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Physician Education Requirements

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Physician education requirements are both lengthy and involved, starting with a four-year undergraduate degree. Medical school candidates are not accepted if they do not complete a four-year undergraduate program. While it is not a requirement, it is generally helpful to have some focus in college on the sciences, since medical schools will look closely at your college classes.

  • Medical school follows college. Medical schools involved another four years of study, and are one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome for prospective physicians. The Medical College Admission Test is a lengthy standardized exam and one of the key hurdles as a physician education requirement. Candidates must also maintain excellent grades in college, submit an essay usually describing their desire to be a doctor, and then go through an interview if a prospective medical school is interested. Many potential physicians are weeded out in the application to medical school: only about half of all applications to the approximately 146 medical schools in the country are accepted.
  • Four years of medical school. The first two years are spent on a full range of science courses conducted in labs and classrooms, covering subjects ranging from anatomy to pathology. In the final two years of medical school, students work with physicians going through rotations and actually dealing with patients as they how to diagnose and treat illnesses.
  • Residency follows medical school. This is a kind of job training that lasts a year and begins after completing medical school. You work full-time and this is the first time you are paid for your work. To become a practicing physician, you must be licensed. For medical doctors, that involves a three-step test called the United States Medical Licensing Examination. However, most doctors do not begin their practice after becoming licensed.
  • Internship focuses on specialty medicine. After the residency, you move into an internship in an area of medicine where you hope to practice full time. Internships vary depending on the medical specialty, usually lasting between 2 and 7 years. For example, an internship in family practice medicine usually last 2 to 3 years, while a general surgery internship usually lasts about 5 years. In both situations, however, candidates learn while working with fully trained physicians. Another necessary element for physician education is certification, if a specialty path is chosen. Doctors can become certified by passing an examination by one of the specialty boards of the American Board of Medical Specialists.
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