How to Become a Medical Doctor

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Becoming a medical doctor is a long and difficult process requiring at least 11 years of education and training in a competitive career path. Find out how to become a medical doctor with tips from a medical administrator in this free video on career information.

Part of the Video Series: How to Get Medical Jobs
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To become a medical doctor is a long process. It takes a minimum of eleven years to become a medical doctor. The first step along this path is to complete a bachelor's degree at a college or university. Now, most premed students will elect to major in a science; chemistry, or biology, or something of that nature; however, it is not required that you major in a science to go to medical school. If you do not major in a science however, you do need to complete certain science prerequisites. You'll need to complete a year in general chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, a year of physical sciences, and two years of biological sciences in order to be ready for the applications process to medical school. During the bachelor's program, you really want to focus on keeping up your GPA. To become a a strong candidate for a medical school, you want to have a GPA 3.75 or higher, and strong scores on the medical college admissions test. The MCAT, as it's known, tests your knowledge of physical sciences, biological sciences, as well as verbal reasoning and writing. All applicants to medical school must take this exam. Then the next step is to actually apply to medical school. There is a standardized application service that is run by the American Association of Medical Colleges. It's called AMCAS, and most medical colleges in the United States participate in this service. In fact, 121 of the 129 accredited medical schools in the continental United States participate in AMCAS. You can apply to one or all of those schools through this applications process. And in fact, most candidates for medical school will apply to multiple schools because it is so competitive. Typically, less than half of those who apply to medical school will be admitted for that year, and it is not uncommon for students to apply two or three times before they're finally accepted to medical school. Once you begin medical school, the first two years are typically reserved for didactic education in health sciences, in disease theory, and in treatment modalities, with some clinical experience during this phase. Now at that point, after completing the first two years of medical school, you need to pass what's known as the United States Medical Licensing Exam Step I, which assesses your basic knowledge of health sciences. Then, your second two years of medical school really focus on learning clinical knowledge and clinical skills. This is where you learn the art of healing. And upon finishing your second two years of education you need to pass what's known as the USMLE Step II, which assesses your competency in basic clinical knowledge. At this point, you graduate, and are given the degree of medical doctor, or doctor D.O. if you're attending an allopath, an osteopathic school. Whether you receive the M.D. degree from an allopathic school, or a D.O. from an osteopathic school, your scope of practice in the United States is the same; however, you're not ready to practice medicine yet. The next step is to complete a residency program, and it's here that the physician has an opportunity to to narrow their focus, and specialize in a particular field. Now, residency programs vary in length, from anywhere from three years to eight or more years; depending on the specialty that you wish to practice. For specialties like family medicine or pediatrics or psychiatry, it's a three year residency requirement; however, for surgery it is a minimum of five years. Once you complete your residency program, you can take the state licensing exam in the state in which you wish to practice, and you can now practice independently as a clinical physician. Now, for some who wish to go on to either a sub-specialty, or who want a career in academic medicine, you can go on to complete what's known as a fellowship program, and this is an additional two to three years of specialized study in that sub-specialty or field. And at this point, then you are ready to practice as a clinical physician.

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