CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a doctor.
Is becoming a doctor right for me?
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Frequently Asked Questions
How to become a Doctor
This profession not only requires extensive knowledge of academic disciplines and existing diseases and their cures but requires communication skills that will enable the doctor to establish good relationships with their patients. Many years of training are required, including undergraduate, graduate, and hands-on study. To know exactly how long the training will take one must choose a specialty.
A pre-med student will typically obtain a bachelor of science degree in biology or chemistry. This degree typically takes four years to complete, and all prerequisites for medical school must be met. After completing the first four years, the aspiring doctor must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a standardized exam that takes several hours to complete.
Students will typically then spend four years in medical school. The first two years are spent doing classroom and laboratory work. The last two years are spent doing clinical rotations, or clerkships, in different medical departments, such as general practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, osteopathy, psychiatry, and surgery. By experiencing these areas, students get the chance to decide on their specialty. Clinical rotations are conducted in hospitals and are always monitored by professionals.
Entering a residency program is the next step. This is when students obtain on-the-job paid training, usually in hospitals, under the supervision of senior physician educators. Students are then called 'residents'. They act as professional doctors, dealing with patients, prescribing medications and working in different hospital areas.
If a specialty is chosen, the student will need to complete a fellowship or internship after their residency. This can take from one to three years.
Regardless of the specialty, a doctor must receive licensure before practicing medicine. Licensure is obtained from the jurisdiction or state, and this is done by passing the state's medical licensing exam. In Canada, one must register with the college of physicians and surgeons in the province of residence.
Becoming a doctor is not easy. Getting through all the years of rigorous study requires not only patience and dedication but a desire to help people. Sometimes students will not make it to the end, even after passing the medical exam. In this case, a student can opt for other medical jobs, such as nursing or becoming a vocational doctor.