What Are the Different Types of Medical School Classes?

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  • Written By: A. Reed
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Within the four to six years spent in study, students must take a variety of medical school classes. These begin as general classes so that the student can gain a broad understanding of all areas of medicine, and eventually narrow into specific areas of medicine in which the student intends to practice. Typical courses taken in a school of medicine include basic life sciences in the first two years such as anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, and clerkships in several medical specialties such as pediatrics, neurology, and psychiatry during the last years of study. In addition, certain regions or countries may have specific requirements in order to gain a medical license in a specialty area.

Anatomy and physiology are medical school classes that study the complete structure and function of the human body, including all of the tissues, organs, cell types, and organ systems. All medical students must take a course in gross human anatomy, including development and dissections. Depending upon the school, the subject can be approached in either a systemic or regional basis. A system-by-system basis covers each system separately before moving on to the next. A regional method will study the human body in sections, such as the head and neck region. The regional approach to human anatomy will study everything within a given area at the same time before moving on to the next regional assignment.


Biochemistry is chemistry concerned with the study of how life processes and mechanisms occur at the molecular level within organisms. It focuses on what happens in certain disease states, the metabolism, and the role of genetics. Proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates are some of the important molecules studied in the course.

Beginning about the third year, medical students start rotating among all specialty areas within medicine for a duration of approximately two months each. Referred to as clerkships, medical school rotations are completed in such areas as pediatrics, primary care, neurology, and psychiatry, while applying concepts learned in first and second year medical school classes. Clinical electives are additional courses and clerkship rotations that are not required, but chosen on the basis of interest in a particular specialty. They are generally done during the last year of medical school.

Often, specific regions or countries will require medical students to take additional medical school classes in order to specialize in a specific area. For example,osteopathic medical school students in the U.S. complete additional coursework and training in a discipline called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which involves using the hands as a means to assess, diagnose, and treat illness chiefly through manipulating the musculoskeletal system. In addition to treating muscular and skeletal injuries, OMT is an alternative method used by osteopathic doctors (D.O.) to help improve medical conditions including sinusitis, COPD, and asthma. Medical school classes in OMT train students in stretching the muscles, range-of-motion, and resistance techniques.



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