What is a Medicine Degree?

A degree in medicine is a vocational or technical degree awarded for studies in fields associated with medicine and/or surgery. The requirements for becoming a doctor in the U.S. may vary by specialty. In general, doctors complete a four-year undergraduate degree program, spend four years in medical school, and then complete three to seven years of residency training before they are eligible for medical licensing. Prospective doctors can choose a specialty later, during their residencies.

Program Options

Bachelor's Degree (Prerequisite) - Four Year Duration
Completing a bachelor's degree program is necessary to prepare prospective doctors to enter medical school. Though medical schools do not require specific degrees for admission, many students opt for programs heavy in biology and chemistry. Some schools offer specific pre-med programs that include the required classes for medical school, as well as prepare them to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Common courses in a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology program include chemistry, biological studies, physics, and human genetics.

MCAT - Medical College Admission Test
The MCAT is a multiple-choice examination that students must pass before they are admitted to medical school. Physical science, biology, critical thinking, and verbal skills are all tested in a five-hour computerized test. Most medical schools use this score when considering applicants for admission, so it's important to score well to be considered for top programs.

Medical School - Four Year Duration
Medical school consists of four years of medical training and education. The first two years of a prospective doctor's medical school experience are devoted to book study and laboratory work to prepare students for diagnosing and treating illnesses. During the second year of med school, students take the first portion of the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which is administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners.

During the last two years of medical school, students begin their clinical experience, going through rotations at clinics and hospitals. Students work under attending physicians to begin their practical training in medicine. The fourth year of medical school is when the second licensing test is issued, as well as when students begin their residency training. As an alternative to undergraduate degrees and medical school, some institutions allow students to take a six year combination training and education program, which gives students a compressed medical and academic education.

Residency - Three to Seven Year Duration
A doctor's internship or clerkship period is known as a residency. Most doctors complete their residency in a three to seven year period, depending on specialization. The first year of residency is when the final medical licensing exam is given, while the residency itself focuses almost completely on practical training in a medical environment, rather than classroom learning. Post-residency fellowships might also be beneficial, as doctors can choose to sub-specialize in areas such as internal, geriatric, or vascular medicine.

Licensing Requirements
Licensing requirements for doctors vary by state, but most states require at least a one year residency program and the passage of a board certification exam in the medical specialty the student has chosen. Once these requirements have been met, a doctor is normally considered a fully licensed medical professional and is legally able to practice in their respective field.


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