Cheesy anglophile jokes aside, really…what is an MBBS?

The MBBS is Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (in Latin, Medicinae Baccalaureus, Baccalaureus Chirurgiae). While the name suggests two bachelor degrees, it is treated as a single program and awarded as a union.

It is the medical education of British tradition, which begins after secondary education, immediately includes clinical and medicine-specific education.

As described by the King’s College School of Medicine, the “MBBS programme is the integration of medical science and clinical teaching throughout the curriculum. The balance between the two elements shifts as you move closer to professional qualification.”

How does it differ from the US path to a medical degree?

The traditional US route requires:

  • Admission to an accredited undergraduate college.
  • Having taken the pre-med track in undergraduate study.
  • Bachelor’s degree (in any major).
  • Met requirements for the desired medical school.
  • Competitive MCAT scores.
  • Application via the AMCAS system (any any interviews).
  • Admission to an accredited MD or DO medical school.
  • Pass the USMLE.
  • Competitive record and success in one’s medical degree education.

Between undergraduate matriculation and completing one’s MD or DO is about eight years of schooling. Following this, one applies to a residency program, and if a sub-specialty is desired, a consecutive fellowship program.

Instead of studying at different schools for separate, sequential, degrees, the MBBS is the medical degree.

Most MBBS programs are structure as follows:

  • Admission to the medical school from secondary education.
  • Introduction to Medical Science.
  • Introduction to clinical practice.
  • Clinical training via patient contact.
  • Extensive clinical rotations.
  • Shadowing practicing doctors.

UK medical schools, aside from teaching within their college, partner with teaching hospitals to enhance their program, and give their students that clinical experience and environment. Depending on the university, the program usually varies between five or six years, and some accelerated programs are four years – all of these programs are (as you may expect) highly intensive and competitive.

Much like the timing and structure of allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) medical schools, one may enter the MBBS program through a graduate/professional entry after their undergraduate studies in another program, and also lasts four years.

The famous John H. Watson from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and adapted into contemporary hit show Sherlock by the BBC, trained at St. Bartholomew's - the training hospital of the Queen Mary University of London.   Image from Tumblr.

Fictional character John H. Watson, adapted into contemporary hit BBC show Sherlock, trained at St. Bartholomew’s – the real-life training hospital of the Queen Mary University of London.
Image from Tumblr.

How does post-graduate training and practicing medicine vary with the MBBS?

An MBBS is an internationally respected medical degree, and it is not uncommon for students raised in the US to attain an MBBS abroad, and return to the US to practice; likewise, it is not unusual for international students to attain an MBBS in their home country or otherwise abroad, and come practice in the US. It is not necessarily the degree or program type that changes things for a student wanting to practice or train in the US, it’s the content and focus. Each country has it’s own process to attain acceptance to a residency (clinical training in a specialty) program. Given that, a domestic medical program will be geared and match closest to the country’s residency application process and exams.

What schools have an MBBS (or variant) program?

In the UK, there are around thirty accredited medical schools between England, Scotland, Whales, Northern Ireland, and the Caribbean.

Outside of the UK, the MBBS structure (awarded as the MBBS, MB ChB, MB BChir, etc.) is common in India, China, Germany, as well as various countries in eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

How does a US student apply?

Applying to a medical program as a resident (such as in the UK) is extremely competitive in itself. Universities such as the King’s College London (see the application guide) have acceptance rates hovering ten percent. However, several international students are accepted and matriculated every year from all over the world to many of the MBBS programs internationally.

In regards to the UK, US, non-undergraduate students are expected to:

  • Receive high marks (virtually, all 5’s) on AP exams – biology and chemistry required with other AP subjects.
  • Have a very strong academic record – some schools accept high IB diplomas.
  • Show extensive volunteering and experience (especially clinical and human service volunteering).
  • Apply via the Universities and College Admissions Service (as for all UK university applicants).
  • Meet all university-specific requirements (matching non-international requirements, and any required tests such as proficiency exams, UKCAT, etc.).
  • Apply by October 15 for the following school year.

Unlike the holistic admissions philosophy and structure of many US universities, many UK schools have requirements to even apply, and from there, students are put in the admissions pool. Each university differs on its admissions requirements. If you have a strong interest in applying – because of the additional testing and preparation needed as an international – contact the university early (as in, junior-year-early)!

 It is also possible to study as a post graduate, and the admissions process for this varies greatly on the country, university, and professional program.

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the author

Jo is in her first year of studying biology at Fordham University, with interests in the social sciences, business management, and world domination. Recently returned to New York from 12 years in California, you'll most likely find her adventuring around the city. Residences include the science and humanities departments, running trails, and every coffee shop from here to Narnia. Nobody’s quite sure if she has a heart, but she’s got some sort of pump that moves around the black sludge that is espresso through her veins.

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