How long does it take to become a doctor?
If you are wondering how long does it take to be a doctor, it is assumed that you mean a medical doctor or physician. A medical degree is a professional degree like a law degree or a pharmacy degree. In the U.S. becoming a doctor requires extensive education.
To become a doctor, you will first have to complete a bachelor’s degree. At one time, degrees in a science related field, such as biology, chemistry or mathematics was expected; however, many medical schools now seek students from more diverse and varied educational backgrounds. There are doctors who hold undergraduate degrees in English, education and classical studies, but they all have a degree from an accredited university and in most cases have all performed very well academically and score high on their Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT for short.
After you finish your undergraduate training and are accepted to medical school, you begin medical training. Medical school is a four year program. The first two years are spent in classrooms and lecture halls, and you will learn the fundamentals of the human body, disease, pharmacology, and body systems. Upon completion of the first two years of medical training, you will take the first round of licensing tests, called boards. You must pass these tests to continue in medical training.
The last two years of medical school are clincal-based study. The third year is spent in various sub-specialities: internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, and pathology. In the fourth year, the medical student may elect for a more specialized field of study. If you find internal medicine interesting, then you may consider nephrology, a doctor specializing in kidneys. You will take the last of your medical boards before you complete your forth year of medical school. When you pass, you are officially a medical doctor (MD); however, you still have a little more work to do.
Once you complete medical school, it is time for you to begin residency in your field. Residency means you are a doctor, but you will be working in a clinic or hospital under the direct supervision of a fully accredited and experienced doctor. Residency training means long hours and several stints of 24 hours or better at a time. Most residency periods last approximately three years. As soon as you have completed your residency, you are allowed to practice medicine. To answer the question, “How long does it take to be a doctor?” it will take you approximately 11 years from starting college to finishing residency training.
It may be that there is still another field you wish to specialize in. A fellowship, additional training after residency, is the next step of medical training. For instance, you may have enjoyed your pediatric rotations and decided to become a pediatrician, but you still wish to specialize further in pediatric care. You will have to complete another three years of study in a sub-specialty of pediatrics like cardiology, infectious disease, oncology (cancer) or emergency medicine.
Clearly, becoming a doctor requires a large amount of education and time, but the eventual goal is worth the effort. Just plan on schooling and/or on the job training of anywhere from 8 to over 12 years.