How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Doctor | Path to a Medical Career

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a doctor? In the beginning it can be overwhelming to think of all the requirements. Becoming a doctor requires a huge time commitment and a consistent work ethic. However, with the proper tools and attitude, you can overcome any challenge.

Our team wants to ensure you that with determination, you can become the doctor you always wanted to be. With preparation, you can get into a good medical school and receive the hands-on experience to set you up for success.

How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Doctor

It takes around 4 years for your bachelor’s degree; 4 years for medical school; and 3-7 years in residency. The requirements in the U.S may be different from other countries. You want to check the requirements for the specific med-school you want to go into.

Another factor into the program length is what kind of specialization you’re going into. Different branches such as plastic surgery may depend on the fellowship that you receive. It’s important to do your research into which field best interests you. Also, if you take a gap year that’ll add to the time of becoming a doctor.

Overall it can take up to 12 years to complete your entire process. It can be shorter or longer, depending on the occupation you specialize in. To set a consistent track record, try to lay out a thorough plan. This plan will help you get an estimate of how long it’ll take for you specifically.

Becoming a Doctor at a Glance

The Doctor requirements at a glance may look intimidating, however you can easily build momentum with each step. Begin by gathering all the material and knowledge you need from people around you or from former students. This can give you an inside scoop on individualized experiences.

From the outside, the best ticket in is first developing strong study skills. You need to get quickly started on top-rated MCAT prep books or online prep courses. This way you can develop consistent scores to test into a top medical school. The prep to get into med school is an important step.

Take it one step at a time. It’s best to manage how you need to allocate your energy. Looking at the requirements from a glance can seem like a lot of steps, but continue to take it slowly and you’ll progress with each step. 

Education Requirements

To be eligible for medical licensing, you need to complete 4-years of undergraduate studies. It’s good to declare pre-med as a biology major, which can give you the proper foundation for your prospective career. Also you’ll need to attend a 4-year medical program.

Completing your bachelor’s degree program will be weighted on biology or chemistry so its important to have a well-rounded understanding of these topics. Common courses are also biological studies and physics. These subjects will help you better learn medical terms in the near future.

After schooling you’ll need to go to residency training which is finished in between 3-7 years. Residency is a crucial time period because this is a time to simulate doctor-patient care. It can depend on your surgical specialities or primary care. This will help you gain interpersonal skills to take with you to the workforce. 

Before The Challenge: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree – 4 years

A bachelor’s degree will make you a strong contender for the medical field. Through a bachelor program you’ll be familiar with chemistry and biology courses. Pre-med programs include required classes for medical school. As you prepare for the MCAT, these courses will also give you a strong foundation to build on.

Another important factor is to develop disciplined study habits. As you continue your years to become a doctor its a whole lot of studying. Each day you’re going to be exposed to new material. If you have strong study habits during your undergrad, this will put you at a huge advantage. Continue to develop these skills because it’ll benefit ou in the long-run.

During your bachelor degree, you should try to make meaningful connections with faculty. These connections can add to your med school applications. When you have strong letter of recommendations it can make you stand out as a candidate. Continue to build relationships with professors and try to do research with them to appear as a competitive candidate. 

Time Needed to Pass the MCAT - Medical College Admission Test

What type of learner are you? This is the question you should try to ask yourself because preparing for the MCAT will challenge you in many ways. The overall time you need for total preparation will be 6-8 months. However, if you’re on a time crunch you also you the summer to study for the MCAT.

It’s important to consider if you’re going to study full-time or part-time. The MCAT will need your entire focus so you want to be organized as possible. The average student will spend around 20 hours a week studying. Try to split up your time evenly to not wear yourself out. 

Think about the time frame you want to prepare for the MCAT. Is it during your undergrad or after? If you need time to take a gap year it’s best to get a planner and split off your rest time and studying time. This can help you be on top of your studying and help gain confidence in your MCAT score. 

Intense Training: Medical School – 4 years

Medical school is intense training for you to become a great doctor. The beginning years will be devoted to book smarts. Everything from studying medical terminology to laboratory work is set for you. You’ll also be mimicking medical scenarios such as diagnosing and treating illnesses.

When it's your second year, you’ll take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination. The instructors and training will prep you for this moment, but it's important to still set aside time to study.This is when your path to becoming a doctor gets more serious. As you continue your med school process you’ll go through clinical experience.

Each student will go under rotation and work under physicians. The practical training in your med-school program will strengthen your skills with patients and medicine. The fourth year will be the second part of the exam and when you’ll begin your residency training. 

Licensing Requirements

Each licensing requirement will be different for each state. The majority of states will require you to at least have 1-year residency program. Also another factor is that you need to declare a medical specialization. Once you have your license you’re able to fully practice legally in your respective field.

You must graduate from a med-school program to be qualified for your license. The U.S Medical Licensing Examination is a three-step examination that is required. You should contact your state medical board to secure each requirement.

Since licenses must be renewed, you need to complete a set of required hours before taking the renewal test. It’s beneficial to be as knowledgeable as possible about your exam so you secure a number of hours before continuing your education.

What Happens After Medical School?

After medical school, you’re set to go into an internship. This will be the first year of training after 4 years of medical school. This is called the Post Graduate Year-1. The training after is usually called a subspeciality. The majority of what you choose to specialize in will be learned in this time period. 

It’s important to continue to build your network during this time. After medical school your connections will continue to increase. It’s vital to keep in contact with specialists or doctors who are already in practice. This way you can maintain a strong network to obtain new job opportunities in the future.

Additionally, when you go into residency you’ll have direct access to more patient care. After medical school its important to take all the knowledge you learned because it's going to be heavily tested. You’ll be exposed to new experiences and challenges. Continue to have a positive mindset because residency is going to be an even longer time, depending on your speciality. 

Hands-on Training: Residency – 3+ years

After all your years of studying, you still have lots to learn about medicine and patient care. During your residency, you’ll learn more specifics about medicine and caring for a wide range of diseases. The more patients you’re exposed to, the more diseases you’ll learn to recognize and treat. These skills will help you develop a stronger perspective as a prospective doctor.

The knowledge that you get from patient care will be refined through your instructors. Each instructor will teach through lectures and conferences. There’s an endless amount of residencies. You’ll find yourself rotating through different specialties through around one-month intervals.

It can be anything from general surgery, pediatrics, OB/GYN, or the ER. When you are finished with the first year you’ll continue to have more emphasis on your speciality. Each day will start early at around 7 a.m and you’ll take rounds to see different patients. 

Fellowship – 1 or 2 years

Do you want to focus on a specific area? A fellowship is the time you will undertake a speciality training. Lots of physicians will often take subspecialities to pursue different training. For instance, if you want to learn about a specific organ system a fellowship will help you gain the expertise you need.

Commonly, you can also go a geriatric fellowship to increase your level of comfort with the field. When you’re exposed to a specific practice it can make you appear more competitive and you can examine a specific set of patients. You’ll be more knowledgeable about the speciality and it can help you gain one-on-one practice.

If you’re looking into fellowships you want to consider if this lifestyle suits you. Think about how it can fit with your lifestyle after your residency. At this point lots of residents will think how it can fit into their home life and if its reasonable for them to consider this fellowship position. 

Colin Ma

As the first hire of Study Prep Lounge I primarily help with growth strategy, but also assisted with managing our small team of writers and designers. Another aspect of work I've taken up is writing and I thoroughly enjoy it! I grew up in Arcadia, CA, and went to school at University of California, Santa Barbara before transferring to University of California, Irvine where I got my BS in Computer Science. I am currently working full time in software and am also fulfilling my prerequisites so I can apply to Medical School.

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