Becoming a medical doctor is a long road with many steps you must complete along the way. Prospective medical students need to begin preparing to become a doctor as early as undergraduate school.
Begin your path by choosing a relevant major like biology or chemistry and continue by following the steps described below.
Do Well in Undergraduate Studies
One pretty obvious tip for prospective doctors is to do well in undergraduate school. As such, you may need to sacrifice some late nights out with your friends so you have time to study and build an impressive transcript to send to medical schools.
A high GPA goes a long way in the eyes of medical school selection committees.
The best way to do well in college is to prioritize your work and choose classes that you are passionate about. If you enjoy the material you are studying, you are much more likely to learn more and earn higher grades.
Take the MCAT
While you are studying for your undergrad classes, you also need to worry about studying for the MCAT.
The MCAT is a rigorous exam for prospective doctors that tests essential medical skills and knowledge.
Most test-takers begin to prepare for the MCAT well before they graduate from their undergraduate school since the score you earn plays a large role in your application.
As such, students often make use of MCAT review courses from the likes of Kaplan, Princeton Review or Blueprint to help improve their scores. These prep courses typically offer a tremendous amount of study materials to help you prepare, including video lessons, practice tests, flashcards and more.
On the downside, MCAT prep courses can be somewhat pricey, costing well over $1,000.
With that said, these types of online prep courses can go a long way to ensure you score high on the test and get into the medical school of your dreams.
Apply and Get Accepted into Medical School
Now that you have a solid transcript and a nearly perfect MCAT score, the next step is to apply and get accepted into medical school. The rigorous application process involves fees, college visits, interviews, and more, so be prepared to spend a good amount of money throughout.
After the first part of the application process, you will need to complete a second application that varies depending on the school you are applying to.
Some schools just require you to pay an additional fee, while others will require you to write essays and answer questions to determine if you are a good fit.
The interview is the final step before getting accepted into medical school and is often the step that is most feared by students. To avoid having interview anxiety, do as much research and preparation as you can.
You should study the history of the college, your program, and (if possible) the person conducting your interview. Try to establish a personal connection with your interviewer to make a good, lasting impression.
After your interview, send a thank-you card to the interviewer to show your appreciation for the opportunity to attend their school. This will keep you and your resumé fresh in the interviewer’s mind and can drastically improve your chances of being accepted.
Also, remember that over half of the students who get invited to interviews are eventually accepted into their chosen program.
Do Well in Medical School and Pass Your Boards
Once you are in medical school, it is time to hit the books and devote yourself to learning and your grades. You need to learn as much information as you can while you are in medical school so that you are fully prepared to take on patients in the future.
Although medical school will last four years just like your undergrad, you will have a very different experience that will foster your interest in medicine.
Your first two years in medical school will be similar to your undergrad classes — they are primarily made up of classroom-based courses that teach you the fundamentals of advanced medicine.
After that, you have one year of rotations where you work in many different specialties to gain valuable experience and learn what interests you most.
Finally, you will have one year to take elective courses in your chosen specialty.
Also, throughout your four years of medical school, you will need to complete two licensing exams (board exams) that determine your medical competency. You take the first exam after two years, and the second after your year of electives.
Doing well in medical school is important for determining your placement during your residency, which prepares you for the future of your medical career.
Do well to earn a competitive placement at a high-quality hospital so you can start your career on the right foot with the best training and most up-to-date information.
Complete Your Residency
Once you complete four years of medical school, it is time to complete your residency at a teaching hospital. You will have some say in where you complete your residency, but the hospital and specialty you train in are ultimately decided by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).
During your residency, you will complete supervised training and apply what you learned during medical school. It is your chance to develop your skills and become the best doctor you can be.
You will spend at least three years in your residency — some specialties require a longer residency than others.
Pass Your Final Boards
Once you have completed a year of your residency, you will need to pass your final board exam. This exam differs from the previous two because it tests your ability to care for patients without supervision.
Once you have completed your residency and passed all of your board exams, you are ready to begin practicing medicine on your own.
Even though your official education is complete, you will need to continue your medical education by staying informed of the latest technologies and developments in medicine.
The best doctors never stop learning — they treat every new patient as an opportunity to hone their skills and gain more advanced knowledge.
The road to becoming a doctor is long and filled with hurdles you will need to overcome. Fortunately, all of your hard work and determination will pay off with a higher-than-average salary, good benefits, and job security.
Once you have developed your skills, you can even set up a private practice and work independently from a hospital or larger organization.