How To Become a Doctor

If you feel empathy for those in pain, work well with your hands, resourcefully solve problems and excel at science, you may wonder how to become a doctor. Doctors, also known as physicians, are the medical professionals who examine patients and diagnose and treat their medical conditions. Doctors use diagnostic tests to identify medical problems and perform procedures to treat conditions. They can write prescriptions for medications and practice preventive medicine to reduce the risk of future illnesses. Doctors can choose to concentrate in many specialties, such as family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, surgery, anesthesiology, psychiatry and cardiology.

To become a doctor, an advanced education is a must. Doctors have to complete an undergraduate degree, medical school and training in the form of internships and residencies in order to obtain a license to practice medicine. Aspiring doctors typically begin their college educations by earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, pre-medical studies or another science-related field. They must also take an examination called the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, in order to apply for medical school.

Once accepted, aspiring doctors will spend four years in medical school. During the first half of medical school, they learn anatomy, physiology, psychology, biochemistry and ethics and laws. The second half of medical school includes real-world experience making diagnoses and treating patients of all ages in clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities. While doctors may choose from a number of specialties, students typically complete rotations in family practice, internal medicine, surgery, psychology and obstetrics/gynecology. At the end of their medical school education, students earn either a Medical Doctor degree (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (D.O.). They must then complete more medical training through residencies and internships, which can last as long as three to eight years depending on the chosen specialty. Finally, doctors must obtain a state license and pass a national licensing test in order to be qualified to practice medicine.

Primary care physicians earned a median annual salary of $202,392, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Specialists often earn higher salaries than primary care doctors, with a median annual salary of $356,885. Among the highest paid specialists listed by the BLS are obstetricians/gynecologists, who earn $281,190 per year; general surgeons, who earn $343,958; and anesthesiologists, who earn $407,292 per year.

The healthcare industry is rapidly growing. Doctors can look forward to a 24 percent increase in job opportunities between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS, as compared to only 14 percent job growth for all occupations. In addition to the high salaries and increasing employment opportunities, doctors enjoy the opportunity to help the sick and injured and prevent serious medical conditions in well patients. If you pay attention to details, have the physical dexterity to perform procedures accurately with your hands and feel compassion for the sick, knowing how to become a doctor could be your first step toward a fulfilling new career in medicine.

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