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How Long Does it Take to Become a Doctor?

December 18, 2013

Doctors play a very important role in today’s society. They make people feel better, and they save lives. Being a doctor is a noble profession. It isn’t surprising that many people seek to become physicians. If you want to become a doctor there are a lot of things you should consider. For example, what qualifications do you need to become a doctor? How many years in school does it take to become a doctor?

There are many specialties and subspecialties available to people who want to become doctors. How long it takes to become a doctor is directly related to the field of medicine you want to study. For instance, surgical specialties require more time in school than non-surgical specialties. The amount of time a doctor spends in school can be broken up into five stages of education. The stages are undergraduate school, medical school, internship, a residency program, and possibly a fellowship. So, aspiring doctors need a minimum of 12 additional years of education after they graduate high school.

how long does it take to become a doctorUndergraduate education consists of a four year college or university. Most schools don’t have a specific pre-med major or minor. Students pursuing medical careers are allowed to choose any major they want. Although, they do have to make sure that they have required coursework in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics completed by a certain time. These courses will help you prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). They will also help you fulfill some of your medical school prerequisites. You apply for and take the MCAT in your junior year. You should also do volunteer work both related and unrelated to the medical field at this stage. Volunteer work helps to prepare you for a career in medicine. Volunteer work is one of the many factors medical schools take into consideration when you apply.

The second stage is attending medical school. Each country has separate regulations for their medical schools. Medical school in America usually takes four years. These four years are typically broken up into two equal phases. The first phase is pre-clinical, and it involves courses in the basic sciences. The second phase is clinical, which involves rotations in the different wards in a teaching hospital. Depending on the medical school you attend, you get a degree of either a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or a Medical Doctor (M.D.).

The third stage is an internship. It is also referred to as the “transitional year.” Internships should be applied for during the last year of undergraduate studies, and they should be focused in your field of specialty. In the past it was policy that you completed your internship before you began your residency, which is your fourth stage of medical training. However, most new doctors often complete their internships during the first year of residency. This is because post graduate education has lengthened. Specialty fields such as neurology or ophthalmology still require you to complete the “transitional year” before you begin your residency. You need to finish your internship in order to to be able to get licensed to practice medicine.

The fourth stage is your residency. Medical school teaches you the basics of medicine. Your residency gives you in depth training in a specified field. Your residency may last from three to seven years depending on your specialty or subspecialty. For instance, you may decide to do your residency in psychiatry. Psychiatric residencies typically last for four years. If you choose a specialty such a neurosurgery, your residency will be seven years. A first year resident is called an intern. A senior or chief resident is a resident in their final year. Normally, chief resident refers to a doctor who has been asked to extend his or her residency in order to train other residents.

The fifth and final stage of medical education is a fellowship. A fellowship is the additional medical training that you seek after you finish your residency. Doctors who are in fellowships are called fellows. Fellowships focus on subspecialties. Again, the length of your fellowship depends on your subspecialty. For example, subspecialties under psychiatry are one year, except for the child/adolescent subspecialty. That subspecialty requires a two year fellowship. With that being said, fellowships can last from one to four years. Once you complete your fellowship, you will be able to practice medicine in your subspecialty without the supervision of another doctor. You will also be able to do consults.

Becoming a doctor takes time, patience, and compassion. If you want to practice general medicine, you should keep in mind that you will spend at least an extra 12 years in school. That translates into four years in an undergraduate program, four years in medical school, one year for internship, and at least three years for a residency. Good luck!