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How Long Does it Take an R.N. to Become an M.D.?

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Nursing exposes medical health professionals to patient care and gives practical experience in hospitals and other clinical settings. Nurses who love the field sometimes feel they could do more as doctors, however, or want to challenge themselves and be more independent. Registered nurses who want to become doctors still face years of additional training, even though their nursing programs may qualify them to transfer credits to their medical school program.

Required Physician Training

Those who wish to become doctors must complete an undergraduate degree, preferably in pre-medicine, as well as four years of training in medical school. Following completion of medical school, physicians must complete residency or internship training, which generally takes anywhere from three to eight years. From start to finish, most doctors take 11 to 16 years to complete their education.

Degree Differences

Registered nurses may have associate, bachelor's or master's degrees. If you have a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing already, you're all set to apply to medical school. If you have just an associate of science in nursing degree, however, you'll need to complete a bridge program. Bridge programs usually take one to three years, depending on whether you enroll in an accelerated program and whether the program awards you a bachelor's degree or a master's degree.

Getting Credit for Classes

Once you are accepted to medical school, you might be able to shave a few classes out of your curriculum if you can show you already took an equivalent course in your nursing program. If you obtained a master's degree, you may be able to get credit for more classes than if you obtained a bachelor's degree. At most, you'll probably only be able to skip a semester or two of classes, but it depends on how intense your nursing programs were.

Bottom Line

Doctors generally need seven to 12 years of training to become licensed, fully independent physicians, not including their undergraduate degree. As a registered nurse, you may be able to shave some time off based on whether some of your nursing classes are equivalent to ones offered in medical school, but this likely will save you only a year at best. If you only have an associate degree, you'll need to add one to three more years of work, making the total time necessary 10 to 15 years. The more specialized you want to be, the more likely it is your training duration will be on the higher end of the time range.


Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website,, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.

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