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Graduation Rates and Attrition Factors for U.S. Medical School Students

May 2014 Analysis in Brief

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Previous reported graduation rates for U.S. medical students reflect the graduation rates of all students, including those who obtained more than one degree during their time in medical school. This Analysis in Brief presents current data on graduation rates for U.S. medical students, taking into account specific types of degree program (i.e., single- and multiple-degree programs). In addition, it contains an analysis of the growth in the number and rate of student participation in non-joint degree research and taking a leave of absence from medical schools, as well as an examination of the growth in participation in multiple degree programs. Results show, for example, that the four-year graduation rates for M.D.-only students fell from 90 percent in late 1970 to around 83 percent in the 1980s, where it has remained. Results also show that the number of U.S. medical school students enrolled in programs leading to multiple degrees (i.e., M.D. combined with another graduate degree) reflects steady growth in the number M.D.-Ph.D. students over the past two decades: from 1993 to 2013, the number of entering medical students increased by 17 percent, while the number of students enrolled in M.D.-Ph.D. programs increased by more than 100 percent. These results can be used to understand better the factors that affect time to graduation, which can facilitate schools’ evaluation of student’s progress and advise students during their academic careers.

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