MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) is the undergraduate medical degree awarded by medical schools and universities in medicine and surgery, enabling you to become a medical practitioner (essentially a doctor). An MBBS course takes 4 to 6 years to complete depending on the country you do it in. Prerequisites vary as per colleges and countries along with the entrance tests that students have to write and qualify to get into the programmes of their choice.
There are several differences between the application requirements, prerequisites and advantages (and respective disadvantages) of these courses. This article will explain the differences which will help you make an informed choice and pick a course that is best suited for you.
Applying to an MBBS degree in any Indian college comes with the following prerequisites:
- The student must study Physics, Chemistry and Biology at the high school level
- They must score a minimum of 50% in their CBSE/ISC/respective state board exams in the PCB subjects
- Must write and qualify NEET-UG (National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test – Undergraduate) in the year of application (from 2020 onwards, all seat in AIIMS and JIPMER (in addition to government colleges) are also allocated on the basis of NEET-UG scores instead of separate exams for the same).
Applying to an MBBS degree in any medical college abroad comes with the following prerequisites:
- The student must study Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English at the high school level
- They must score a minimum of 50% in their CBSE/ISC/respective state board exams in the PCB and English subjects
- Must write and qualify NEET-UG in the year of application for No-Objection Certificate from Medical Council Of India (also necessary in case you plan to come back and practice in India since NEET is a prerequisite for the FMGE screening test)
- Must have requisite scores in the respective medical/other entrance and screening tests for the country and college they’re applying to, in addition to English proficiency scores (IELTS/ TOEFL) if required
Metrics of difference
- Cost of education
This is a very important metric to keep in mind, especially in the times of rising education costs and reduced job opportunities due to economic downturn(s). Government colleges are among the most affordable and credible colleges in India but admission is contingent on getting at least a good if not excellent NEET rank.
There are around 78000 MBBS (including 1200 AIIMS and 200 JIPMER seats), 3000 BDS (Bachelor of Dentistry), 52000 AYUSH and 500 BVSc (Bachelor of Veterinary Sciences) seats in government, private, deemed-to-be-university and central universities that are available for a total of 16 lakh NEET-UG applicants.
This means that there are very few seats available, and once the affordable government college seats are occupied, there are only private college seats left, which are often run in sub-optimal conditions (such as premises without labs, faculty and requisite infrastructure). Even if they are good private colleges, fees tend to be exorbitant (in the range of 20 lakh to 2 crore INR for the entire degree, depending on the college) which most students cannot afford even if they are deserving.
As far as MBBS degrees abroad are considered, depending on the country and institute you apply to, they generally cost less or as much as the private colleges in India (which means that you need to take into account the other factors mentioned further in this article). Additionally, several institutes offer merit-cum-need scholarships to international students (unlike most private colleges in India).
- Global Exposure
There is no doubt that studying abroad offers you exposure to fellow students and faculty from all over the world. When you study abroad you get a chance to meet different people with varying cultures which is an opportunity that you will not get if you stay in India. Additionally, several international universities conduct student exchanges (in summer breaks or for entire semesters) that most Indian universities do not.
- Cultural and Language experiences
When you join a course and college in a different country, different languages and cultures are expected to become an integral part of your life. This can be an inconvenient disadvantage or a huge advantage for a student, depending on how you choose to look at it. On one hand, this will definitely broaden your horizons and make for a great socio-cultural environment that you can learn from, but on the other, there will certainly be language barriers and culture-homesickness (a sense of longing for familiar eating habits and wanting people who you can culturally relate to you), especially because you’re bound to take some time to adjust when you’re in a new and unfamiliar place.
- Practical Experience in fields of interest
This is particularly relevant when you are considering specialising in a niche branch of medicine or heading into research fields (such as virology, epidemiology, vaccines, etc.). These require several specialised courses (both practical and theory) with faculty being highly qualified in their respective fields, along with labs and equipment to facilitate learning. Therefore, it is important for you to consider credible institutes that have the requisite infrastructure and facilities, along with the impact it will have on your CV – it is understandable that when you apply for higher studies and research positions, your degree college may make a difference in terms of pedigree and prestige. In this case, carefully consider the individual credibility of the institute(s) you are applying to when picking between Indian and foreign ones.
- Job and Internship Opportunities
MBBS programmes in most countries require mandatory internships for you to become a qualified doctor who is allowed to practice in clinics/hospitals. These internships are essential to equip you with the practical skills required to be an able doctor and allow you to obtain hands-o experience that is extremely beneficial. Consider the overall medical industry environment and number and quality of such internship institutions in the country that you apply to.
For example, India has a booming medical industry especially with the uptake in the development of the healthcare sector and the popularity of medical tourism. It is also evident that Russia or China will have more internship opportunities and institutions than countries that are somewhat less developed, such as Kazakhastan or Philippines.
Additionally, if you study abroad and you wish to come back and practice medicine in India, you will need to qualify the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) conducted by the Medical Council of India. Several countries have their own licensing tests (like USMLE in the United States) that doctors need to write before they can practice (similar to lawyers having to pass the bar exam before being allowed to practise law).
Overall, this decision requires careful consideration and research on your part. It would definitely be a good start to make a list of all the programmes you are considering, individually check their requirements (SAT or other local entrance tests, English proficiency scores, school scores etc.) and the other factors such as culture and job opportunities in that region. While this may not always be possible (and it isn’t always possible for you to decide this in high school), it would be helpful for you to chart out a tentative career path (that can change based on your experiences and goals!) if you can, to get a perspective of what would look best on your CV to fulfil the career goals you set.