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NEET-PG or USMLE: What is the Next Best Step?
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could”
The dilemma for most M.B.B.S. medical graduates is whether to choose NEET-PG or USMLE as their next path towards attaining their desired goals. As a medical student, your priorities may vary from preferring a specific speciality, a better work-life balance, job satisfaction or better pay. Depending on your individual preferences, you may opt to go down the NEET-PG or USMLE path. Both pose special considerations.
Speciality of choice - General Medicine, Surgery, Radiology & radio-diagnosis are the most desired specialities in postgraduate programs. While a great score in NEET-PG guarantees a seat in your favored speciality, USMLE does not place such definite guarantees. However, with good scores in Step 1 and Step 2, recommendation letters and interview performance, it is possible for international medical graduates (IMGs) to obtain their favored specialty in the United States as well.
Preparation time - For both NEET-PG & USMLE, a prep time of 1.5 to 2 years may be necessary. For USMLE, as multiple steps are involved, it will take a minimum of 16 - 18 months to prepare and write Step 1, Step 2CK and 2CS. For NEET-PG, it is possible to gain good scores right after M.B.B.S. internship and therefore, the transition to PG can be faster. However, a large chunk of medical students attempt NEET-PG at least twice to get a seat of their choice. This is due to stiff competition for top-ranking specialities and lack of sufficient prep time available during M.B.B.S. internship.
Financial consideration - USMLE exam costs, US clinical rotations, visa fees and accomodation in the U.S pose major monetary concerns for IMGs. In contrast, NEET-PG merit seats are only a few thousand INR. However, management seats in India run into bigger numbers, equivalent to the expenditures accrued in the US. The pay-scale of the Resident is considered to be better for Residents in the US compared to their Indian counterparts, even after taking into account the USD/INR differentials.
Job satisfaction - The whole picture of job satisfaction includes pay-scale, respect from patients, rural service, availability of amenities at the practising healthcare facilities etc. This varies from individual to individual and is often closely tied to the workplace environment.
Culture - It is possible to feel homesick during the long periods of residency in the US. If you want to stay close to home, NEET-PG may be the better option. However, Residents in the US have multiple ways to keep in touch with Indian ethnic cultural groups that celebrate festivals like Diwali, Holi, Eid, etc. Moreover, social media sites and apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook have reduced the distance in communication; family is often a phone call away rather than leagues away.
The above factors may be able to help with your decision about which path to follow. Some students try to do both at the same time. However, as NEET-PG is more theory intensive and USMLE is clinically oriented, it is best to focus your attention towards one of the two first and not lose preparatory efforts in trying to score well on both.
Kaplan, the market leader in USMLE prep for IMGs has now released sample questions for NEET-PG; You can click here to access the sample NEET-PG questions. To check out USMLE resources for IMGs, click here.