Becoming a doctor can take at least eight years of full-time higher education. If you branch out to another medical career, your training will take even longer. There will be intense examinations you have to pass along the way. You’ll also have to complete a residency training program, which can take at least three years. And after all that, you still have to fulfill the requirements for state board certifications and a license.
Looking at all of the hurdles you have to pass to get into a medical career can be very daunting. But if you look at it step by step, the journey isn’t as scary. After all, the world needs doctors, and you know you’ll answer the call.
So, here is the step-by-step guide to becoming a doctor.
Get a Bachelor’s Degree
For some, the steps to becoming a doctor start early. To get into a good medical school, you have to do well in high school and have an excellent GPA. When selecting candidates for admission, universities also take into account your SAT scores, so remember to prepare for them, too.
Before being accepted into medical school, a bachelor’s degree is required. These schools look for applicants from a wide range of educational backgrounds, with experience in a healthcare environment, and a strong natural sciences foundation. Although a specific bachelor’s degree isn’t required, applicants to a medical should have completed math, chemistry, biology, and physics coursework as an undergraduate. Here’s a great post to read about pre-med courses.
Pass MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test)
The next step is taking the MCAT, which is required by medical schools in the country. You are allowed to take the MCAT up to three times in a year, if necessary, so you have to prepare for this test while you’re still an undergrad.
Areas you’ll be tested on in the MCAT are organic chemistry, general chemistry, physics, and biology. You’ll also be tested in writing skills, problem-solving, and verbal reasoning. If you need assistance, the Association of American Medical Colleges provides support for students.
Send Applications To Medical Schools
You probably already have a school in mind, but it’s always good to have backup schools just in case, as medical schools are known for their low acceptance rates. Generally, medical schools have high standards, so you should prepare your application essay with extreme care. Also, admission officials will be looking closely at the extracurricular activities you include, so present them constructively, with extra emphasis on any activities that will be relevant to your career.
Survive Medical School and Earn Your Medical Degree
Doing well in MCAT will give you a fighting chance of being accepted into medical school. Generally, medical school programs last four years. You’ll be in classrooms and doing mostly laboratory work in the first two years. In the final two years, you will be under the supervision of doctors and be allowed to work with patients directly.
Your coursework will involve pharmacology, biochemistry, pathology, anatomy, and physiology. As a medical student, you’d also be studying legal issues as it relates to healthcare, as well as the practice of medicine.
In the third year, students, for their clinical experience, usually participate in specialty areas such as emergency medicine, radiology, and neurology. This gives students a chance to choose the type of residency they’d like to pursue after medical school.
Decide on a Specialization
Your time in medical school will help you decide what kind of doctor you’d like to be, such as a GP (general practitioner), OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist), pediatrician, proctologist, surgeon, cardiologist, or internist. It’s probably best if you decide what doctor you’ll be while still in medical school, as you’ll definitely need to decide before going into your residency program.
Mull over which area in medicine feels most rewarding or interesting to you. Perhaps you’d also take into consideration the kind of doctor your community needs.
As a future doctor, you will have to take and pass the first two parts of your licensure examination. This occurs before the start of a residency program, to prepare you for working with patients.
Finishing the Residency Program
After medical school, you should be ready for your residency program. This gives aspiring doctors a chance to work with patients directly in one of medicine’s various specialty areas.
As a resident, you’d be responsible for various patient care activities, like performing medical examinations, compiling medical histories, and developing problem lists. A residency, depending on your chosen specialty area, usually lasts between three and seven years. Many doctors finish their residency programs in hospitals.
Before you can practice medicine, you should first acquire a license in all states. To qualify for a full licensure examination, you’d have to have your diploma from an accredited medical school. Plus, you must have completed a residency training program and passed all previous examinations.
The USMLE, or the United States Medical Licensing Examination, consists of a three-step examination required for MDs. The third and final step is taken after a residency program’s completion. Contact your state’s medical board for any specific questions regarding licensure examinations. Keep in mind that a physician’s license is renewed periodically.
The journey towards being a fully-licensed physician may be arduous, but it’s necessary. After all, there aren’t many vocations with higher stakes than in the field of medicine.
It’s one of the most rewarding and challenging fields a person can enter. More than ever, the world needs doctors, but before you answer the call, you must be familiar with each step. That way, you can prepare for whatever you encounter.