There are approximately seven steps to become a doctor, depending on the type of physician you wish to become. All doctors must obtain a bachelor's degree and attend medical school, but after that the steps for each specific medical discipline varies.
The Steps to Become a Doctor
Anyone can begin taking the steps to become a doctor, but it's important to realize that becoming a doctor requires many hours of discipline, hard work, and study. Medical school students must often put in long hours and residents work long, often grueling shifts. You have to have both intelligence and stamina to make it through medical school.
For those who wish to become a doctor, here are the steps. These steps assume you've graduated from high school and have taken college entrance examination tests such as the SAT or ACT and have a high school transcript that includes advanced courses in mathematics and science along with English language arts, history and any other courses your state requires.
Step One: Complete a Bachelor of Science Degree
Most people who wish to become doctors earn a pre-med degree or a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Chemistry, or a related discipline. While it may be possible to be accepted into medical school with an undergraduate degree in a different field, students seeking entrance to medical school must show good grades in biology, chemistry and other science courses as well as mathematics. Most bachelor's degree programs requires some humanities courses too. Don't shrug those off. Doctors need critical thinking skills and strong communications skills, both taught in courses on philosophy, communications, literature and more.
Step Two: Obtain Work Experience in a Medical Setting
If you can, work a part time job during your college years in some kind of medical setting. Whether it's a clinic, hospital, nursing home or another type of facility, having a part time field-related job on your transcript demonstrates both your interest in and familiarity with the medical field. You'll also get a good opportunity to decide if medicine is a good fit for your personality. You may be working the reception desk at a doctor's office, but you'll still gain a good understanding of what a doctor's daily work entails and what types of challenges you will face once you earn your degree.
Step Three: Take the MCAT
MCAT stands for Medical College Admissions Test. It's a standardized test that focuses on biology, chemistry, social studies and humanities. There are courses to help you prepare for the exam, as well as study guides and practice tests. It is a computer-based test, so you will need to register in advance and travel to a testing center equipped with secure computers. There are testing locations throughout the United States and Canada. For more about the MCAT, visit the Medical College Admissions Test website.
Step Four: Apply to Medical School
It's tough and there are more applicants than medical schools can take, but if you have the right transcript and your MCAT scores are good you can get into medical school. Have several in mind as alternatives in case you are rejected from your first choice. Remember: even if you cannot get in to medical school right away, you can explore other careers in medicine and find ways to work in the medical field until you can attend medical school.
Step Five: Graduate from Medical School
During your time in medical school, you'll take courses in anatomy, physiology, pathophysicology, pharmacology and much, much more. You'll get to visit clinical settings and observe various medical disciplines such as pediatrics and surgery to help you decide upon your own area of specialty. Once you graduate, you are ready to embark on your residency.
Step Six: Complete Your Residency
Residency takes three years or more. During this time, you will interact with patients under the watchful eyes of senior staff members at the facility where you are working. Residents work in emergency rooms and hospitals, in clinics and more. They may perform examinations, take medical histories and perform other duties.
Step Seven: Obtain a Medical License
Doctors must obtain a license and certification to practice medicine. Once you've completed your residency program, you may take the United States Medical Licensing Exam. Certification is granted through one of two national agencies: the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) or the American Board of Specialists (ABMS). Both of these organizations also offer students and prospective medical students plenty of information on the requirements, education, assessments and training needed to become a doctor.
Take a Step Today
As you can see, it takes many years of hard work to earn the coveted M.D. degree. Doctors are always needed, no matter what the economic situation, so if a career as a doctor appeals to you, start taking steps to prepare now. Even though the path to becoming a doctor may seem like a huge mountain to climb, every single mountain is climbed one step at a time. You can become a doctor, one step at a time too.