While anyone who has earned a PhD – which is a doctorate – can call themselves a doctor, when most people refer to a "doctor," they are talking about a person trained in medicine. Any medical career requires a lot of education and training, however, the road to becoming a doctor is a bit shorter for some, like family-medicine doctors, podiatrists and chiropractors.
All medical doctors require a great deal of education and on-the-job training in a residency program before they can get their licenses. To become an M.D., you will need four years of undergraduate school, or pre-med, then four years of medical school; then you must work as an intern in a residency program for at least three years.
To become a family-medicine doctor, or general practitioner, you need only three years of residency before you can apply for your state license. Some specialists may only require three or four years of residency, while others require seven years. Those who want to go even further and develop a sub-specialty, like a heart surgeon, may choose to take a fellowship, which adds another year or two to their training.
Family-medicine doctors earned a median income of $241,273 in 2014.
Physicians who choose to go into a specialty will find the length of residency varies. Specialists in pediatrics and internal medicine usually need to work three years in residency. Specialists in emergency medicine and physical medicine may need three to four years, depending on the state where they practice.
Specialists in obstetrics-gynecology, pathology, psychiatry and anesthesiology usually need four years of residency. Orthopedic surgeons, otolaryngologists and urologists generally require five years of residency. Neurosurgeons need seven years of residency. In 2014, anesthesiologists were the highest-paid doctors, with a median income of $443,859.
Podiatrists provide medical care for the feet, ankles and legs. This includes diagnosis of illnesses and injuries, treatment and even surgery. To become a podiatrist, you need to be licensed by the state. This requires getting a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, or DPM, and then completing a three-year residency. In 2016, podiatrists earned a median income of $124,830.
Chiropractors help patients by treating their neuromusculoskeletal systems, including the bones, nerves, muscles and tendons, often by physically manipulating the joints. When people suffer neck or back pain, they often choose to see a chiropractor. To become a chiropractor, you need at least three years of undergraduate college, then a four-year program to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree. Chiropractors need to be licensed by the state. The median income for chiropractors in 2016 was $67,520.