Now that you understand that you want to heal people as your profession, it’s time to learn just what it takes to become a doctor. While there are lots of different kinds of doctors, for our purposes, we’ll cover all the details regarding what you need to do to become a medical doctor. Here’s what you need to know about the skills, education, and certification you’ll need to become a successful medical doctor.
What Skills Do You Need to Have?
To be an effective medical doctor, you’ll need to have a genuine passion for making people’s lives better. Doctor’s live by the Hippocratic Oath, which demands that you “do no harm” to your patients. That means you’ll need to learn everything you can about medicine and practice your best judgment instead of simply acting like an automaton and spouting the dogma you learned in medical school.
In your quest to become a full-fledged M.D., you’ll cover a lot of ground in terms of course material. However, here are a few simple examples of the skills you’ll need to hone as you aim to become a medical doctor:
Anatomy is the study of the structure of the human body. To accurately diagnose and treat patients, you must understand where all the organs are and how they are interconnected.
Biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes that occur within living things. A thorough understanding of biochemistry is essential to understanding how drug reactions and other chemical processes occur in human beings.
Pharmacology is the study of how drugs are structured and how they affect the human body. Even though you aren’t training to be a pharmacist, pharmacology is essential to M.D. course material since you’ll be prescribing drugs to your patients.
Pathology is the study of how diseases come about. Every disease has a pathogenesis, which is the process by which it comes into existence, and a good M.D. program will also cover how nutrition and other factors can cause disease.
What Degree Do You Need?
To practice as a medical doctor, you will need a Medical Doctor degree (M.D.). To enter an M.D. program, you’ll need to first get an undergraduate degree. Most M.D. programs also view applicants who studied relevant disciplines when they were undergraduates as more eligible for admission.
M.D. programs generally last four years. Once you’re done with medical school, you’ll need to complete 3-7 years of residency before you can receive licensing and start practicing medicine. Throughout these seven to 11 years, you’ll spend countless hours in clinical settings performing your duties as a doctor, but you won’t be fully licensed yet.
Here are some examples of the subjects you might study as part of your M.D. program:
• Behavioral science
Do You Need Any Certifications or Licenses?
All doctors in the United States must be properly licensed to practice medicine. Doctors who are licensed are called “board-certified” since they have received their licenses from a respected medical board.
To become board-certified, you must first get your undergraduate degree and complete your M.D. program. In most cases, you’ll need to perform a one-year internship before your residency program, but some programs might include the time you spend in this internship in your residency time.
Depending on the type of medical specialty you’re pursuing, your residency might be longer or shorter. For an intensive discipline, you may have to go through seven full years of residency before you become licensed. Doctors in residency are paid, but their salaries aren’t as large as those of licensed doctors.
When you’re ready, you’ll take the board exam to become a doctor. Once you’re licensed, you’ll be able to start your own practice or become a full-fledged member of a hospital’s medical team.
How Long Does Doctor Training Take?
Altogether, you may spend more than 15 years training to be a doctor. Assuming you start out on your career path in earnest in the summer after high school, you will spend four years as an undergraduate, four years in medical school, and up to seven years in residency.
How Much Will You Make as a Doctor?
All your hard work to become a medical doctor will pay off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for physicians in 2018 was $208,000. At a median of $267,020, anesthesiologists were the highest-paid doctors, and general practitioners made an average of 211,780. Depending on the specialty you pursue, you could end up making more than $300,000 per year as a doctor once you have some experience.
What Are Your Job Prospects as a Doctor?
According to the BLS, there were 713,800 doctor and surgeon jobs in the United States in 2016. The number of physician positions is growing faster than the average; while job numbers in the USA are projected to grow by seven percent between 2016 and 2026, jobs for doctors and surgeons are expected to grow by 13 percent during the same period. While competition is high for the best medical doctor jobs, 91,400 new job openings will open during the 10 years between 2016 and 2026.
How Do You Find Work as a Doctor?
While you’ll have to compete heavily for the best jobs available, it’s generally easy to find work as a medical doctor once you’ve completed your residency. If you’re competent in your field, you’ll have gained attention from employers during your residency, and the hospital where you completed this advanced training may be happy to add you to its team as a full-fledged member.
Licensed doctors can also start their own practices. Starting your own practice right out the gate can be risky, but it can also be highly lucrative. Use the contacts you made during your training to find job opportunities.