Formal education and training requirements for physicians
are among the most demanding of any occupation -- 4 years of
undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and 3 to 8 years of
internship and residency, depending on the specialty selected. A few
medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs
that last 6 rather than the customary 8 years.
Premedical students must
complete undergraduate work in physics, biology, mathematics, English,
and inorganic and organic chemistry. Students also take courses in the
humanities and the social sciences. Some students volunteer at local
hospitals or clinics to gain practical experience in the health
minimum educational requirement for entry into a medical school is 3
years of college; most applicants, however,
have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have advanced degrees. There
are 129 medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical
Education (LCME). The LCME is the national accrediting body for M.D.
medical education programs. The American Osteopathic Association
accredits schools that award a D.O. degree; there were 25 schools
accredited in 31 locations in the United States.
Acceptance to medical
school is highly competitive. Applicants must submit transcripts, scores
from the Medical College Admission Test, and letters of recommendation.
Schools also consider an applicant's character, personality, leadership
qualities, and participation in extracurricular activities. Most schools
require an interview with members of the admissions committee.
Students spend most of
the first 2 years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms,
taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology,
psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and laws governing
medicine. They also learn to take medical histories, examine patients,
and diagnose illnesses. During their last 2 years, students work with
patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals
and clinics, learning acute, chronic, preventive, and rehabilitative
care. Through rotations in internal medicine, family practice,
obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery, they
gain experience in the diagnosis and treatment of illness.
medical school, almost all M.D.s enter a residency -- graduate medical
education in a specialty that takes the form of paid on-the-job
training, usually in a hospital. Most D.O.s serve a 12-month rotating
internship after graduation and before entering a residency, which may
last 2 to 6 years.
All States, the
District of Columbia, and U.S. territories license physicians. To be
licensed, physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school,
pass a licensing examination, and complete 1 to 7 years of graduate
medical education. Although physicians licensed in one State usually can
get a license to practice in another without further examination, some
States limit reciprocity. Graduates of foreign medical schools generally
can qualify for licensure after passing an examination and completing a
M.D.s and D.O.s
seeking board certification in a specialty may spend up to 7 years in
residency training, depending on the specialty. A final examination
immediately after residency or after 1 or 2 years of practice also is
necessary for certification by a member board of the American Board of
Medical Specialists (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).
The ABMS represents 24 specialty boards, ranging from allergy and
immunology to urology. The AOA has approved 18 specialty boards, ranging
from anesthesiology to surgery. For certification in a subspecialty,
physicians usually need another 1 to 2 years of residency.
physician's training is costly. According to the Association of American
Medical Colleges, up to 80 percent of medical school
graduates are in debt for educational expenses.
People who wish to
become physicians must have a desire to serve patients, be
self-motivated, and be able to survive the pressures and long hours of
medical education and practice. Physicians also must have a good bedside
manner, emotional stability, and the ability to make decisions in
emergencies. Prospective physicians must be willing to study throughout
their career in order to keep up with medical advances.
on Medical Education is the nationally recognized accrediting authority
for medical education programs leading to the M.D. degree in U.S. and
Canadian medical schools. The LCME is sponsored by the Association of
American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association. The
following is a list of the accredited M.D.-granting U.S. medical
schools. Be sure to check with the Committee for updates and
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.