2.08 Policy on Length of Time to Complete Degree

The standard MD program at Harvard Medical School takes four years to complete; however, students may apply to postpone graduation for a year if they:

  • Want to obtain another degree (e.g., MPH, MPP)
  • Want to spend a year doing a scholarly project
  • Want to take an additional year of formal coursework

Students who need time off for extenuating medical/personal issues are advised to take a Leave of Absence from the School (Section 2.09). Students who are not in good standing at HMS are not eligible to enroll in an additional academic year for the scholarly endeavors outlined above. Students may be eligible to be enrolled at HMS for additional periods for purposes of remediation or completion of degree requirements. An additional year will not be granted for students who have completed their MD requirements and/or are within 6 months of graduation. See also Sections 1.05 and 1.06, Five-Year MD Program.

The academic records of HMS students are reviewed annually to ensure that the standards of satisfactory academic progress are being met (see Section 2.19, Satisfactory Academic Progress).

MD Degree:  For the student who plans to obtain the MD degree only, approval for a well-planned fifth year is required. In rare instances, the student may petition for an additional, sixth year, but a student ordinarily will not be allowed to spend more than six years at HMS from matriculation to graduation if that student is receiving the MD degree only. The academic records of students who are approaching the deadline of “Time to Degree” for their respective degrees will be reviewed by the Registrar and the Promotion and Review Board (PRB), with enough notice to enable the student to complete the requirements by the end of “Time to Degree.” If timely completion of the MD degree requirements is in jeopardy, the PRB will immediately request a plan for their completion and may dictate an implementation schedule in order to achieve compliance in the timeliest fashion. The review process is a yearly one; once the one-year limit has been reached, an application for extension is required for each subsequent year of continuation. Under certain circumstances, students may take a leave of absence from their studies. Students who are granted an approved leave of absence will not have the time away counted as part of the “Time to Degree,” except that in no circumstances may a student seeking an MD degree complete the degree more than 10 years after matriculation. See Section 2.09 for rules governing Leaves of Absence.

MD-MMSc; MD-MPH; MD-MPP or MPA; MD-MBA Degrees:  For students receiving the Master of Medical Science (MMSc), Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Business Administration (MBA), or other Master’s degree, as well as the MD degree, five or six years are required, and, on a case by case basis, the student may petition for a seventh year. The student pays tuition for four years (8 semesters) for the MD degree and additional tuition for the Master's degree taken at another school of the University. Students who are enrolled in the MD program for more than 4 years or 8 semesters will be charged reduced tuition for periods of enrollment beyond 4 years or 8 semesters. Ordinarily a student in this category will not be permitted to remain at HMS beyond seven years.

NOTE: Students in the joint MD-MBA Program pay 8 semesters of tuition to HMS and 2 semesters of tuition to HBS, or a total of 5 years of tuition. However, HMS reimburses HBS for tuition for one semester of the fifth year, so in effect joint MD-MBA students pay 7 semesters of tuition to HMS and 3 semesters of tuition to HBS. Joint MD-MBA students who enroll in HMS (with approval of both HMS and the MD-MBA Program) beyond the five years of the joint program will be assessed HMS tuition for a 9th semester, or a total of 8 semesters of HMS tuition, and will be charged the standard HMS reduced tuition for the 9th semester and any subsequent periods of HMS enrollment, as is the case for all MD students who extend their MD enrollment beyond four years (or 8 semesters). See Section 6.02: Tuition Requirements for MD Degree Candidates and Student Cost of Attendance Budgets for MD Students for more information.

MD-PhD Degrees:  For students enrolled in an MD/PhD program, predicting accurately the time necessary to obtain the PhD degree may be difficult, but ordinarily a student in this category will not be permitted to remain at HMS beyond 10 years.

See also Section 2.19.

Last Updated 6/7/21