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A Guide on Becoming a Physician in the US

If you’re considering becoming a doctor, you have a long road ahead of you. Below you will get an idea of what is to come before you can achieve your goal of landing one of the coveted physician jobs.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Before you can get into med school, you must earn a BS or BA. Typically, your undergraduate degree should have an emphasis on science. This could include:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics

Whether you actually focus on sciences or not, most medical schools require that you at least have at least one year of each of the following prerequisites:

  • Biology plus lab
  • Physics plus lab
  • General and Organic Chemistry plus labs

Most medical schools also require one year of the following non-science prerequisites:

  • English
  • Calculus/Statistics

Step 2: Shadow and Volunteer

Take advantage of these opportunities before applying to medical school:

  • Shadow a doctor: Do a bit of research, ask around, and find doctors who you can shadow as they go about their daily work routines. This serves multiple purposes, as it allows you to get a feel for what their jobs are really like, helps you make connections, and gives you insight as to what different specialist’s positions entail.
  • Volunteer: Getting into medical school is not easy. One of the things that can set you apart is your extracurricular activities. Most schools strongly value volunteering. So the more you can volunteer in a clinical setting, the better. And again, being involved gives you more of an idea of what you will be getting yourself into.

Step 3: Dominate the MCAT

Along with your undergraduate degree and volunteer hours, a good MCAT score is necessary to get into medical school. A few tips to score highly:

  • Take a prep class and take it seriously.
  • Take practice exams to get to know the test.
  • You can take the test multiple times if you choose.
  • You want a well-rounded score.

Step 4: Go to Medical School

Once you have everything in line, you need to apply, cross your fingers, and hope you get in. The application process itself is arduous, as they are often painstakingly long, have to be turned in on time, and take quite a while to process once sent. And of course, the application is only the beginning, as afterwards you must interview to get in.

Assuming you finally make it into medical school, you still have quite the uphill battle in front of you. A few things to keep in mind as you work through medical school:

  • Study often: The days of cramming the night before the test are over. There’s just too much here to function that way. And not only that, you need to retain this information.
  • Set aside break time: It’s difficult for sure, but sometimes you need to set aside some time to just chill out. This will help you not burn out.
  • Get help: Take advantage of study groups and tutorials. You can’t do it alone!

View the top 10 Medical Schools in 2014.

Step 5: Enter into a Residency Program

Unfortunately, you can’t just become a doctor right after medical school. You then need to obtain professional training under a senior physician educator. This phase can take anywhere from 3 to 7 years, depending on which field of medicine you choose. You can obtain a residency through a national matching program. Visit for more information on that.  

If you choose to become highly specialized in a particular field, you can also get a few years additional training. This is known as a fellowship. This isn’t necessarily a requirement, but can help set you apart and can do wonders for your career later.

Step 6: Get Your License to Practice Medicine

Once it’s all said and done, you need to get a license to practice medicine in the United States. This must come from the state or jurisdiction in which you are planning to practice. You can also choose to become board certified, which although optional, can help prove you are capable of providing the highest quality of care.


And there you have it. Once you have completed all the steps above, you are ready to start looking at physician jobs in the US. It’s a long hard road, but one that is fulfilling to be sure! Start you search here.


Image source: iStock

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