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How difficult would you say it is to become a Doctor? How rigorous is the schooling?

I would like to help people as a possible career path in the future. I would just like to know what kind of path I could be looking down. #career-path

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Doc’s Answer

Wondering how to become a physician Cameron? There is great reward in being able to help people feel better and perhaps even save their lives. The education required to become a medical doctor is 11-15 years and may be expensive. Doing well in high school and getting a high GPA are essential beginning goals for those who want to get on the path to becoming a doctor. A bachelor's degree is required to get into medical school. Medical schools seek applicants who have a broad educational background, a solid foundation in the natural sciences, and experience in healthcare settings. While a specific major is not required, all medical school applicants need to complete undergraduate coursework in biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics.

STEP: 1 – BACHELOR'S DEGREE – There is no specific major that prospective doctors need to pursue before enrolling in medical school. However, it's important that students take several science and science-related courses. Examples of majors may include chemistry, physics and biology. Some colleges and universities may even offer a pre-medicine track that will include courses in anatomy and physiology. While in school, it is helpful to work in a medical facility. Admission into medical school is very competitive, and it's important that applicants look for any possible advantage. While a strong grade point average is important, volunteering at a local health clinic or working in a medical facility may be beneficial since it adds to the extracurricular activities that you can list on a medical school application.

STEP: 2 – MCAT – Medical schools require that individuals interested in applying take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). This is a multiple-choice exam that covers areas involving critical thinking, problem solving, scientific principles and writing. It's important to perform well on this exam in order to get accepted into medical school.

STEP: 3 – MEDICAL SCHOOL – There are several points of consideration for those wishing to apply to med school. Which schools have a good reputation for medical programs? Which specializations does each program allow for? What cities or towns are appealing for the student in question to study in? What kinds of financial options are available to mitigate student debt? A Doctor of Medicine (MD) program is 4-years in length, and combines academic coursework with clinical training. The first two years of the program will teach you about several topics, including medical laws and ethics, microbiology, anatomy and physiology. The final two years require you to practice in clinical rotations. These rotations, completed under the supervision of doctors, will expose students to areas involving surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry, gynecology and obstetrics. Consider also participating in an internship. Medical students will be expected to choose internships that focus on a specific specialty. This will help them get into a residency program. The internship is often completed during the summer between the third and fourth years.

STEP: 4 – MEDICAL RESIDENCY – After graduating from medical school, aspiring doctors must enter residency programs. In a residency, doctors will receive paid, on-the-job training. These can last anywhere from 3-7 years, depending on the specialty. They take place in a hospital and offer an opportunity for medical school graduates to begin treating patients under the supervision of an experienced doctor. There are many different kinds of doctors: general practitioners, OB/GYNs, pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, and many more. Something to consider during your time in medical school is what kind of specialization appeals to you. Making this decision may be necessary during medical school itself, but it will definitely be necessary before embarking on a residency program. Think about the kinds of work that you want to do and the areas of medicine that you find particularly interesting or rewarding.

Good Luck Cameron
Thank you comment icon Thank you for giving me such a high detail answer! I’ll be sure to use this and to take into account all the nuances. Truly thank you. I wish you are your family good heath. Take care and stay safe! Cameron
Thank you comment icon Your welcome Cameron, it was my pleasure. Remember there is no elevator to success, you have to take steps, what you do today can change all the tomorrow's of your life. Good Luck and be Safe. Doc Frick
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Mary Jane’s Answer

I think most people, even those who are very good students, find training to be a physician to be very challenging. It is a very long path, starting with a 4-year undergraduate degree, then 4 years of med school, followed by residency and potentially fellowships for advanced training in your chosen field. There are a lot of science requirements that must be complete before you can even apply to medical school and many students find those courses to be challenging to learn. As an undergrad, you must balance extracurricular activities, shadowing and career exploration, and community service along with a rigorous course of study in STEM so that you have a strong resume for application to med school. Add in to that the high stakes exams like the MCAT and the USMLE Step exams in med school, and many people find the stress difficult to manage. I think the high debt loads of medical school and the high expectations of families and friends once people are admitted to med school also adds to the stress level. If you are also trying to balance having a family or a committed relationship at the same time you are juggling the time needed for studying and clinical work while in med school, you can feel like there's no way to juggle everything. Even after completing a medical degree, the physical and emotional demands on physicians in some fields can be really brutal -- long hours, sleep deprivation, frustrations balancing insurance companies' demands against patients' needs, non-compliant or combative patients, the list goes on and on. It's easy to see why so many med students and doctors struggle with mental health issues and burnout.

I don't mean to be discouraging! There are a lot of great things about being a doctor, but people who understand that it's about more than the prestige of wearing a white coat or having MD after their names tend to manage the stress better. It's important to be realistic about this path if you intend to embark on it. If you like your science classes and are good at them, the actual premedical studies part may be challenging but manageable, even enjoyable. Medical school is often described as drinking out of a firehose so the pace and amount of material is much greater, but manageable if you set good habits in college. It's all the additional layers added on to classes that can be difficult for people to juggle. The more you can work on things like time management, setting goals and priorities, learning when to pull back in order to prevent burnout, learning to manage stress and listen to your body, and developing healthy habits (sleep, exercise, hobbies, socialization), the better position you'll be in if you decide to attend med school.

Mary Jane recommends the following next steps:

Seek out some physicians and med students for informational interviews and ask about the challenging and difficult aspects of their daily lives so you know what to expect.
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Raquel’s Answer

Being a doctor is a great career but it takes a long time and a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. In order to apply to medical school you have to have a bachelors degree, it doesn’t really matter what your degree is in so long as you take all of the required prerequisite courses for medical school. These include 1 year of English, 1 year of math (often statistics and calculus but school specific), 1 year of biology with a lab (genetics is highly recommended), 1 year of general chemistry with a lab, 1 year of organic chemistry with a lab, 1 year of physics with a lab, and some require psychology. So long as you take all of these courses you can apply to medical school.
In the US the average GPA for accepted medical school applicants is 3.8, so you need to make sure you do well in all of your classes to maintain a high GPA. You will also have to take the MCAT (medical school entrance exam) this is an 8 hour exam that tests reading comprehension, math, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics, and psychology/sociology. It is imperative that you score well on this exam to get accepted to medical school, most low-tier schools average MCAT is 507. So it is important that when taking your courses you actually learn the material not learn it for the class and dump it. You will also need to dedicate at least a few months of studying solely for the MCAT before taking it.
But there is more to getting into medical school than being an excellent student. You will need volunteer hours, research, leadership experience, and physician shadowing. These things make you a well rounded applicant and provide the medical school admissions committees with a better picture of you. You want to make sure you participate in activities that you care about and are interested in so you can talk about them on your application and during interviews. Having a few high quality activities over a long period of time looks better than having a lot of activities all for short periods. You will also have to write a personal statement which essentially tells the schools your “why medicine” you want this to be a compelling story and usually want to have a patient experience included in it.
Once you get accepted into medical school you will complete four more years of school. Two of these will be didactic or “book learning” and the other two will be going through rotations in different specialties of medicine. In your fourth year you will have to apply to residency programs which will be very similar as applying to medical school. You again want research hours from when in medical school, will have to write a personal statement, and want good grades/standardized exam scores. There are two standardized tests that you will take while in medical school.
Your residency program will last between 4 and 8 years depending on what specialty you choose to go into. During this time you will get paid but not as much as once you’re out of residency. Once you finish residency you will officially be a full fledged doctor.
As you can see this is a very long and complex process. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a doctor, but for good reason, you literally will have peoples lives in your hands. But if it is what you want to do then it is well worth the work.
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