Getting through professional school quicker

I knw Law and Medical school are traditionally 3 and 4 yrs., respectively. Is it possible for a gifted student to finish quicker?

You can finish law school in two and a half years by taking summer classes. A few of the people who walked across the stage at my graduation had already taken and passed the bar and were announced “juris doctor and attorney at law.” The only way to do it any faster would be to take summer classes plus a great deal more than a full load in your second year, which some schools probably won’t allow and which will hurt your GPA and class rank no matter how smart you are. I took summer classes, but I still went for a full three years - I just used my last semester to shore up my GPA and class rank and to start preparing for the bar.

There are medical school programs that accelerate undergrad then transition immediately into their med school so you complete everything in 6 years. So the med school program isn’t accelerated per se, but you complete the total of undergrad/grad faster than you would’ve.

There are a handful of schools (U of Missouri-KC, Penn State, Miami Ohio, etc) that offer 6-7 year combined undergraduate and medical school curriculums. The UMKC program (6 years, I think) would effectively allow you to squeeze an undergrad degree into about 3 years and a MD in another 3 (although the run some portions simultaneously, as I recall).

ETA: Ninja’d by ITD…

When I was in college one of the local schools experimented with a program where undergrads could major in “Legal Studies” and basically knock out the first year of law school during their junior and senior years of undergrad. I don’t know if they still have that program but I know one person who managed to get through law school in two years because of it.

I’m of the opinion that medical school is something you should take your time on.

It’s not exactly what the OP is asking, but a handful of states still allow lawyers to qualify through the old fashioned method of an articled clerkship instead of attending law school. It’s extremely rare in practice though.

Do professional schools have the equivalent of AP credit?

The fundamental premise of your question is off because it assumes that professional school is like college. It’s not.

The purpose of professional school is really twofold. The first is the didactic, that is, the academic side. Academic courses in law and in medicine (and I’m including all health care education) teach thinking skills using idealized models and cases that fit those models. For example, the law student learns the basis of law by studying specific cases that explain the evolution of the law over time, as well as how to learn to apply previous cases to the current situation at hand. Medical students learn how the various systems of the body are supposed to work and what they’re supposed to look like. The knowledge learned in the classroom is generally theoretical.

The second, and this is why most professional education is structured the way that it is, is clinical, that is, real-world hands-on application of what they’ve learned in the classroom. Straight As on classroom exams mean nothing if the medical student can’t use that information to diagnose disease, and the [del]best[/del] only way to learn how to do that is to see actual patients in an actual hospital or clinic. As an upperclassman, the student has the opportunity to take elective rotations in surgical, internal medicine, or other specialties to get basic knowledge about more specific areas of medicine. (I also note that the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California [Fight on!] offers a course in Narrative Medicine, which is medicine in fiction. This may have to do something with the fact that USC is in Los Angeles and the university as a whole has significant ties to the entertainment industry. They claim it’s to help the physician describe disease better, but I don’t think that’s what it’s really about.) Even at the underclassman level, most students use vacation time to volunteer and observe at hospitals and clinics to get additional experience, so it’s not wasted time.

The same is true in law school. Classes are about theory, but students are required to take internships and clerkships to get experience in real-world settings, as well as to foster interest in various specialties. I’m again using the Gould School of Law at USC as the model here, but different schools are similar because legal education is accredited by the American Bar Association. In addition to the usual judicial, administrative and Legal Aid opportunities, students also have the option of learning about intellectual property law at some of the entertainment guilds, GLBT legal issues, and immigration law because those are significant issues in Los Angeles. Penn State, by comparison, offers an internship in rural law because that is a concern in Pennsylvania. Other schools offer different clinicals based on what is important in that geographical region.

Finally, most professional schools are built on the cohort model, which means that you will finish with the same people you started with. This also means that most professional programs are highly structured; you will take the classes the school tells you to take when they tell you to take them. (See this diagram for more details.) In all fairness, some of this is also because you can’t learn about, say, property law until you’ve had the basics of contract law or human physiology until you’ve had basic science. Once you’re done with the classroom work, you then move on to clinical rotation, where you can get into your personal and professional interests.

So that’s why it’s hard to accelerate in professional school. Any questions? Class dismissed!

Thank you, MsRobyn, for your thoroughness.

I want to make a point that this is about US-style system. In other countries, the courses are actually undergraduate degrees, but even so, they may take a bit longer than other undergraduate degrees. It is still very much structured in many cases, and very hard to skip classes or take summer courses like you would like other degrees.

There may be (as one exists for veterinary medicine) some few private for-profit medical schols that, by teaching throughout the year (not giving summer off) are able to finish the pre-clinical courseload quicker, and thus finish overall a semester or two before others who may have started at the same time. But this is not common.

TY Ms Robyn. Excellent answer. I once again prove my abject ignorance.