Steps to Becoming a Doctor

Becoming a doctor is not an easy task, but it is possible. You'll certainly have to put in a lot of work and be dedicated.

Since many people are not familiar about how to become a doctor I am going to outline the four steps to become a doctor. Please keep in mind that this is just an outline of the process.

As you learn more and more about becoming a doctor you'll realize it is years of education and training that can be a downright grind. Let's begin by starting with...

1.) College

In-order to become a doctor you will need to attend a college or university. This means spending four years taking courses in the sciences (you can major in whatever you want though) which will give you a solid foundation to begin medical school.

At the end of your college years you will take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is designed to test your reasoning ability and determine if you have the knowledge base to be successful in medical school.

Getting into medical is not easy because you also need to have extracurricular activities that show you understand what it means to be a physician, most individuals will volunteer in a hospital or nursing home to get some health care experience.

Others will conduct research because medicine is science, so being comfortable in a laboratory environment is a plus.

Finally, you actually need to apply to medical school if you want to become a doctor. The application process for medical school is anywhere from four to nine months, but can vary depending on a number of situations.

2.) Medical School

If you do everything required and are accepted into medical school you have completed one of the biggest hurdles and there are now only a few steps to become a doctor left. Once admitted to medical school you'll finally get the answer to how long is medical school while learning about science and medicine through these subjects taught in medical school.

Traditionally, the first two years of medical school curriculum are classroom based and involve learning the basic sciences. The first year of medical school is devoted to learning about normal/healthy body systems, while the second year of medical school covers pathophysiology and everything that can go wrong with the human body.

Once years one and two are completed you will take the USMLE Step I, for our purposes we'll say it is equivalent to the MCAT in regards to the fact it will test your comprehension of the first two years of medical school and your score will be used to evaluate you when applying to residencies.

The last two years of medical school are devoted to your clinical rotations/clerkships. This is where you spend time in the hospital and health clinics learning and observing from physicians on how to become a doctor. You will rotate through a number of medical specialties which include:

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Internal Medicine
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology, etc.

The goal is to give you a real feel for the many opportunities and career paths you can choose as a doctor.

During your fourth year of medical school you will go on interviews in the specialty area that you want to practice. You are interviewing with program directors to see if you will be matched to their residency program to continue working towards becoming a doctor.

You will find out where you are matched for your residency in the spring of your fourth year of medical school and all the announcements are made on the same day.

Finally, you will graduate from medical school in late spring/early summer and have your Medical Doctor degree.

3.) Residency

You're a doctor now, but don't know a lot about how to practice medicine and residency is where you learn the everyday skills of being a doctor. This is a very intense period and one of the hardest steps to become a doctor.

Not because of the academics but because you'll spend at least 80 hours a week working.

Your first year of residency is referred to as an internship. The length of your residency will vary depending on your medical specialty.

Residencies can range anywhere from three years upto six years. The shorter residencies include:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Family Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology

The longer residencies (four to six years) include:

  • General Surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Plastic Surgery
  • Radiology

As you can see the longer residencies are where you have to learn how to perform specific procedures which can only come through practice and lots of it. The best way to think about your residency is to think of an apprenticeship or being a very lowly paid intern in the working world.

Once residency is completed you can take the boards and become certified by a national organization of your medical specialty and licensed by the state to practice medicine on your own.

4.) Fellowship

Some doctors do not stop their training after they complete residency, instead they elect for more training and further subspecialization.

For instance, a radiologist can complete a diagnostic radiology residency and then complete a one-year fellowship in interventional radiology.

Many general surgeons will sub-specialize for one to three years to be recognized as: thoracic surgeons, colon & rectal surgeons, etc. Also an ob/gyn can receive a three-year fellowship in pelvic surgery.

As you can see there is a lot of training which goes into becoming a doctor.

Wrap Up

Becoming a doctor is not a short or quick process, but I believe the rewards far outweigh the costs. In sum, you will spend anywhere from seven to twelve years after college training to become a doctor.

My philosophy for those who say that the steps to become a doctor require a lot of time is simple:

Time waits for no one and will pass you by regardless of your career choice so you might as well pursue medicine if it's in your heart.

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