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Medical School Enrollment Continues to Climb with New Diversity Gains

New Residency Positions Needed for M.D.s to Complete Training

Washington, D.C., October 23, 2012—With the nation facing a shortage of 90,000 doctors over the next decade, the number and diversity of students applying to and enrolling in medical school saw healthy gains this year, according to data released today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

More than 45,000 students (45,266) applied to attend medical school in 2012, an increase of 3.1 percent. First-time applicants, considered to be a barometer of interest in medicine, set another record, increasing by 3.4 percent in 2012, for a total of 33,772 applicants. First-time enrollment at the nation’s medical schools grew 1.5 percent to 19,517 students, an all-time high.

“Medicine continues to be a very attractive career choice for our nation’s best and brightest,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and CEO. “Given the urgent need our nation has for more doctors to care for our growing and aging population, we are extremely pleased with the continued growth in size and diversity of this year’s entering class of medical students.”

All major racial and ethnic groups saw increases in applicants and enrollees this year. A record number of Black/African American students (3,824) and Hispanic/Latino students (3,701) students applied to medical school and both groups reached new highs in enrollment of 1,416 and 1,731, respectively. After decreases in both applicants and enrollees in 2011, the number of American Indian and Alaska Native applicants (430) increased 13.5 percent and enrollment grew 17.2 percent to 184 this year.  

At the current pace of enrollment gains, medical schools are on track to increase total enrollment 30 percent by 2016. In 2012, 4 percent (771 students) of the entering class were students from one of the 11 new medical schools that admitted their inaugural class between 2007 and 2012.

Kirch noted that the robust growth in medical school enrollment will not translate into a single new doctor to care for patients unless Congress lifts the 1997 limits on residency training positions. Once students graduate from medical school, they must receive an additional three to seven years of residency training to become practicing physicians.

“Medical schools are doing all they can to help alleviate the coming physician shortages by expanding enrollment. But we are nearing a critical deficit of residency training positions.

Without support from Congress to lift the 15-year cap on residency training, some future M.D.s may not be able to complete their education and care for patients. It takes time to train a doctor, and we must start now,” said Kirch.

Additional Highlights

  • The number of men applying to and enrolling in medical school increased across all racial and ethnic groups, with strong gains among Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latino. The number of women applicants and enrollees remained relatively unchanged.
  • Asian applicants increased by 5.6 percent and enrollees by 5 percent.
  • Holding steady from 2012, this year’s applicants had strong academic credentials, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.54 and combined median MCAT score of 29. 


The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members comprise all 147 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their nearly 160,000 faculty members, 83,000 medical students, and 115,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and its member medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at


Lesley Ward
Senior Media Relations Specialist
Telephone: 202-828-0655

Brooke Bergen
Public Relations and Communications Manager
Telephone: 202-828-0419