Skip to Content

Nation’s Medical Schools Increase Enrollment by 25 Percent Since 2002

Washington, D.C., May 5, 2016—U.S. medical school enrollment has increased by 25 percent since 2002—representing an additional 4,143 new students—according to the results of the annual Medical School Enrollment Survey by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

Findings from the report were released today at the AAMC’s 12th Health Workforce Research Conference in Chicago.

“Our nation’s medical schools have stepped up to meet the challenge the AAMC put before them in 2006,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD. “They understand the integral role they play in meeting the future health workforce needs of this country which, according to our latest data, will now require up to an additional 94,700 physicians by 2025.”

The report indicates that first-year U.S. medical school enrollment will reach 21,434 students by 2017–18, a 30 percent increase over the 2002 baseline enrollment level that the AAMC called for a decade ago to address the nation’s coming physician shortage. Since 2002, 20 additional medical schools have been established, accounting for 37 percent of the overall estimated growth by 2020–21. In addition, seven new schools are currently awaiting accreditation and could increase that percentage. Nationally, schools in the southern United States would account for 42 percent of the growth in medical school enrollment by the end of the decade.

According to the report, medical schools nationwide are also actively responding to pressing community health needs through a variety of initiatives. In 2015, 84 percent of schools reported they had or planned to have within the next two years specific admission programs or policies dedicated to recruiting a diverse student body interested in caring for underserved populations. Nearly 80 percent of schools have established or plan to establish programs or policies for minority groups currently underrepresented in medicine. Sixty-seven percent have efforts geared toward increasing the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and 49 percent have efforts targeted at students from rural communities.

One of the top concerns of U.S. medical school deans, according to the report, is the availability of training positions or sites for their students. Fifty percent reported concerns about their own incoming students’ ability to find residency positions, and 85 percent expressed concern about the number of clinical sites for clerkships—the training third- and fourth-year students must complete before graduation.

At the same time that U.S. MD-granting schools are expanding to address physician shortages, colleges of osteopathic medicine are also experiencing unprecedented growth, according to the report. When combining first-year enrollment for all schools, projected growth is expected to reach 30,186 students by 2020—a 55 percent increase over the 2002 level.

“This growth is naturally going to put a strain on limited clinical resources and residency positions, which is a problem not only for the nation’s future doctors but for the nation’s future patients,” Kirch said. “Congress can’t afford to delay any longer. They must act now to ensure that patients will have access to the care they need when they need it.”

Kirch noted that the AAMC supports a multipronged strategy that includes a modest increase in federal support for residency training, along with innovations in care delivery and better use of technology.

To view the report, please click here.


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

Press Contact
Brooke Bergen

Results of the 2015 Medical School Enrollment Survey

Read the report