- Volunteer. Many people desire to become a doctor because it seems like a great way to help people. Not only will volunteering give you a chance to help people, but it will also look good on your CV if you do decide to pursue medicine. Consider volunteering at a hospital, free clinic, doctor’s office, or as an EMT. Also, be open to volunteer work that is not directly medical related, such as working in a soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity.
Commit to your goal and strive for excellence.
- Think ahead. Realize that the road to becoming a physician is long, hard, and full of many obstacles. You’ll work long hours, deal with difficult people, and your life during this process will practically revolve around your work. People’s lives will depend on your commitment to the job and your ability to stay calm and make decisions under pressure.
- Commit. While there is a well-defined path to becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) or Doctor of Medicine (MD), success depends more on a commitment to your goals and interests than on doing exactly what every other applicant does. When you interview for a spot in a medical school, the admissions committee wants to see that you are committed to achieving your goals – no matter what they are.
- Excel. In order to get into medical school, you’ll not only need excellent grades, but you’ll also need to demonstrate that you are a responsible, well-rounded person. Through your community service record, show that you enjoy helping people. Get to know your teachers and supervisors and earn their respect–their recommendation letters will be essential for your getting interview invitations from medical schools.
Go to undergraduate school for pre-medicine. Graduate from a 4-year college or university. Choose an institution with a strong pre-med program, or even one that is affiliated with a particular medical school. (Some institutions offer a program which allows you to complete your undergraduate degree and medical degree at the same time.) In order to qualify for admission to medical school, you will have needed to take the following prerequisite courses, along with other subjects which will be outlined in a particular medical school’s admissions requirements:
- 1 year of general chemistry with laboratory courses.
- 1 year of organic chemistry with laboratory courses.
- 1 year of biology with laboratory courses.
- 1 year of physics with laboratory courses.
- 1 year of English.
- 1 year of calculus.
Take the required exam. Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), or if you live in the UK take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) and the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). Strive to get above a 10 in each of the first three sections in order to get a competitive MCAT score.Take a practice test to find out where your baseline is and to know how much progress you need to make. Consider taking a review course such as those offered by Kaplan if review courses are helpful to you. You will be tested in the following areas, the first three of which are graded on a scale of 1-15:
- Verbal Reasoning (Reading Comprehension)
- Physical Sciences (Chemistry and Physics)
- Biological Sciences (Organic Chemistry and Biology)
- Writing Sample (two essay questions)
Complete medical school. Once you’ve applied and been accepted to medical school, here’s what you can expect:
- First two years – learn the fundamentals of the medical sciences through study of the core subjects: anatomy, physiology, histology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, and microbiology; learn to take medical histories and perform a physical exam; learn the principles behind diagnosing disease
- United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), Step 1 and/or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) Level 1 – tests your knowledge of all topics studied in years 1 and 2; in most schools, you must pass this in order to progress into the third year.
- Third year – 1-2 months of each of the major medical specialties (internal medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, OB/GYN, surgery, psychiatry); work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals and clinics, learning acute, chronic, preventive, and rehabilitative care, as well as the social skills that give a doctor good bedside manner
- Determine which specialty you want to pursue.
- Fourth year – Take electives based on preferred specialty; apply to and interview at residency programs; pass the USMLE Step 2 or COMLEX Level 2, which includes a Clinical Knowledge portion (CK, tests topics covered in year 3) and a Clinical Skills portion (CS, tests your ability to take a history and examine a patient).
Complete your residency. Residency training takes place in a hospital setting in which you earn a salary (on average, $48,000/year) while you are trained. It begins in the first week of July after you graduate from medical school (in May). You are responsible for patients and are supervised by senior residents as well as attending physicians. Residency training can vary in length from 3 years (e.g. family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics) to 7 or more (e.g. general surgery).
- Some specialties (e.g. ophthalmology, dermatology) require one year of general medicine or general surgery directly after medical school (a “prelim” year) before you begin residency training in your specific field. This may occur at a different hospital from where you do the rest of your training.
- At some point during your residency you must pass the USMLE Step 3 or COMLEX Level 3 in order to be state-certified for practice of medicine. USMLE Step 3 and COMLEX Level 3 cover clinical thinking and clinical management.
Consider fellowship training. Fellowship training refers to optional training beyond residency to become even more specialized within a field. For example, one may complete a residency in general internal medicine and then pursue a fellowship in cardiology or gastroenterology. Fellowships typically range in length from 1 to 3 years.