attending an MD program at 30, you will likely be the oldest in the class. However, there are some advantages to having a few years on your classmates.

For starters, older students bring more life experience to the table. Relating to people in their 20s may prove to be a bit challenging, but it can give you a leg up in terms of patience and experience.

Beginning at a later age may also mean you’ve had more time to explore other options. When students go directly into medical school at a younger age, they may later change their minds. Older students are not immune to this, but beginning later gives you more time to check out other fields of interest first. 

Ultimately, your age may alter your medical school experience but will not make it more difficult from a social or academic perspective.

Average Age of Medical Students

Most med students are around 24 years old when heading into their first year. The average graduating age is 28, but it’s never too late to go to med school. 

Non-traditional applicants often fear it may be too late to attend medical school. It’s important to know there is no age limit to attending medical school. You can become a doctor at any age.

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How Age Impacts Medical School Acceptance

Your age will not impact your chances of being accepted into medical school. As mentioned above, medical schools do not have age cut-offs. Plenty of people decide to go into medical school in their 30s,40s,50s, and even 60s.

To be accepted into medical school, do plenty of up-to-date research on what medical schools are expecting. If you’re someone who was interested in applying ten years ago, for example, you’ll have to keep in mind that application requirements change over time. 

Make sure to check your school’s current expectations for GPA, MCAT, and prerequisite courses.

Considerations for Older Medical School Applicants

Although medical schools don’t have an age cut-off, there may be other challenges you’ll face as a medical school applicant over 30. Here are some differences to consider:

Financial implications 

At an older age, it might be more difficult to fund your time in medical school. It is unlikely you’ll have time to work while doing your studies, and receiving a grant or loan can sometimes be more challenging at an older age. 

Once you’ve entered into residency after medical school, you will be paid, but the salary starts on the low end. This could be alright if you don’t have any dependents but may be difficult if you are supporting a family. 

If you’re hoping to attend medical school at a non-traditional age, be sure to save up in advance. You should have enough to get you through your studies and part of the residency, just to be safe. 

Time away from family

If you’re over thirty, you may have begun raising a family or have a long-term partner. Medical school is very demanding; you’ll be working long hours and studying after classes — not to mention the long residency shifts. 

If you are close with your family, remember that medical school will mean spending less time with them. We recommend taking time to have a conversation with your family before applying about how demanding medical school is and how long it will take.

It may serve you well to make sure everyone is on board and will support you through your journey!

Retirement

Depending on your age, you may want to consider how long you’ll be able to practice medicine before retiring. Depending on your specialty, it can take over ten years to complete your training. 

To ensure you’ll be able to have the desired amount of years practicing medicine after your schooling, calculate how old you’ll be when you finish medical school. 

Keep in mind that doctors tend to retire later than other professions. Studies have shown that 30% of doctors in the entire country are over 60. That being said, most doctors in the U.S. retire around 65 years old.

The Best Medical Schools for Older Students

Medical schools don’t have an age cut-off. However, some schools make a point of encouraging non-traditional applicants to apply. Here are the best med schools for non-traditional students.

1. Ohio State University College of Medicine

Dr. Demicha Rankin, an associate dean for admissions at Ohio State University College of Medicine, makes a point of debunking the age cut-off stigma for older medical students. 

According to Rankin, there is nothing wrong with trying different careers before going to med school, and older students bring a unique perspective to the table that can even help them excel in their studies.

Additionally, OSU offers childcare services for students to ensure the school is inclusive and allows all students a chance to succeed while balancing life needs.

2. Johns Hopkins School Of Medicine

Johns Hopkins is one of the top medical schools in the US. Although getting accepted to JH can be a challenge, 17% of its current class are non-traditional students. Top schools often seek diversity in applicants to create a balanced and unique student atmosphere.

3. Miller School Of Medicine – University Of Miami

The Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami also accepts non-traditional graduates. According to a non-traditional student testimonial, a 34-year-old was accepted into the program only to find plenty of other students in their 30s at the school.

U of Miami also mentions that “qualified non-traditional students, women, socio-economically disadvantaged students, and minorities underrepresented in medicine, are especially encouraged to apply.”

The Best Specialties for Older Medical School Applicants

Choosing the right specialty for your age demographic can get you in the workforce faster. Medical school in the U.S. takes four years to complete, but your residency program can range from three to seven years. Here, we’ll list specialties with the shortest residencies.

Family Practice, 3 Years

Family practice is also referred to as family medicine, general medicine, and general practice. As one of the most popular specialties with a large number of positions available each year, family medicine is an excellent specialty choice for older medical school applicants. 

These programs are typically no more than three years long and are not as competitive as other specialties. A family doctor’s median clinical salary in the U.S. is $290,624.

Pediatrics, 3 to 4 Years

Pediatricians deal with the health of infants and children up to 18 years old. This specialty covers a range of illnesses, from genetic disorders to chronic and acute diseases. Many students demonstrate an interest in working with children, hence the specialty’s popularity. 

Pediatrics is a short program and is generally more competitive than others. While these residency positions may be competitive, they are also rewarding and much shorter than other residencies, making them a great option for older students. 

The median clinical salary of a pediatric doctor in the U.S. is $183,240.

Internal Medicine, 3 Years

Internal medicine deals with preventing, diagnosing, and treating internal diseases such as influenza, bronchitis, and diabetes. Internal diseases are some of the most common ailments, making internal medicine doctors high in demand. 

Internal medicine generally has good job availability and is one of the shortest residencies. The median clinical salary of an internal medicine doctor in the U.S. is $152,000.

Physical Medicine, 3 to 4 Years 

Physical medicine, also known as rehabilitation or physiatry, involves the restoration of physical functions. Physiatrists work for people with a variety of physical disabilities to diagnose and prescribe treatment plans for physiotherapists to then perform.

Physical medicine is less popular than other specialties and offers shorter programs. A physiatrist's median clinical salary of $206,774 is slightly higher than other specialties we’ve listed.

There are many other medical residencies that are three to four years in length. When deciding on your specialty, make sure to account for the hours you want to work, stress levels, residency length, position availability, and salary.

FAQs: How Old is Too Old for Medical School?

Here are our answers to the most frequently asked questions about how old is too old for medical school.

1. Can I Go to Med School in My 30s?

Absolutely. There is no age cut-off for medical students. Many people have gone into med school in their 30s.

2. How Old is the Oldest Practicing Doctor?

Doctor Howard Tucker, 98 years old, is the oldest practicing physician in the world. 

3. What Can I Study After 50?

Health is one of the areas with the most opportunities for people over 50, alongside finance, management, and administration. You can go back to school at any age. Many people successfully switch career paths later in life. 

4. At What Age do Most Doctors Retire?

Most doctors retire at around 65 years of age.

5. How Old is the Average Medical Student?

The average age of entering MD students is 24. The average graduating age is 28.

6. Is 40 Too Old to Become a Doctor?

It’s never too old to go back to school. Although you may be older than your classmates, there’s no age limit for attending medical school.

7. Is a DO or MD Better for Older Medical Students?

There isn’t much difference between older medical students applying to an MD vs a DO. The biggest consideration between the two is that there are fewer jobs available in DO positions. Your likelihood of acceptance is the same between the two. 

8. Who Is the Oldest Med Student In History?

Dr Atomic Leow Chuan Tse was the oldest known medical student, graduating at 66 years old from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Iasi, Romania, in 2015.

Is It Too Late to Become a Doctor?

If you’re over thirty and wondering if you should apply to medical school, don’t let your age deter you from applying. Plenty of students begin their journey through medical school at a non-traditional age. 

If you’re concerned about your odds of acceptance, focus more on your application materials. Remember, medical schools do not have age requirements. Make sure your GPA, MCAT, and prerequisite courses are all complete and meet the standards of the schools you’re applying to.

Attending medical school at an older age could be a bit more difficult for personal reasons. Ensure your decision makes sense financially and your family is supportive of your medical venture.

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