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The Path to Medicine

The path to becoming a healthcare professional is winding and can be filled with uncertainty, but the good news is that there are many options and opportunities to participate in healthcare. The National Institute of Healthcare Policy (NIHP) identifies six different types of healthcare providers: Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, Administrators, Technicians, and Therapists. Within each are many career options, each with its own unique path. Here we’ll be discussing the typical path a person will take to becoming a doctor, either MD or DO.

The simple version is this: get a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year university, then go on to an MD or DO program, and you’ll graduate as a physician-in-training. Pretty straightforward. The REAL path looks more like this: get a Bachelor’s degree (4 years), take the MCAT and apply to medical schools (0-3 years usually), graduate from an MD or DO program (4 years), attend a residency program (2-7 years), earn your board certification, and subspecialize (optional, usually 1-3 more years).

During medical school, you will take steps 1 and 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE. Step 1 is taken between years 2 and 3, and Step 2 is taken in year 4. Put this all together, and you have the winding and uncertain path to becoming a doctor! If this seems daunting, that’s because it is. Becoming a doctor is not easy, but this process that I laid out takes over a decade, and just as you prepared for and tackled (or will tackle) all the obstacles that school and life have already presented you with, you’ll prepare for and tackle each step of this journey if being a doctor is your chosen path.

In future newsletters, we’ll look further into each step of the way, starting with how to make the most of your four years in college and then will focus on applying to and getting into a medical school. More to come soon!