How Many Years Does It Take To Become a Doctor?

We know physicians go to school for a long time but lets define long. So, how many years does it take to become a doctor?

Doctors need dogged determination, dedication and stamina to complete their education in medicine.

After high school, physicians need to complete 4 years of undergraduate education and 4 years of medical school at which point people call you a doctor.

But youre not done yet. After you have an M.D., you have an average of 4 years of internship or residency.

For those counting, the average time in years it takes to become a doctor is 12 years after your high school education. Lets look at the steps to be a physician.

First things first: Finish high school

First, you have to secure a high school diploma or general education development (GED).

Take the SAT and perform well in it. Remember, if you score high on the SAT exam taken before high school graduation, you will have more great options of four-year courses to provide you the academic foundation necessary for medical school.

Complete a Bachelor of Science Degree

Next, you must complete a four-year baccalaureate degree, preferably leading to a Bachelor of Science.

Generally, while medical schools do not require anyone to major in the sciences, they do require undergraduates to take certain pre-med courses that would ultimately determine one’s science grade point average or GPA – a strong determinant of one’s chances for admission to medical school.

Below are some of the pre-med courses required practically by all medical schools in the U.S.:

  • Organic Chemistry with lab courses
  • Biology with lab courses
  • Freshman Chemistry with lab courses
  • Calculus, including advanced math and statistics
  • Physics with lab courses
  • English

Prepare for and take the MCAT

Finally, in your final year of undergraduate studies, you will have to take the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT.

This, along with your GPA, is a key factor which will greatly affect your chances, or success in gaining admission to any medical school in the U.S.

Ample preparation is necessary to do well on the MCAT.

This exam covers areas such as Verbal Reasoning, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences which focus on Physics and Chemistry, and Essay or Writing Sample.

Prepare financially

Medical school is expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 80 percent of U.S. doctors suffer huge debt after graduation.

Find information about medical school loan assistance, secure financial aids or bursaries, sponsorship and scholarships, and manage student debts.

Save early for it. Find a job on the side. Whatever mode of financial preparation you do, it needs long-term planning.

Attend medical school

After completing your baccalaureate degree, applying for admission to medical school comes next.

Finding a medical program that would suit you best could spell a sea of difference between success and failure in your endeavor to obtain a medical degree.

Once admitted, another four long years of grueling schoolwork lay ahead, let alone the exorbitant cost of attending a medical school.

Nowadays though, a few medical schools in the U.S. allow students to obtain a joint Bachelor of Science, and M.D. degree.

By and large, this cuts down the length of time between admission and graduation to just six or seven years max.

Yet, less than 10% of all students aspiring to become physicians take this seemingly much shorter route.

You really have to prepare yourself physically, mentally, and financially – four years of pre-med and four years of medical school can, no doubt, drain your mental faculties and cost you a fortune, as well.

Choose your specialty area

After medical school, internship and residency are the next hurdles you need to complete from three to eight years (4 years on the average), depending on your choice of medical specialization.

Specialty areas commonly chosen by medical graduates are:

  • Emergency medicine – provides emergency care for patients who need urgent medical decisions and procedures; prevents imminent death or disability
  • Family practice – renders total health care services to families and provides diagnosis, treatment, referral, and management of various diseases; also has a significant role in preventative medicine
  • Internal medicine – provides comprehensive care and health management for patients of various ages, male or female; can possibly lead to sub-specialization in specific body organ
  • Obstetrics-Gynecology – provides medical care in various aspects in women of all ages
  • Orthopedic surgeon – specializes in the restoration and care of patients’ musculoskeletal form and function
  • Pediatrics – provides preventive, treatment, and management of health in children
  • Psychiatry – provides diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders
  • Surgery – specializes in surgical procedures and provides preoperative, operative, and post-operative care

Take the Licensure

Doctors in the US can practice the profession only after successfully obtaining a medical license.

Medical students and graduates must undergo the 3-step US Medical Licensure Exam (USMLE) which is part of the system used to evaluate the ability, skills and readiness of candidate physicians before they are allowed to practice their profession.

US medical students usually take the first 2 steps of the USMLE while still attending med school.

Step 3 is taken during the postgraduate training. The results of the USMLE will be used by the Medical Boards in the different states in granting medical licenses to qualified applicants.

How long does it take to become a doctor, again?

Four years in pre-med and four years in medical school, that will be eight years.

Internship and residency takes between 3 and 8 years, depending on the specialty area you wish to pursue i.e., family practitioner, emergency, surgery, pediatrician, OB-GYN.

That brings the total to 11 years in the minimum and 16 years in the maximum.

If you intend to go into sub-specialty areas, then one might say that medical training doesn’t really stop. The question is how far you intend to go.

During internship and residency, though, a doctor already starts to earn an income in the form of salary from the medical institution a doctor is serving.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data of May 2012, there were 691,400 working in the US as physicians and surgeons.

This figure is expected to grow by 123,300 in 2022. The 2012 median pay is $187,200.

Among the top-paying employers and industries for physicians and surgeons are: Offices of Dentists, Medical and Diagnostics Laboratories, Management of Companies and Enterprises, Offices of Physicians, and Outpatient Care Centers where the annual mean wage range from $214,240 to $243,830.

I hope this answers your question how many years does it take to become a doctor?

Good luck on your studies.

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