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Step-by-Step Guide: How to Become a Doctor

Majors Overview January 24, 2013

Doctors perform the diagnosis of illnesses and treatment of injuries; to this end, they examine patients, perform procedures, take medical histories, prescribe medications and conduct tests. They also advise patients to help prevent them from getting sick; such advice focuses on aspects such as exercise and diet and health care. A patient can rely on an assessment of their overall health on a general practice doctor; however, specific health areas such as pediatrics, orthopedics, neurology and cardiology call for attention from doctors who are specialized in those areas. Those who aspire to become doctors must complete a bachelor degree program then they should apply for admission to medical school and satisfy licensure norms by taking the necessary exam.

The most common educational requirement is a medical degree followed by participation in a residency program. A state-issued medical license is mandatory in all states. These professionals need strong communication skills to augment their medical skills. They also have to bring problem-solving skills (to help in making medical diagnoses) to bear on the work that they perform. Additionally, they need manual dexterity, and as they spend most of their time on their feet; doctors need to have physical stamina (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); (Aug 2012)). The following is a step-by-step guide that need to be followed by students who are planning to pursue a career in this field.

Stage One: Earning a Bachelor Degree

Prospective doctors are not required to pursue any specific major to become eligible to seek admission in medical school. However, students would benefit tremendously by taking many science-related courses. Such courses could focus on specialty areas such as biology, physics and chemistry. A pre-medicine track including courses in physiology and anatomy may be offered by some schools. Gaining work experience in a medical facility would benefit aspiring doctors and would give them an edge in a highly competitive field. High grade point average are essential, volunteer work in a local health facility would benefit a student even further as they are able to list it on their list of extracurricular activities on their application to medical school. Letters of recommendation are sometimes required by medical schools, but regardless of whether or not they are mandatory to seek admission to medical school; students should get them. Building relationships with pre-med professors will help students obtain positive letters of recommendation.

Stage Two: Taking the Medical College Admission Test

Taking and performing well in the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a mandatory requirement for admission to medical school. This multiple-choice test focuses on areas such as writing, scientific principles, problem solving and critical thinking.

Stage Three: Enrolling in Medical School

Academic coursework and clinical training are combined in the training imparted through a four-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) program. During the first two years, students receive instruction in several subject areas such as physiology, anatomy, microbiology, and medical laws and ethics. Students get to participate in supervised clinical rotations during the last two years of medical school; these hands on opportunities give students useful exposure to areas such as obstetrics, gynecology, psychiatry, internal medicine, pediatrics and surgery. Focusing on a particular concentration area will help students get involved in a residency program. Such internship generally transpires between a student’s third and fourth years during the summer.

Stage Four: Completing a Medical Residency

Once they graduate from medical school, prospective doctors must participate in residency programs. In such programs, they get hands on training while being paid for the work they do. Depending on the concentration area; such residency supervised by an experienced doctor in a hospital setting can last between three and seven years.

Stage Five: Obtaining Licensure

Doctors must possess medical licensure by passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) to practice in different types of medical facilities including hospitals. The three parts of the exam focus on topic areas relating to medical and scientific concepts, and patient management and care in ambulance settings.

Specialty certification can benefit aspiring doctors who seek such certification in their area of concentration from an accredited organization. Certification will serve to underscore a candidate’s skills and knowledge in an area of medical specialization such as ophthalmology, neurological surgery, dermatology, or immunology. To obtain certification, an applicant needs to have a certain number of years of work experience within the specialty area including residency programs; additionally, they must pass the exam.

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