Perhaps all of us have thought about becoming a doctor, however the education required to achieve this goal is very time consuming and rigorous. It generally takes 4 years of undergraduate coursework, 4 years of medical school and 1 to 3 years of internship before you will carry the title of MD. Most students take up to 12 years to reach this goal. Can you handle it?
Becoming a doctor is not something you decide on the spur of the moment. You need to think about this while in in high school or even before. You need to get good grades in K thru 12 so you’re well prepared ahead of time. Take all the science courses and math courses you can. This will help you succeed in pre-med courses (which involves math, physics and chemistry) and make you even stronger in med school.
You need a high school diploma, ACT/SAT college entrance exam with a high score and good grades. If your ACT/SAT exam score is low, take it again. Students usually do better the second time. However, you might want to take practice ACT/SATs and keep practicing until you get good.
When considering what college to go to, look at the college’s reputation, size, location, cost and coursework.. Make sure the college is properly accredited. At the moment, you don’t need to worry about medical school. You need to concentrate on the bachelor’s degree. Although some schools have medical schools that are affiliated with their undergraduate programs, you don’t have to start there. Pre-med courses can often available at community colleges and are very inexpensively and that may be something you need to consider. You’ll need to choose a major which usually is biology, however any math or science programs will work as well.
Your pre-med (first two years) coursework generally includes inorganic chemistry with lab, 2 terms of organic chemistry with labs, 2 terms of calculus, 2 terms of physics, English composition, Literature, possibly biochemistry and humanities/sociology/psychology. This coursework will well prepare you for your MCATs. If your major is biology, your third and fourth year will be filled with a wide range of biology courses. You’ll have a lot on your plate so manage your time wisely. Remember to exercise regularly (every day) and eat properly.
It’s a good idea to take your MCAT in your junior or senior year when your pre-med coursework is fairly fresh. Remember, practice for the MCAT before you take it. This is critical. The MCAT comes in four sections: Essay writing, Verbal reasoning, Biological sciences and Physical sciences.
You’ll need to determine which kind medical school you want to go to. The question is: do you want to become an MD or a DO? MD programs are referred to as allopathic programs (traditional medical school) which allows you to prescribe medications and do surgeries and you will be classified as a medical doctor (MD). Osteopathic schools offer a doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree. These doctors have 500 hours of additional training in osteopathic manipulative treatment and are taught a holistic approach to medicine. They are concerned with the health of the whole person and can offer preventative health measures.
It is best if you apply to med schools in your junior year and send in all the necessary paperwork and apply to as many schools as you can. It can take a while to get into a med school. Each school has a limited number of seats and they tend to fill quickly in advance.
You will be called in for an interview and you need to be prepared because if you can’t pass the interview that means no med school for you. The admissions committee needs to see that you are committed to being successful. No time wasters here! The questions they ask vary considerably so be prepared for just about anything. Be honest and maintain composure.
Your first two years of med school will cover anatomy, physiology, histology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology and microbiology. You’ll also be exposed to taking medical histories and how to do a physical exam along with learning various principles behind diagnosing diseases. When you finish that, you will take your first exam which is the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE-1) which is administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). This test is taken to determine your medical competency and see if you should continue your medical education and will be suitable for licensure.
Your third and fourth years begin rotations. In the 3rd year, you will have one to two months of each of the major specialties of which include general surgery, psychiatry, OB/GYN, internal medicine and pediatrics. These rotations will be supervised by physicians in hospitals and clinics. You will also learn acute, chronic, preventative and rehabilitative care along with social skills.
The fourth year brings elective coursework based on what specialty you choose and continued rotations. At this point, you’ll need to begin applying to and interviewing for residency programs. Now you need to take the USMLE step 2 exam or COMPLEX level 2 exam. Part 3 of the boards is taken in the first year of residency (internship).
You need to determine your medical specialty for your residency (internship). There are a number of those and they can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years depending on the specialty. Now is the time to go to interviews at hospitals where you want to do your residency. Interviewing with these hospitals will place you in the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). The NRMP will match you up with a hospital.
You need to do at least three years in residency and can run up to seven years. You will be responsible for patients and will be supervised by senior residents. Once your done with residency, you can take your final boards and get licensed. You are now free to practice medicine.
Front desk at doctors office
This image is a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.
Susan has studied at the University of Texas Medical Branch Marine Biomedical Institute in Galveston, Texas and the University of South Florida in Tampa and received a Ph.D. in Biology with a major in Neuroscience and minors in physics and mathematics. Area of research is in brain transplantation and behavior testing with twenty years of teaching experience. Fields of interest include the physical basis of memory and learning, brain repair and regeneration as well as neuro-development. As an educator, has taught thousands of students at the college level in anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology, marinebiology, nutrition, communications, radiography, ultrasound, mathematics and physics. She enjoys reading current scientific literature and simplifying the material making it readily available to the public.