Choosing to become a doctor is a serious commitment. This path involves years of education, training, examinations and residencies. Although there may be certain drawbacks to becoming a doctor later in life, the timing may also be beneficial. During their 20s and 30s, many people are also dealing with dating, marriage, pregnancy and entering the adult world of financial stability and career choice. Older adults have often already passed these hurdles and may have more time and freedom to pursue a challenging career change.
How to Become a Doctor Late in Life
Determine a starting point. In order to become a doctor, individuals must complete many prerequisites that include the completion of a high school diploma or a general educational development certificate, as well as a bachelor's degree with specific courses. Therefore, the first step is recognizing a starting point. This may mean enrolling in a four-year university or a community college if this education is not yet complete.
Research options. Once a person knows where to begin, they can start researching their options. If the first step is a bachelor's degree, she should look at universities that offer pre-med courses, often science-based. As an older adult, she might look for colleges that offer flexible courses such as online or weekend classes. However, the major goal should be to find a university that offers the courses required to apply and get into medical school.
Complete the prerequisites. Most universities offer specific undergraduate degree programs for pre-medical students. These courses usually include chemistry, physics, biology and other medical based classes. Many medical schools use grade point average when determining admittance; therefore, it is important to achieve high scores for each class. The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is also important for those desiring acceptance to medical school. Students can take pre-test classes to help prepare.
Gain experience. In addition to education requirements, many medical schools require incoming students to work in a medical setting prior to admission. Older students may ask their primary physician or inquire about volunteer opportunities to fulfill these conditions.
Apply to medical school. Older people may have homes, families and obligations in specific areas and should consider this when applying to medical schools. Due to the challenging nature of medical school admissions, many students apply to several schools and simply attend whichever accepts them. Therefore, late-life students should be open to the possibility of relocating during their graduate studies.
Receive a degree as a doctor of medicine. Medical school typically includes four years of in class and lab study followed by two years of one-on-one work with patients. Older students should be prepared for the time commitment as well as the demanding coursework.
Complete residency and licensure requirements. After medical school, students enroll in a residency program that may continue for as long as eight years. This is a paid position so that the new graduate can gain in-hospital experience while being supervised by other medical doctors. After completion of a residency program, the new doctor must take the United States Medical Licensing Examination.
Find a position. Many new doctors seek hospital positions after graduation. However, this fast-paced environment may be less suitable for an older adult who might consider practicing medicine at private or family practices.