Quora Query: Can I Get Into Medical School with an Associates Degree Instead of a Bachelor’s Degree

One of the issues with medical students in general is NOT that they are too broadly educated, but – just the opposite – too narrowly so.

I once, some years ago, entered into a very public argument with our then-University President about this issue. He and his leadership group wanted a rule to be imposed – the State Legislature was pushing this – that an undergraduate could ONLY spend four years at the University. If they needed more time they could petition, but it would be unlikely to be approved. As a University Senator – the UF Senate was pretty toothless in those years, but we did have some control over educational issues and this was one – I critiqued this by raising the same point as I note above. Our students – very bright, without doubt – were too narrowly educated, hence we ought not push them out so rapidly. What if, I asked, they decided to change from a physics major to one in philosophy in their third year? Or vice versa?

He wasn’t pleased. Crossing his arms and pacing the Senate floor, looking at the ceiling, not at me/us, he said: Harvard does this, so should we.

Impertinently – I never DID learn to to take care when speaking truth to power – I stated: We are NOT Harvard.

He didn’t like that either.

While medicine is a science, it is an applied science in the service of ill and, often, frightened, human beings. Thus, the more broadly and “in the humanities” educated you are before medical school, the better physician you might be. There are actually some data on this issue, so it is not just opinion.

Having said this, there ARE medical schools on the US in which you are accepted as an undergraduate and guaranteed a position in the medical school after the first two years of an undergraduate program. This is a combined 6 year program at the end of which you are awarded both a bachelors and medical degree. So it is doable if you are accepted into one of these programs. You can find them by searching for combined programs – here is one such web site: The Top 25 Combined BS/MD Programs

– and then applying.

However, my recommendation is to spend four years educating yourself broadly – history, language, literature, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, political theory – in addition to your science requirements. Volunteer, work with and around people who are not like you. Become, as the Roman dramatist/playwright Terence (Publius Terentius Afer, Born: Carthage, Africa, 190 BCE, Died: 158 BCE) one who can state: I am a human, nothing human is foreign to me.


About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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