Developing the skills and knowledge required to practice medicine takes significant time and effort, so it is critical to research the training process before embarking on the journey. In addition, the requirements for becoming a doctor in the United States may differ depending on your specialty.
Before becoming eligible for medical licensing, doctors must complete a four-year undergraduate degree program, four years of medical school, and three to seven years of residency training. Both degree programs typically include general medical coursework, with prospective doctors able to select a specialty later in their residencies. Here is a closer look at how physicians prepare for their careers.
All applicants to medical school must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While no specific undergraduate degree is recommended for all medical school applicants, The College Board lists pre-medicine, biology, and exercise science as possible majors. Another option would be an online doctorate of education program.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is one of the tools used by medical schools to screen applicants, so premeds must do well on this exam. Experts warn that the multi-hour test requires extensive content knowledge and that no one should attempt to cram for it. Because the MCAT is so difficult, perfect scores are uncommon. Premeds should research the median MCAT scores at the medical schools of their choice, and they should take the MCAT only when they can consistently reach their target score on practice exams.
Medical school is a four-year educational and medical training program. The first two years are dedicated to laboratory work and book study to prepare students to diagnose and treat diseases and illnesses. Students should take the first portion of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE Step 1) in their second year of medical school, administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners, covering basic medical knowledge and principles.
Students begin the clinical experience in their final two years by rotating through hospitals and clinics. Practical training in medicine begins when students work under the supervision of attending physicians. The second part of the USMLE licensing exam takes place during the fourth year of medical school and covers disease development and clinical diagnosis.
You must complete a residency program after graduating from medical school. Your first role as an intern will last up to six years, depending on the medical specialty you choose. You must apply through ERAS in the United States or CaRMS in Canada to be considered for a residency program. A computer algorithm will match you to a residency program based on your preferences as well as the preferences of the programs. Therefore, when compiling your list of choices, you should know which residencies are the most competitive and be realistic about your chances of acceptance.
You must also pass your final licensing exam during your residency (USMLE-3). The third and final licensing exam will be taken during your first year of residency. It evaluates your ability to apply your medical knowledge and provide care in an unsupervised setting, just like you would as a licensed physician.