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What To Expect on the Path To Becoming a Doctor

Becoming a doctor takes years of planning and years of schooling to achieve. If you don’t go into the journey with a general understanding of what to expect, it can quickly become overwhelming. Getting your questions answered early gives you a clear line of sight into what exactly it takes to become a medical professional and can help you make the decision about whether or not you feel this is the right choice for you. So what are the most important questions for you to answer before deciding if becoming a doctor is the right career path?

What College Major Should You Have?

A common misconception is that college students can just major in “pre-med”. In fact, there is no such major and thus a student must choose a major that allows them to get all of the prescribed courses necessary. There are a variety of college majors that you can have in order to be accepted into medical school. They can range anywhere from biology to psychology to neuroscience. The key is to be looking ahead at medical schools which you would like to attend and ensure that your course load encompasses all of their requirements. There is a great deal of overlap in these requirements but it is important to realize that every medical school may have slightly different set of specifications.

What Should Your GPA Be?

Your Grade Point Average (GPA) in college is a good indicator about what type of student you are and can play a deciding role in whether or not you are accepted to a particular medical program. Because some students who go on to medical school do not major in science fields, the average GPA varies. Typically, GPA’s over 3.6 are viewed as favorable if you major in a science while non science majors should shoot for a GPA exceeding 3.7 in order to increase their chances of medical school acceptance.

How Do You Study For The MCATs?

One of the most important determining factors of whether or not you will be accepted into a medical school is your ability to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This often requires months of studying on a rigorous schedule and is considered by some to be the hardest test a student can take. There are a ton of available study tools available both for free and for a small fee such as Kaplan MCAT test prep materials. Although the amount of time you should study for the test depends on the individual student, it is far better to be over prepared than it is to be under prepared for such an important exam.

How Expensive Is Medical School?

The cost of medical school varies depending on the school you attend, the type of medicine that you choose to study, and the number of years it takes you to complete medical school. Most recently, a national survey found that the total cost for a four year medical degree can run roughly $250,000. Luckily, there are many grants and scholarships available for those who may be wary of the high price tags associated with medical school. In addition to this, you should do research about what your expected salary will be upon graduation and develop a plan to pay back any medical school student loans you may incur.

How Long Is Medical School?

Again, the answer to this question is largely dependent upon a variety of factors. This includes, but is not limited to, your specific area of medical interest, the course load you are willing to take on in any given semester, and the specific criteria of the medical school you attend. This criteria can differ from school to school but all accredited medical schools must adhere to the same set of minimum standards. Typically, medical school lasts between four and five years for most students.

When Do You Truly Become A Doctor?

Unfortunately, just graduating medical school does not mean that you’re officially a doctor and ready to practice. There are a few more hurdles for you to overcome that are perhaps equally as challenging as medical school itself. Ideally, you will be matched with the residency program of your choice in your final year of medical school. This is the hospital where you will be completing your multi-year residency in a specific field. This residency will largely shape the rest of your medical career as it is when you begin to specialize in a sector of the medical field. The length of your residency depends on many factors and can last anywhere from three to eight years. Depending on your specific field of practice, upon completing your residency, you are officially a doctor. Other specialties require even further training and certifications in order to officially practice.

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