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Stages in Becoming a Doctor

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Becoming a doctor is an arduous process that involves the completion of several stages. The entire process typically takes 11 years after high school, although it may be longer depending on which medical specialty you pursue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for general practitioners in the United States was $186,044 as of 2008, while specialists averaged $339,738.

Undergraduate Studies

Aspiring doctors should first attain a bachelor's degree and earn excellent grades. According to the MomMD website, medical school acceptance trends are shifting away from a science-heavy curriculum to one emphasizing non-science fields--such as philosophy--for the purpose of developing doctors with greater "people skills." However, courses such as chemistry (including laboratory work), biology and physics are still required.

Medical School Admission

To gain entry into virtually any medical school in the United States, candidates need to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The best time to take the test is in April of your junior year in college, as most medical schools begin to evaluate candidates a year in advance. The four parts of the test include physical sciences, verbal reasoning, biological sciences and writing samples.

Medical School

Medical school consists of an additional four years of study. The first two years are comprised of intensive classroom training. Grading is often based on a pass/fail system, as opposed to letter grades. Years three and four involve hands-on patient care and include rotations through the different areas of medicine, such as psychiatry and surgery.


During the medical student's fourth year of medical school, she is assigned to a residency program through a national matching program. A residency is essentially an on-the job training program where residents work under close supervision by experienced physicians. A residency can last from three to seven years depending on the resident's field of specialization.

Entering Practice

Upon completion of the residency program, the doctor must complete any licensing requirements of the state in which he wishes to practice, which may include a combination of written tests and practical work experience. When licensed, the doctor is then ready to enter into private practice or become part of a hospital staff.


Chris Joseph writes for websites and online publications, covering business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing from York College of Pennsylvania.

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