Medical Schools In California Requirements

Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by Omoyeni Adeniyi

Getting into a medical school in California is a very common goal among premed students given the state’s high-ranking programs, reduced in-state tuition at public institutions, idyllic weather, cultural diversity, and so on.

Unfortunately, California med school admissions are also incredibly difficult due to schools’ competitive stats, the large state population, and the massive number of applications each program receives.

Do a quick search online and you’ll come across horror stories from students on premed forums like:

List of medical schools in California: 2023 rankings & admissions statistics

Your first step is to learn about your competition when applying to California med schools. We dug up the most pertinent information about each school to help you understand the admissions landscape, whether you’re a California resident or out-of-state applicant.

While compiling this information, we observed the following trends:

  • California medical schools boast high rankings. In the 2023 U.S. News Best Medical Schools (Research) rankings, one is in the top 5, four in the top 25, and seven in the top 75.
  • Tuition and fees to attend California medical schools are comparable to schools outside of California.
  • While out-of-state students must pay more than in-state students at public California (i.e., UC) med schools, tuition and fees for out-of-state UC students are still lower than all California private schools’ tuition and fees.
  • California residents enjoy higher interview rates at most schools.

In the “U.S. News Ranking” column in the table below, numbers in parentheses reflect each medical school’s national ranking, whereas numbers outside parentheses reflect each California medical school’s relative rank. Relative rankings allow us to more easily answer the question, “Which are the ‘best’ medicals school in California?”

(Note: We strongly advise you to sign up for MSAR for the most up-to-date and comprehensive data on individual MD programs and to sign up for Choose DO for DO program data.)

California Medical SchoolsU.S. News RankingLocationDegreeYear Est.Annual Tuition & FeesAvg. GPAAvg. MCATInterview RateFirst-Year Class Size
UCSF School of Medicine*1 (3)San FranciscoMD1864$37,488 IS
$49,733 OOS
3.885178.9% IS
3.8% OOS
177 (78% IS)
Stanford University School of Medicine2 (8)StanfordMD1908$64,868 IS
$64,868 OOS
3.895184.4% IS
4.4% OOS
90 (32.2% IS)
UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine*3 (19)Los AngelesMD1951$40,585 IS
$52,830 OOS
3.815167% IS
6.5% OOS
175 (59.4% IS)
UC San Diego School of Medicine*4 (20)San DiegoMD1968$39,345 IS
$51,590 OOS
3.8351612.3% IS
5.6% OOS
138 (79% IS)
USC Keck School of Medicine5 (28)Los AngelesMD1885$68,487 IS
$68,487 OOS
3.795179.8% IS
3.6% OOS
186 (82.3% IS)
UC Davis School of Medicine*6 (51)DavisMD1966$42,648 IS
$54,893 OOS
3.635117.8% IS
0.5% OOS
132 (91.7% IS)
UC Irvine School of Medicine*6 (51)IrvineMD1896$37,939 IS
$50,184 OOS
3.845158.2% IS
3.1% OOS
104 (86.5% IS)
UC Riverside School of Medicine*8 (95–124)RiversideMD2008$38,695 IS
$50,940 OOS
3.685104.8% IS
0.07% OOS
86 (97.7% IS)
Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine8 (95–124)VallejoDO1997$58,100 IS
$58,100 OOS
3.56509NA135 (81% IS)
Western University of Health Sciences – College of Osteopathic Medicine8 (95–124)PomonaDO1977$59,560 IS
59,560 OOS
3.6750810.5% Combined228 (90% IS)
California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic MedicineURClovisDO2019$59,125 IS
$59,125 OOS
3.5507.4NA120 (83% IS)
California Northstate University College of MedicineURElk GroveMD2015$64,445 IS
$64,445 OOS
3.815147.7% IS
1.4% OOS
110 (93.6% IS)
California University of Science and MedicineURSan BernardinoMD2015$63,800 IS
$63,800 OOS
3.7351413.1% IS
0.4% OOS
129 (97.7% IS)
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and ScienceURLos AngelesMD1966NANANANANA
Kaiser Permanente Tyson School of MedicineURPasadenaMD2019$0 IS
$0 OOS
3.835176.3% IS
6.2% OOS
50 (52% IS)
Loma Linda University School of MedicineURLoma LindaMD1909$63,404 IS
$63,404 OOS
3.915125.7% IS
5.4% OOS
176 (48.3% IS)

California medical school profiles

Now that you’re familiar with the admissions statistics of every medical school in California, we’ll provide further information on each institution to help you learn even more about them. After all, medical schools vary in ways besides how challenging they are to get into. When deciding where to apply to medical school, you’ll want to take many factors into account—location, curriculum, culture, resources, and competitiveness all play a role in determining which schools will be the best fits for you. 

California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine

Not only is California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine one of just three osteopathic medical schools in California, it’s also brand new—the inaugural class matriculated in 2020. CHSU-COM is also the only med school located in California’s Central Valley, so one of its stated goals is to train physicians who will stick around and work in this medically underserved region. A cornerstone of CHSU-COM’s curriculum is team-based learning, which emphasizes students collaborating together to evaluate information rather than receiving it through lectures.

California Northstate University College of Medicine

California Northstate University College of Medicine, located in the Sacramento area, is another relatively new California medical school with a focus on educating doctors who will help address a regional shortage of primary care physicians. It should be pointed out that CNU-COM has faced criticism for a couple of things: its status as a for-profit institution, which therefore doesn’t allow its students access to federal loans, and the fact that even after graduating its first class of students in 2019, it hadn’t yet moved from provisional to full LCME accreditation. Furthermore, in early 2022, the LCME placed CNU-COM on probation. For these reasons, some believe there is risk associated with attending CNU. 

So, should you consider applying to CNU-COM? If you’re dead set on earning an MD in California, and the lack of access to federal loans isn’t a concern for you, you might add CNU-COM to your list. However, other med schools may present surer bets in terms of proven quality and career opportunities.

California University of Science and Medicine

California University of Science and Medicine is another fairly new California med school founded in part by Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, a well-established teaching hospital near San Bernardino. CUSM emphasizes a participatory curriculum that incorporates clinical sciences beginning in the first year, and it describes itself as a “socially accountable medical school”—one of the tenets of its mission is to address the health concerns and wellbeing of its local community. As such, it also focuses in its admissions process on admitting students from California’s Inland Empire. 

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is a historically Black institution with a focus on social justice and health equity for underserved populations. The four-year MD program offered by CDU is a joint program with UCLA; one of its aims is to develop medical leaders who will focus on advancing healthcare for disadvantaged areas. Accepting just 24 students each year, CDU/UCLA is a small, tight-knit program. However, students take all the same classes and benefit from the same resources as regular UCLA med students; the difference lies in CDU’s specialized focus on underserved populations, which includes rotating at community hospitals and clinics in underprivileged parts of Los Angeles. 

Kaiser Permanente Tyson School of Medicine

The Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine is yet another newcomer to the California medical school landscape, having matriculated its first class in 2020. Yet, the Kaiser Permanente name was already well known in the region for its health insurance, vast system of hospitals, and residency programs, which date back to 1946. Kaiser has vowed to waive tuition for its first five classes (through the entering class of 2024), which has helped establish it as a desirable—and competitive—med school option. Though Kaiser doesn’t give preference to students interested in any particular specialty, free tuition may especially appeal to those hoping to enter primary care or other lower-paid specialties. At just 50 students accepted each year, its entering class size is among the smallest of any of the California med schools.

(Related reading: How to Get Into Kaiser Permanente Medical School)

Loma Linda University School of Medicine

Loma Linda University School of Medicine is a Seventh-day Adventist medical school in the Inland Empire whose mission is to “continue the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus Christ to make man whole.” Part of this mission includes an emphasis on service and a holistic approach to patient care. Sometimes, prospective students wonder how Loma Linda’s Christian values impact its medical curriculum—as an LCME-accredited medical school, you can rest assured that a Loma Linda medical education won’t have gaps or deviations based on religion. That said, students are required to attend chapel, take religion courses, and adhere to a fairly strict code of conduct. For these reasons, cultural fit will be important in determining if Loma Linda is the right school for you.  

Stanford University School of Medicine

Consistently one of the best-ranked medical schools in California and the nation, Stanford is nearly unbeatable in terms of prestige and resources. As a premier research university, Stanford prepares its med students to be both excellent providers of patient care and innovative leaders and researchers. That’s evident in its Discovery Curriculum, which allows students the flexibility to pursue their education via different pathways and to focus on scholarship. As such, in order to be a strong candidate for Stanford, interests in both medical care and research are critical. Stanford’s admissions process is incredibly competitive, even for exceptional applicants.

(Related reading: How to Get Into Stanford Medical School)

Touro University of California College of Osteopathic Medicine

Touro University California is an osteopathic medical school in the Bay Area. Though religion is not an especially visible part of Touro’s curriculum or culture, it’s a med school under Jewish auspices whose values include service, social justice, and intellectual pursuit. Touro’s curriculum emphasizes primary care and includes a Global Health Program that sends students around the world for a month to gain hands-on experience in foreign countries. Touro is known for fostering a friendly, tight-knit community, and its desirable location makes it one of the more competitive DO schools in the country.

UC Davis School of Medicine

UC Davis’s School of Medicine boasts a strong research reputation and an even stronger reputation in primary care—it routinely ranks among the top med schools in the nation for primary care (it currently sits at #11). In addition, UC Davis emphasizes caring for the underserved and includes multiple pathways for students interested in urban, valley, or rural medicine. UC Davis’s highly competitive admissions process admits very few out-of-state students and heavily favors applicants from Northern and Central California, especially those from rural areas or who plan to practice primary care in a rural area. 

UC Irvine School of Medicine

UC Irvine’s School of Medicine is guided by the mission statement, “Powered by discovery and innovation, UCI Health will advance individual and population health.” As you might then expect, UCI is known as a strong research institution and is particularly acclaimed for its research in cancer and the neurosciences. In addition, they offer the iMed curriculum which integrates technology into the med school curriculum in forward-thinking ways. UCI also emphasizes community outreach and aims to reach underprivileged populations in Southern California. Admission into UCI is quite competitive.

UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine 

As UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine routinely ranks among the best medical schools in both California and the nation, it excels in preparing its students for both clinical practice and research. In addition, UCLA emphasizes lifelong learning, a “firm commitment to the humanistic, ethical, legal and cultural aspects of medicine,” and community engagement, as exemplified by their multiple programs that prepare students to practice in underserved communities. Given its many strengths, UCLA is one of the most difficult med schools to get into in the country.

(Related reading: How to Get Into UCLA Medical School)

UC Riverside School of Medicine

UC Riverside is a medical school with a clear mission: to educate a diverse workforce of physicians and to develop research and healthcare delivery programs in order to improve the health of medically underserved Californians, especially residents of the Inland Empire. UCR’s curriculum emphasizes ambulatory primary care, and students begin seeing patients under mentor supervision beginning in their first year. Given UCR’s regional focus, it is very difficult for out-of-state applicants to get in; candidates from the Inland Empire who are committed to practicing there have the best chances of admission. 

UC San Diego School of Medicine

UCSD’s School of Medicine is often associated with the word “innovation”—they were the first to integrate science into the medical school curriculum and they’ve pioneered multiple lifesaving surgeries. On top of this, the university is known as an all-around powerhouse in scientific research. UCSD has a reputation for rigor and its grads tend to produce an impressive residency match list each year. These are some of the reasons why UCSD is consistently highly ranked and challenging to get into.

(Related reading: How to Get Into UCSD Medical School)

UCSF School of Medicine

Like Stanford, UCSF is consistently considered one of the best, most prestigious medical schools in both California and the United States. However, UCSF is unique among top schools in that it’s the only med school to rank in the top 4 nationally for both research and primary care. This is unsurprising given its highly decorated faculty, excellent clinical reputation, and the diverse patient population it serves. In addition to these strengths, UCSF also emphasizes public service and community health. These focuses are combined in UCSF’s Bridges Curriculum, which aims to meet the challenges of 21st-century health care. You’ll need to be an outstanding applicant in order to be competitive for UCSF’s difficult admissions process.

(Related reading: How to Get Into UCSF Medical School)

USC Keck School of Medicine

USC’s Keck School of Medicine has a reputation for both robust research and unmatched clinical training. USC students are able to gain a wide range of hands-on experience at a variety of public and private hospitals, including LAC+USC Medical Center, one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country. As such, USC students get the opportunity to work with a highly diverse patient population, including underserved communities. Because the first two years of USC’s curriculum are pass/fail, thus eliminating competition between students, the school is also known for its friendly atmosphere and good work-life balance. For all of these reasons, admission into USC is very competitive.

Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific

Western University of Health Sciences is an osteopathic medical school with campuses in both Southern California and Oregon. Established to address a shortage of primary care physicians in the western U.S, its mission is “to produce, in a humanistic tradition, health care professionals and biomedical knowledge that will enhance and extend the quality of life in our communities.” One distinctive feature of Western is its Interprofessional Education curriculum, in which DO students explore case studies alongside students in other healthcare professional programs. 

Prerequisites for California Allopathic Medical Schools

  • Loma Linda University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Southern California
  • University of California: Davis; Irvine; Los Angeles; San Diego; San Francisco
LOMA LINDA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

  • General Biology/Zoology with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Inorganic Chemistry with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Organic Chemistry with Lab (2 semester)
  • Biochemistry (1 semester)
  • General Physics with Lab (2 semesters)
  • College English (equivalent to satisfy baccalaureate degree requirement)
  • Religion or Ethics (as required by the college attended)

Recommended:

  • Statistics
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

Reference: http://www.llu.edu/medicine/admissions/admissions-requirements.html

STANFORD UNIVERSITY- SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

Stanford has removed all specific requirements, but the following would be close to what they want in their applicants.

  • General Biology with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Chemistry with Lab (4 semester)
  • Biochemistry
  • General Physics with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Behavioral and Social Sciences

Recommended:

  • Statistics
  • Calculus
  • Modern foreign language (esp. Spanish or Asian languages)

Reference: http://med.stanford.edu/md-admissions/how-to-apply/academic-requirements.html

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA- KECK SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

  • Keck School of Medicine has removed all pre-requisites for admission. This means you will have to look at other similar schools to see what you should be taking.

Reference: Admissions

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS- SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

  • Biological Sciences with Lab (1 year)
  • General Chemistry with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Organic Chemistry with Lab (2 semesters)
  • General Physics with Lab (2 semesters)

Reference: http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mdprogram/admissions/requirements.html

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE- SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

  • Biological Sciences with Lab (3 semesters, must include at least 1 upper division*)
  • General Chemistry with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Organic Chemistry with Lab (2 semesters)
  • General Physics with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Biochemistry (1 semester)
  • Calculus (1 semester)
  • Statistics (1 semester)

Recommended:

  • English
  • Humanities
  • Social/Behavioral Sciences
  • Statistics
  • Cell Biology
  • Genetics
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Vertebrate Embryology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Spanish

* Does not include botany

Reference: http://www.meded.uci.edu/admissions/admissions_information.asp

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES- DAVID GEFFEN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

  • General Biology with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Inorganic Chemistry with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Organic Chemistry with Lab (2 semester)
  • General Physics with Lab (2 semesters)
  • College English (2 semesters, must include English Composition)
  • College Mathematics (2 semesters, both Calculus and Statistics)

Recommended:

  • Biological Sciences (not overlapping with medical school curriculum)
  • Spanish
  • Humanities
  • Computer Science

Reference: http://medschool.ucla.edu/apply-competencies

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO- SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

  • Biology with Lab (2 semesters, excluding botany and biochemistry)
  • Chemistry with Lab (4 semesters, 2 of which are Organic)
  • General Physics (2 semesters)
  • College Mathematics* (2 semesters)
  • AP credit can NOT be used to meet the Biology or Organic Chemistry requirements.

* Acceptable mathematics courses: calculus, statistics, and computer science

Reference: http://meded.ucsd.edu/Catalog/curriculum/application.html

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO- SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Required:

  • General Biology/Zoology with Lab* (2 semesters)
  • Inorganic Chemistry with Lab (2 semesters)
  • Organic Chemistry with Lab (2 semester)
  • General Physics with Lab (2 semesters)

Recommended:

  • College Mathematics
  • Upper-Division Biological Sciences
  • Humanities
  • English Composition

* Courses in vertebrate embryology, genetics, cell physiology, or comparative vertebrate anatomy can also satisfy the biology requirement.

What Are The Requirements for a Medical School?

There are no uniform or specific admission requirements into medical schools across the globe as the entry requirements vary from school to school. However, there are some requirements that are general prerequisites for entry into most medical schools.

For instance, in the US, most medical schools require prospective students to provide copies of the following:

  • High school diploma
  • Undergraduate degree in the field of Sciences (3-4 years)
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
  • Good TOEFL language scores (For international students)
  • Letters of recommendation.
  • Extracurricular activities.
  • Minimum MCAT exam result (set by each university individually)

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