So, you want to become a doctor. Well, be prepared to spend a lot of time buried in books and then in a hospital. It is also very expensive to become a physician; most people have to take out large loans and then they spend many years during residency and beyond paying them back.
The decision to become a medical doctor should be made after you have spent time researching the profession and the steps it takes to embark on the long, arduous, challenging and very competitive career path. It is one of the hardest professions to attain in the United States--and it not only takes passion, dedication and personal and financial sacrifices--it also entails lifelong learning and continuous examinations. Be prepared to study, study, study, then be prepared to study some more.
Do your research and find out as much as you can from the Internet, local libraries and book stores on how to enter medical schools and what exams and credentials are required for the admissions programs.
Start early. The best time to embark on this medical path is early in childhood. If you know you are interested in entering the medical profession, then perform well in academics and try to keep a high grade-point average. In high school, study a lot of science including biology, chemistry and physics. Math courses including algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus are also useful. For very dedicated and academically motivated children, there are a few medical programs that offer a guaranteed path into accredited medical schools known as the Bachelor-Medical Doctorate (BS-MD) programs; these allow exceptional students to compete and be chosen to enter a medical program straight after graduating from high school. In college, maintain a high grade-point average. The competition for medical school is intense. College students must study a lot of science, including organic and inorganic chemistry, math and English. Studying humanities and social sciences in college is also useful.
Research all the medical schools and medical programs available in the United States and look at the requirements for admission. Each college or university has different requirements and prerequisites for passing, so find out the specifics and make a ranking list of the top 10 to 20 medical schools you would like to apply to.
Highlight your overall qualities when applying. When the admissions committee at the medical school receives the application from a potential candidate, the members will look at the person's academic and personal profile and background. Some of the important qualities expected of a medical doctor are compassion, social awareness and volunteerism. Start building a history of volunteer work in local communities and hospitals and be involved and proactive in global issues and charities.
Score and rank high on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This is one very important and necessary requirement for all potential pre-medical applicants before they can be selected for an interview at most U.S. medical schools. There are special review courses offered throughout the country that help pre-medical students study for the MCAT, of which Sylvan Learning Centers is one.
Try to obtain a part-time position or volunteer for a research position at a university, college or research hospital to become a stronger and more competitive applicant. It would show the selection committee that you are serious and committed to this path, especially if your research projects get published in a medical journal or if you have experience in presenting at medical conferences and seminars.
Be prepared to study. Being a medical doctor is a lifelong activity and you will take exams year after year throughout your professional career.
Get your finances in order. Becoming a doctor means taking out large financial loans or funds from your own personal accounts. The medical profession requires not only years of studying and large financial expenses, but also a readiness and willingness to work long and irregular hours.
Complete the four years of medical school, then apply for a residency program in the United States to become licensed to practice. You must take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) before you can apply for a residency program. Most programs are four to six years, depending on the specialty. Some residency programs, such as those to become a neurosurgeon, can last even longer.
Obtain your medical degree from another country and then apply for a residency program as a Foreign Medical Graduate, if you have tried and have been unsuccessful in entering a U.S. medical program. There are medical schools in Europe and the Caribbean that will offer you this choice. The company Source America has more than a decade of experience in application processing, student relocation and international program oversight, and it can be the stepping stone for many future doctors in the United States. Source America guides students in applying to medical school and in becoming successful practicing physicians in the United States or in Europe.
- It is difficult and competitive to enter a medical program in the United States if you are an older pre-medical student. Most of the U.S. medical schools have age restrictions or make it very difficult for mature applicants to pass their requirements. In these cases, consider medical programs outside the United States.
- Several Caribbean-based medical schools have been graduating medical students who have successfully entered and completed U.S. residency programs and are practicing medicine in the U.S.
- Be prepared to have another career plan in case you don't succeed in becoming a doctor.