Pathways Into Medicine – 12 steps to become a doctor (USA)


Step 1: Premed undergraduate degree

All medical school applicants must have pre-med bachelor’s degrees from approved schools; this typically lasts 4 years.

Step 2: Apply to medical school

The first step of applying to medical school is to research the schools that you’re interested in and make sure you meet their requirements.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to write your personal statement. This is your chance to tell your story and explain why you want to become a doctor. Be sure to proofread your essay carefully before submitting it.

After you have completed your premed coursework, you will be able to study and take the MCAT exam and also submit your medical school application. With some preparation and hard work, you can submit a strong application and give yourself a chance to achieve your dream of becoming a doctor.

Step 3: Complete the first two years of medical school

The next step in becoming a doctor is to start medical school. The curriculum is split between science lessons taught in the classroom and clinical rotations where students develop practical medical skills.

Step 4: Pass the first part of The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)

Students must pass the USMLE, a three-part exam taken during and after medical school, to practice medicine in the US. Before starting their third year, medical students must pass part 1 of the exam.

Step 5: Finish medical school (Years 3 and 4)

Step 6: Take the second part of the USMLE

Step 7: Complete your first postgraduate year (PGY) as an Intern

Your first post-graduate year of medical residency begins as an intern. You will rotate across several medical specialties. This will broaden your medical knowledge and help you decide on a specialty. 

Step 8: Take the third part of the USMLE

USMLE Step 3 follows your first year of residency. This is the final exam in the USMLE series, which tests medical school graduates’ biomedical and clinical science knowledge for unsupervised medical practice.

Step 9: Complete your residency (PGY 2 -7)

During the final two years of residency training, residents focus on a specific medical specialty

Step 10: (Optional): Complete a fellowship

Many doctors may choose to complete a fellowship in a specific area of medicine. Fellowships are competitive and offer in-depth knowledge and experience in a field. Essays, letters of recommendation, and interviews are common application requirements.  It is important to start the process early and give yourself plenty of time to prepare. With hard work and dedication, you can increase your chances of being accepted into the program of your choice.

Step 11: Board Certification

Medical education does not end when a doctor graduates from school. In order to be fully certified in their chosen field, physicians must pass a written and, in some cases, oral examination administered by one of 24 specialist boards. These boards offer certification in hundreds of specializations and subspecialties, ensuring that doctors are competent in the latest medical advances. The board certification process helps to ensure that patients receive the highest quality of care possible.

Step 12: Get a state license

Next doctors will need a state medical license after certification. State medical boards issue the licenses. Doctors will need a state medical license after certification.  State licensure requirements vary, but all require medical school graduation and board certification. Doctors must pass state-specific exams in some states. Doctors can practice once granted a license. Medical licenses ensure that only qualified and competent doctors can practice.

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