How Long Does It Take to Become a Physician?

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To become a physician, students are required to complete four years of undergraduate college, four years of medical school and three to eight years of residency training. Find out how residency trains doctors in a specialty, such as family practice or surgery, with information from a family doctor in this free video on medical careers.

Part of the Video Series: Medical Careers
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Video Transcript

Hello my name is Dr. David Cathcart, and I'm from Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, MO. To become a physician it first requires that you graduate from high school, you have to have a high school diploma, and then you have to go to college. Almost all medical programs require that you go to four years of undergraduate, usually with a degree in the sciences, perhaps chemistry or biology, and then four years of medical school. So you're looking at minimum of eight years after you graduate from high school of schooling before you even get the degree doctor bestowed upon you. But that's not it, because at that point you still have to do a residency. A residency is where you practice whatever area you're going to be in under the supervision of people who are skilled in that particular area. So for example, if in my case I was a family practice doctor, you would go into a family practice residency and usually that's going to be two or three years. Surgeons, certain surgical disciplines will be four years or even eight or ten years, depending on the area you're going into. For example, neurosurgery, the residency programs are many years, usually like eight years or more. Same thing with cardiovascular surgery, if you're going to be doing heart transplants. General surgery is more on the order of four years for most programs. But at the very minimum, after you get out of medical school, so you've done four years of college, four years of medical school, you're looking at any more at least an additional three years just before you can even go out and start practicing as a physician. Thanks for taking this time to explore medical careers with me. Again I'm Dr. David Cathcart with Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, MO.

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