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Is doing many years of college really needed to become a doctor?

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Vickie’s Answer

Hi Jenniyah!

Most medical schools require you to obtain an undergraduate degree. This is a usually a bachelor's degree that you can complete in 3-4 years. This is where you major in anything you'd like as well as completing the additional pre-medical course work that usually consists of chemistry, biology, physics, English, and math courses. Once you complete these courses, you take a standardized exam called the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Many people decide to take gap years between college and medical school so that they can have time to save money and get life experience outside of school. Don't feel pressured to start medical school immediately after graduating college.

Medical school will be 4 years. The first two years are generally your pre-clinical years, this is where you learn your basic sciences and pathophysiology of diseases. During your 3rd and 4th years of medical school, these are your clinical years. During your clinical years, you work with supervising physicians and resident physicians (people who just graduated medical school) and you get to see patients and learn how to take care of them. At the beginning of your 4th year, you pick what kind of doctor you'd like to be and apply to a residency program.

After you graduate medical school, you complete what is called a residency program which can range anywhere from 3-7 years depending on the specialty. This is where you learn your chosen specialty, whether its becoming a family physician, emergency physician, surgeon, the list goes on!

After graduating residency, you are able to become a fully practicing physician or you can continue to additional training called a fellowship. A fellowship is where you can learn even more about a certain topic - for example, if you choose to become a family physician, you could do a fellowship and specialize in sports medicine. Fellowships can range anywhere from 1 to 3 years.

There are definitely many sacrifices one has to make when dedicating yourself to this long process - however, don't get discouraged. I'm currently at the end of my 3rd year of medical school and I can easily say that the years have absolutely flown by. Medical school is often very fast paced and so before you even know it, you graduate medical school in the blink of an eye.

I think the best thing you can do, depending on where you at in your education is to develop good study habits and learn how to take care of yourself (cooking for yourself, exercise routine, nurturing hobbies, etc.). In college, work hard in your classes and get involved with your community through volunteering and get some research experience. Do some shadowing with a doctor to make sure that its the career you really want. Most importantly, remember to also have fun and enjoy that college life! Medical school is very rigorous and there will always be more exams to take and more assignments to complete but, I promise the hard work will absolutely pay off in the end.

Vickie recommends the following next steps:

https://www.aamc.org/system/files/2020-11/aamc-road-to-becoming-doctor-2020.pdf
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