Study Medicine in Europe: the Fast Track to Health Sciences Careers

Are you considering a career in health sciences? Have you thought about the option to study medicine in Europe? Europe offers many programs that combine a bachelor’s degree with an advanced degree in areas like medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy.  In 5-6 years (depending on the type of program), students can obtain their bachelor’s and also an advanced degree like a PharmD, DVM, DDS or MD.  In the programs we’re talking about, you’ll be able to study medicine in Europe in English. Here’s the crazy thing – the average tuition for these programs is just under $10,500 per year.

Let’s go through some of the details and obstacles to study medicine in Europe. For each of these fields of study, we will look at what would need to occur for a student to practice in the US after graduating from a combined program in Europe. It’s important to note that the student would be able to practice in Europe (and other countries as well) with fewer hoops to jump through. Regardless, as you will see below the incredible financial benefits of the option to study medicine in Europe make the bureaucratic obstacles look small.

Pharmacy: Take a Test and Pick Up $400k

This field of study has the fewest obstacles.  If you want to practice in the states, you will take the Foreign It's a no brainer to study medicine in EuropePharmacy Graduate Equivalency Exam and then take the NAPLEX test which is the test all graduates must pass to become licensed pharmacists. Europe offers 8 English conducted integrated (meaning combined bachelor’s and master’s degree) pharmacy programs and the average is just $8,125 per year which means the total tuition cost to get a PharmD is $40,625 for the 5-year program.

How does this compare to a student in the US?  Let’s look at the costs for a student paying in-state tuition at UNC Chapel Hill  The tuition cost of their bachelor’s degree alone (IF he graduates in 4 years, as only 36% of undergrads do today) is already at $35,592. The four-year PharmD tuition adds another $95,088 total.  It will take this student eight years and cost $130,680 total for in-state tuition.  It would cost an out of state student a staggering sum of $331,107.

This means the student studying in Europe saves $90,055-$290,482 in tuition and starts earning money three years earlier! Since the average pharmacist makes $115,000 per year, those three years of “lost earnings” equate to $345,000. Combining tuition savings and lost earnings, the total comes to $435,055 – $635,482.

Veterinary Medicine: Another Easy Choice

This is a good one to look at since there are only 30 vet programs in the US and getting accepted into one is known to be quite difficult (in some ways more difficult than getting into medical school). To become a licensed vet in the US, graduates from a foreign degree program must first get their credentials certified. The Education Commission for Foreign Graduates (ECFVG) certification program is accepted in all states and involves a written test as well as a hands-on Clinical Proficiency Examination. After earning an ECFVG, graduates then must pass the national licensure exam as well as any exams required by the state in which they would practice.

Europe offers seven English conducted veterinary programs that take usually take 6 years (though some take 5.5).  The average tuition of these programs is just $6,400 per year.  Nope, that’s not a typo!  That means that the total tuition over the entire 6 years is $38,400.

Let’s look at our UNC student again.  We already know that the cost of the entire vet program in Europe is almost the same than the in-state tuition alone for the bachelor’s degree at UNC Chapel Hill (which is $35,592).  The nearby 4-year veterinary medicine program at North Carolina State is $18.516 per year for in-state students putting the 8 year total at $109,656. Our poor, out of state students will pay $310,680 over the eight years.

The student in Europe is saving between $71,256- $272,280 and is earning money 2 years before his counterpart graduating from North Carolina!

Dentistry: Wrinkled Included

This is another good option, bur does have more obstacles than veterinary medicine and pharmacy.  To practice as a dentist in the US, you need to have graduated from a school that has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).  However, these schools are only in the US and Canada!  Dentists who have been trained and educated in other countries can do an advanced standing 2-year program with a CODA school.   Some of the advanced standing tuition rates are higher than even the regular dental school tuition, which seems like a bit of a racket.  I saw many in the $75,000-$90,000 a year range.

Europe offers 18 English conducted integrated bachelor and DDS degrees. Most of these are five-year programs and the average tuition is $13,250 for a total average of $66,250.The question is whether this is still a good deal given that you need the two extra years of study to practice in the US.

UNC does not have an advanced standing program, so for this example, we will look at Boston University.  A student who has a degree from Europe and then completes the 2 year Advanced Standing program at Boston University will end up paying an additional $144,000, so their total tuition over 7 years is $210,250.  How crazy is it that two years of study here is almost double of the cost of entire five years in Europe — much of which will likely be redundant learning. Sigh.

A student at Boston University pays $196,000 for their bachelor’s and then another $288,000 for their DDS, bringing their total to $484,000. The student in Europe is still saving $273,750 and entering the workforce a year earlier. According to Money magazine, that year is worth $149,540. This brings the total benefit to $423,290.

Study Medicine in Europe: How Much is Playing It Safe Worth?

study medicine in EuropeIf your plan is to find work as a doctor in the EU, this is a great route to take! Here’s a fun fact: physicians in the Netherlands earn more on average than MDs in the US.   If, however, your ultimate plan is to return to the US to work, you will encounter a few obstacles. Most of the obstacles are just hassles and not insurmountable. These include things like taking the US Medical Licensing exam and getting your transcripts verified.  The most significant challenge is that, unless you have completed a residency in Canada, you are required to do a medical residency in the US-even if you completed a residency in a country with an advanced medical system! Obtaining a residency in the US is extremely competitive and odds of getting into a program are lower for those who graduate from foreign schools, though the number is increasing. On average, 75% of applicants get a residency or “match”. Most recently 53.9% of US citizens with international medical degrees (IMG) were matched to first-year programs and the number of U.S. citizen IMGs matching to first-year positions has increased in 12 of the last 13 matches.

There are 35 English conducted integrated bachelor’s/MD programs in Europe.  They take six years to complete and the average annual tuition is $10,400.  That number is actually higher than the true average.  There are a number of these programs in Italy.  Tuition to study medicine in Italy at public universities is based on family income, so the numbers used for the average are the maximum a student would pay, not what the students actually pay to study medicine in Italy.   Nonetheless, using those numbers, our student in Europe would pay an average of $62,400 in tuition over the duration of the six-year program.

Let’s look again at our UNC student.  The in-state student is paying $35,592 for a bachelor’s degree program and then $70, 148 for their MD, bringing their 8 year total to $105,740.  The out of state student would pay $313,328.

Our student studying medicine in Europe will save between $43,084- 250,928, but with significant potential residency headaches if coming back to the US.

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

When looking at the costs, it is important to note that many of these programs are offered in countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, and other central European countries. The cost of living is much lower there than in the States. Avoiding student loan interest is also a significant benefit that we haven’t touched on.

Each of the programs we list in our database is fully accredited and many are very reputable.  For pharmacy school, it’s clearly very attractive, given the 3 years of income gained and the high earnings for the field. Whether a student intends to seek employment in the US or abroad after graduation, I think the benefits outweigh the obstacles for programs in dentistry and veterinary medicine, as well. Medical programs are not as clear cut.  I think it is definitely worth considering by students who plan to practice outside of the US, students who do not want to attend in-state school in the US, or live in one of the six states that don’t have an in-state school option, or students who are comfortable working outside of their field for a year, if the residency placement ends up taking more than a year.

Want to Study Medicine in Europe? Take the Next Step and Join Now

If you want to learn more about these programs to study medicine in Europe, gratification is just a few clicks away. We’ve added them to our online database with 1,500 other English-taught bachelor’s programs across Europe. When you sign up as a member, you’ll gain immediate access to all the information we’ve gathered over the past 18 months from our research, our on-campus visits, plus our own impressions gathered from working with other candidates like you. We offer a range of packages from self-guided to fully supported, to help students understand and qualify their choices. If you’re planning to get an advanced degree in the health sciences field, you owe it to yourself to investigate the option to study medicine in Europe. The cost is as little as $89, and the impact could easily be over $500,000. Here’s the membership link again.

2016 Year in Review

As the year comes to a close, it’s natural to look back at where we’ve come from. 2016 was Beyond the States’ first full year and it was an amazing one. We launched our database in March.  Jennifer visited schools in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. She visited schools and presented to groups in Illinois, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. We sent out 39 newsletters and posted 32 entries on our blog. Right now, Over 1,300 people receive our weekly newsletter and we have over 1,100 Likes on Facebook. As a way to look back, here are the seven blog posts of 2016 that you may have missed.

Why I started Beyond the States

Here’s the Beyond the States’ origin story.

Why I Started Beyond the States

Is College in Europe Safe?

We believe going to college in Europe is as safe as going to college in the US. We examine that topic in this blog post.

Is College in Europe Safe?

Why We Don’t List Schools in the UK

When most Americans think of college in Europe, they automatically think of England, Scotland or Ireland. We don’t list these schools in our database. Here’s where we explain why…

Why We Don’t List UK Schools

How to Pay for College in Europe

We talk about 529 College Savings plans, scholarships and other ways to make college in Europe as affordable as possible.

How to Pay for College in Europe?

College in Europe Cost Comparison

We examine the actual costs of going to college in Europe versus a public and a private university in this case study of Jared.

College in Europe Cost Comparison

College in Europe: Good or Bad for Job Prospects?

Will having a degree from a European college be an advantage or a hindrance? Click below to find out what Jenn found out on this topic.

College in Europe: Good or Bad for Job Prospects?

What’s Your Threshold?

Did you ever wonder what makes one person excited about college in Europe when most peers are going the conventional route? The answer may just lie in the individual’s threshold for collective behavior that we learned about from Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast, Revisionist History.

What’s Your Threshold?



Nursing Study Abroad: Get Your BSN without Going Broke

nursing study abroadWhen the instructor asked the class on the first day of nursing school “Why do you want to become a nurse?” Hannah’s answer was different from her classmates. The other students talked about caring for the sick, helping to deliver babies, and saving lives. While those aspects also mattered to Hannah, she said she needed a career where she could find a job easily, one that would pay well upon graduation and would support her wherever she went. Hannah’s answers were different from her classmates because she had seen her own family struggle since her father’s computer programming job was sent offshore.

For a person with the right temperament, nursing is an excellent career choice.

  1. You’ll always be able to find a job. There has been an ongoing nursing shortage for decades. It is expected to worsen, due to the increasing incidence of chronic diseases, aging of the “baby boomer” generation and the constrained output of nursing schools. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 1,052,000 additional nurses are needed by 2022 to meet the demand, a 19% increase over today.
  2. Nursing is a high paying field. According to the same BLS study, nurses have the second highest median income at $65,470 (2012). Did you know nurses make more than accountants?
  3. Positive long-term prospects: The current nursing workforce is nearing retirement age. The average age of a nurse increased from to 44.7 in 2010 from 40.2 in 2000. As these older nurses retire over the next 1-2 decades, opportunities for advancement will continue to open up. Wages will remain high, since the demand will exceed the supply. Additionally, nurses will find opportunities in other areas of the hospital like IT and management, as well as with vendors.

How does one become a Registered Nurse (RN)?

  1. Education: obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) Note: While you can become a registered nursehc-tabletpc with an Associate’s degree, a BSN is the preferred credential. It will improve earning power over your career.
  2. Exam: Pass the standardized test for nursing, the NCLEX-RN
  3. License: Complete the licensing requirements for your state. Each state (and DC) has state board of nursing. License requirements vary, so you’ll have to research this.

How much does Nursing school cost in the US?

There are a number of options for nursing school depending on your goals and current education level. Let’s look at schools in Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania is one of the top nursing schools in the country (Others top schools are Duke, Johns Hopkins, and UCSF.). Each program below is 4 years in duration.

Tuition at University of Pennsylvania (UPenn): $51,464

Tuition at University of Pittsburgh: $23,270-$37,642 (in-state/out of state)

Tuition at Temple University: $19,130-$31,610 (in-state/out of state)

Nursing school in the US seems to be pretty expensive. Are there any other nursing study abroad options?

Yes! The good news is you don’t have to fork over $80,000-$200,000 in tuition over 4 years to get a BSN degree if you get your degree overseas. In addition to 1,500 other programs, the Beyond the States database contains 14 English-taught, BSN programs ranging in cost from $2,500 per year to $12,000 per year. One program even takes just 3 years, but most are 3.5 to 4 years in duration. The total program tuition costs (tuition x duration) range from $10,800 to $43,632. Assuming cost of living is comparable (in some Eastern European countries it’s a lot lower) and a $2,000 annual travel budget, getting a nursing degree can be 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of getting a BSN in the US and you’ll get to see the world!

Courses take place in specially equipped labs where students practice nursing procedures in simulated conditions. The skills are then transferred to real-life situations during work placements in various healthcare institutions. In Finland in order to complete the work placements, you’ll learn Finnish during your course of study.

Special Note about Finland:

Half of these nursing programs are in Finland. In 2016, the Finns began phasing in tuition fees to international students for the first time. As part of the transition, schools are offering extremely generous benefits. One school is offering a 50% tuition discount for year one. While at another, if you graduate in three years, the third year is free.

Are these non-US degrees readily accepted?

Yes! Due to the ongoing nursing shortage, nurses have been hired from outside the US for years, so non-US degrees are a lot more common in nursing than in other fields. The three major qualifications employers use to screen candidates with international degrees are:

  1. Accreditation: Does the BSN come from an accredited institution? Beyond the States only lists schools that are accredited.
  2. English proficiency
  3. Ability to Get a Work Visa: a non-issue for US citizens

Fast forward to today, Hannah manages an operating room at a hospital in Philadelphia. Given the ongoing demand for nurses, the positive outlook, and the ability to help others, nursing is one best career paths for today’s students to explore and getting a BSN via nursing study abroad is a great place to start!

Education Quality in the US and Europe

As many of you know, I’ve been reading great books recently about some of the problems with higher education in the US.  You probably saw previous blogs about the problems regarding admissions and rising costs that we face.  But what if you have the money and are willing to play the admissions games?  Will the end result of your top US college choice be worth it?  According to my reading, the answer is no.  Let’s set aside the return of investment, as it relates to employability (we touched on that here).  Let’s talk about the quality of the learning experience that undergraduates receive on campus.

Problem #1-Lectures

lectureEach year I must complete a number of continuing education units  to keep my social work license active. There is nothing more exhausting and mind numbing than sitting through lectures – even when the content is somewhat interesting or relevant.  Thus, I wasn’t surprised by the study by Joi Ito.   Ito is a an entrepreneur and Director of the MIT Media Lab. He monitored the brain activity of a student for a week and found that the brain is in its most dormant state during lectures, more so than while asleep!  I don’t think this is a shock to most of us. Few would argue that passive learning is more effective than active learning.  Yet lectures are still used.  Many students just choose not to go, while others attend and mindlessly copy down what the professor is saying.  Most Likley to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era notes Richard Arun’s findings  that the majority of college students learn little or nothing on the important dimensions of critical thinking and analysis and complex reasoning.

Problem #2-Teaching is Not the Priority

When small seminar classes do occur at many American universities, they are often led by graduate students instead of the professors. As a matter of a fact, in The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For former Wall Street Journal editorial staff member, Naomi Schaefer Riley, writes of a study  done by the Journal of Higher Education that concludes that the more time a college professor spends teaching, the less he or she gets paid. This finding applied to both big research universities and small liberal arts colleges.   Tenure is based, in large part, on the volume of research. Thus, as Wagner and Dintersmith said in Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era,  “The net result is that college faculty are not selected, motivated, or incentivized to be inspiring educators”.  They go on to quote Richard Keeling and Richard Hersch’s book, We’re Losing our Minds:Rethinking American Higher Education, which notes  that “Other priorities-higher rankings, growing enrollment, winning teams, bigger and better facilities, more revenue from sideline businesses, more research grants-have replaced learning as the primary touchstone for decision making”.

Solutions Exist in Europe

College in Europe is a solution to many of these problems.  The majority of schools I have visited do not use lectures as their primary mode of teaching, though, of course, this is not the case for all 1,500 programs we list.  Even courses that do involve lectures usually have regular, small seminars-led by the actual professor, not a teaching assistant!  Students in many countries (particularly in Northern Europe where there is a flat hierarchy) are encouraged to bring their own points of views to discussion even when, actually especially when, those viewpoints differ from the professors.  Not only is this a form of more active and deep learning, but it also helps develop critical thinking skills. Students at Universities of Applied Sciences are taught how to apply the knowledge they are learning to the real world which also deepens the learning experience.

In Excellent Sheep, William Deresiewicz proposes that a liberal arts education is the solution to these problems, but notes that many of the liberal arts schools in the US are succumbing to the pressures to conform to models used by the Ivies instead of what he sees as a “true liberal arts education”.  While I think that liberal arts program are wonderful, I believe a teaching style that promotes 21st century skills  of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity ( can be done with any content, be it the humanities or business.

Despite the reduced emphasis on the humanities, many European programs have the qualities that Deresiewicz calls out as strengths of the ideal liberal arts education.  Professors in Europe devote a large portion of their time to teaching. Students get to know the professors outside of class, through Friday bars in Denmark, the academic and social activities through the department based study associations across Europe, or the advisory capacity they serve in many schools.  Students work together in groups as peers, not rivals, and have input into important matters in the school and department level through organizations like student unions.

The fact is, there are many excellent schools in the US.  Some have managed to look at applicants as something beyond their checklist of achievements, some have reasonable tuition rates, some have professors that actively teach and incredibly engaged students. Deresiewicz points to Kenyon and Wesleyan as schools that “retained their allegiance to real educational values”.  The problem is that these schools have selectivity rates ranging from 22-25% and annual tuition costs are around $49,000 per year. I have yet to find a school that addresses all three of my issues as they pertain to admissions process, cost, and the undergraduate experience.  Until then (and probably after then as well), my kids will be applying exclusively to schools in Europe.

Terms to Know

When I started to document the colleges in Europe with English-taught degree programs, I realized that there were many terms and concepts I needed to understand before I could delve in too deeply. Though it’s not especially exciting information, exploring possibilities for studying in Europe can be overwhelming without knowledge on these topics.

Below is some of the information you need to know before you start this journey.

Bologna Process Codifies Studying in Europe

Bologna Process facilitates studying in Europe by making programs more compatible & cohenent

Things have changed a lot in European higher education in the past couple of decades. In 1999, the Bologna declaration was signed by Education Ministers from 29 European countries. The purpose of the declaration was to create a European Higher Education Area with comparable and understandable degrees and credits across its member states. This enabled greater mobility for students in the EU. Degrees across the participating countries coordinated the duration and structure of degrees which makes learning outcomes consistent and helps with quality control. There are now 47 participating countries. This is also helpful to US students who get their bachelors in Europe, but want to get their masters in the US. Their qualifications and education are much more understandable to the admissions officers in the US than in the past.

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

One creation of the Bologna Process, was that of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, which is a standardized system of cumulative and transferable credits across the EU. These are basically like credit hours. In the US, credit hours are usually put in terms of classroom hours (the 12 hours of credit a student gets in a semester means that they had 12 hours of time in class). ECTS hours are an estimate of the total amount of time the student is expected to put into the class (including classroom hours, reading, group work, studying for exams, etc). One full time academic year is 60 ECTS and, depending on the school and program, it takes 180-240 ECTS to receive a bachelors (which you might also see referred to as first cycle). Full time students are generally in class for 10-12 hours per week, with an additional 30 hours of study expectations outside of the classroom.

Universities, University Colleges, University of Applied Sciences

Almost every country in Europe has English bachelor degree programs at Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). Belgium and the Netherlands throw University Colleges in the mix as well. These terms pertain only to public schools and most countries also have private schools offering bachelor’s degrees in English. Here’s the low down on what each of these are:


Universities are academic and research based. They can award bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees. They are similar to universities in the US in that students are focused on research, learn to be analytical, and to present arguments (as opposed to preparing for a vocation). Many university students go straight to a master’s degree program.

Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS)

University of Applied Sciences offer a practical higher vocational education for a specific profession. There is more of an emphasis on learning through application than through research. Internships are generally required in these programs, as the focus at UAS schools is to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed for the professional world.

You are likely to see degrees in Business, Engineering, Digital Arts, Computer Science at University of Applied Sciences (and at Universities, as there is some overlap). You are not likely to see UAS programs in the Humanities or Natural Sciences, as both generally require a higher degree before entering the field. I think this is a really cool concept as career preparedness seems to really lack in the US schools. Students can still go on for a master’s degree, but usually need semester or so of required courses to do so.

University Colleges

Then there are University Colleges. In the Netherlands, the University Colleges offer an honors level liberal arts degree. They are part of a university, but classes, living, clubs and such are self-contained. There are additional admission requirements as well as requirements for living on campus (1-3 years depending on the school). Belgium also has University Colleges, but they are not liberal arts programs. In Belgium, the University College is affiliated with the university but not part of the university like in the Netherlands. The main difference between in Belgium is that University Colleges in Belgium do not offer doctorate degrees.

Applying to a Program

When you apply to college in the US, you are generally applying to the school and sometimes can state a major when you apply. Generally speaking, in Europe you are applying to a specific program at a school. Some students might find this overwhelming, but it is not much different than the process of declaring a major.

You will find that you have programs that cover fairly from the broad categories. Examples would include, Business Administration, Information Technology, Environment and Energy, Philosophy, International Relations, and many more. Then you will find some programs that are more specific and/or a combination of more than one study field. Examples are Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, Business Information Technology, Luxury Goods Management, International Wine Business. There is also a program that is called Economics, Politics and Social Thought and another which combines Humanities and Social Sciences (Humanities, Society and Culture). I think the options are super exciting, but if you are more of a traditionalist, there are an abundance of liberal arts program choices as well.

Erasmus Student Networks (ESN)

Erasmus is a program to promote study abroad programs (within other European countries) to European students. There are also Erasmus Student Networks (ESN) at schools across Europe. “Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is a non-profit international student organisation. Our mission is to represent international students, thus provide opportunities for cultural understanding and self-development under the principle of Students Helping Students.”

The Erasmus Student Network is the biggest student association in Europe. On each campus, these are student run organizations for international students that organize cultural, information, and social events. They organize parties (LOTS of parties) and trips as well. Activities may include pub crawls, yoga, acclimation programs for new students (including tandem language learning), weekend trips, trips during breaks, international dinners. And did I mention lots of parties?

Gauging Equivalency across Secondary Education Systems

Before admitting a student, schools want to know that the high school education the applicant had is equivalent to the ones students receive in that country. The different countries and schools have different requirements for applicants from various countries. For instance, students who are graduating with a regular US high school diploma must also have at least 3 AP courses with scores of at least 3 in Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, and for some schools in Switzerland. In Lithuania and Germany, US students don’t need the AP courses, but must submit SAT or ACT scores. Private schools across the EU may or may not require AP classes or test scores for US students, depending on the school and program.

IB diplomas-and why you are lucky if you have one!

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) is one of the world’s most exciting educational courses for 16-19 year olds. It focuses on personal, professional and academic development and is globally recognized by universities for the holistic and rigorous education it provides. –

Good news for students graduating with an IB diploma-you get to bypass all these extra requirements! The specific requirements needed for an IB diploma allow students to apply to college in Europe with automatic equivalency. One less hoop to jump through!

Binding Study Advice (BSA)

BSA is a common practice at schools in the Netherlands and can be found at other some other schools in the EU as well (though it may have a different name). Each school has different requirements about how many classes students must pass each year. At the end of the first year, a student’s academic progress is evaluated and a decision is made by the school as to whether or not the student can continue her studies the following year. Many schools offer a non-binding evaluation after the first semester before the binding decision is made at the end of the year which can serve as a warning for students who aren’t on track.