How Long is Medical School?

August 17

Table of Contents

If you are pursuing a medical degree, that means that you are already a diligent and dedicated student. However, knowing what lies ahead and how long it will take to get there can be helpful information.

As for choosing a specialization based on your interests and passions, any doctor will tell you to do so, but it is still a good idea to think about things like the cost of medical school, family planning, and the age at which you will start making money. 

How long is medical school? The answer is, "It depends."

Although each specialty has different standards, all doctors must successfully complete several steps before becoming board-certified, independent physicians.

This article is intended to answer the question, "How long is medical school"? It would help if you went through the different stages before becoming a full-fledged doctor. 

What is the Typical Medical School Timeline?

The standard timetable for medical school begins with an undergraduate degree. By enrolling in AP classes in high school in biology, chemistry, physics, and other sciences, you may get a head start on fulfilling the prerequisites for your undergraduate degree.

Ensure you take the classes you need for medical school as an undergraduate. 

One year of each of the sciences—such as biology, physics, and chemistry—is among them. 

A year of English and at least one semester each of calculus, statistics, or algebra are also required.

A four-year approach is also typical for medical school. Your requirements for medical school may be lowered if you complete extracurricular activities like volunteering in high school.

You must complete pre-clinical education in the classroom before beginning medical school. After that, you can acquire a more practical education through clinical studies.

The lengthy process of applying to medical school begins when you complete your four-year undergraduate degree. The next step is to get used to and graduate from medical school. Additionally, this typically takes four years.

Following graduation, you will complete a residency match that will take three to seven years. The specialty you select will determine how long you'll be a resident.

The overall time needed to become a doctor can be between 10 and 14 years.

How Long is Medical School: Roadmap to Becoming a Doctor 

It is essential to understand when you may start benefiting from your decision to pursue a career as a doctor now that you've made that decision.

For your reference, here are the different stages you must go through during your medical school journey. 

Undergraduate Program – Four Years 

The prerequisite for applying to medical schools is completion of an undergraduate degree. 

Undergraduate programs typically take four years, and aspiring medical students are already preparing during this time.

Even though most medical schools do not demand that applicants have a scientific major, several of their requirements entail a science curriculum. Prerequisites for medical school are most frequently:

  • Biology for one year, with lab experience
  • Chemistry for a year, with lab experience (While some universities require organic chemistry or let you replace one chemistry course with a biochemistry course, others demand both inorganic and organic chemistry courses).
  • Physics for a year, including lab work
  • Math (statistics, calculus, or algebra classes) for at least one semester
  • English for a year

The extracurricular activities and experiences that will help you stand out from the crowd and get admissions committees' attention when they look at your medical school CV should be worked on throughout your premedical years.

You start preparing to become a doctor long before you earn a bachelor's degree. 

Your undergraduate years are crucial for developing clinical experience, working as a doctor's assistant, joining research teams, and giving back to your neighborhood. 

These experiences can assist you in creating some of the abilities that aspiring doctors will need, which must be developed outside the classroom.

Before moving on to the next round, you must apply to medical school, prepare for interviews, and pass exams like the MCAT and CASPer. You will start the following four years of becoming a doctor as soon as you are admitted.

Medical School – Four Years 

There are four phases to the four years you will spend in medical school. Pre-clinical or pre-clerkship, the first two years are primarily made up of coursework. Throughout these two years, you will learn science and clinical skills in a classroom setting.

The USMLE Step 1 is a one-day test after your second year of medical school to demonstrate your comprehension of the concepts and mechanisms underlying health, disease, and treatment.

The following two years are more practical. The clinical rotations and learning from physicians in a hospital are part of the medical school clerkship period. The third year of the medical school comprises core rotations introducing you to several medical specialties.

In your fourth year, you will still be exposed to core rotations. Still, you can also select a specific field or specialty for your processes. You must pass USMLE Step 2, which entails a one-day exam and patient contact, before the conclusion of the fourth year.

The Med Council of Canada Qualifying Exam (MCCQE) Part I is a requirement for practice in Canada. You have up to 15 months before your anticipated graduation date to submit an application for MCCQE Part I.

Residency – Three to Seven Years 

You must finish a residency program after completing medical school. Depending on your medical specialization, you may have to complete an additional six years of training after your first year as an intern.

For instance, pediatric, internal medicine, and family medicine residencies all last three years. Obstetrics/Gynecology, psychiatry, and pathology residencies previous four years each. General surgery, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, and urology provide five-year residencies. Neurosurgery takes seven years, whereas plastic surgery takes around six.

If you are applying for a residency program in the US or Canada, you must do it through ERAS for matching or CaRMS. You will be matched into a residency program using a computer system that considers both your preferences and the programs' preferences. 

When making your list of priorities, you should know which residencies are the most competitive and realistic about your chances of acceptance.

The USMLE Step 3 should be taken following the first year of residency in the US. This licensing test assesses your ability to practice medicine independently. Your state will grant you a medical license if you pass this exam.

To be part of the Licentiate of the Med Council of Canada (LMCC), you must pass the MCCQE Part II and have successfully completed (or be close to finishing) 12 months of postgraduate clinical medical training (residency). 

After completing your residency, you have two options: pursue a fellowship or look for a position as a physician.

Fellowship – One to Two Years

Fellowships are not required (you are already a doctor now!). However, suppose you choose to pursue further education in a field of clinical practice, instruction, or research. In that case, you may consider applying for a medical fellowship.

You must have finished your residency in the specialty you wish to concentrate on and show that you have sufficient clinical expertise to be considered for a fellowship.

Attending Physician

After finishing residency and maybe a fellowship, doctors are called "attendings." They are equipped to launch their own practice because they are entirely licensed, board certified in their field, and certified.

You have made it at this point. Finally.

Is it Possible to Become a Doctor at 30? 

Before the age of 30, it is possible to become a doctor. However, the procedure requires meticulous planning. The sooner you decide to pursue a career in medicine, the more probable you will be able to begin working before you are 30.

Here are a few tips to help you plan ahead to ensure you can be a doctor by the time you reach 30. 

Plan Early

Knowing your medical goals will help you prepare for them in high school so you can get a jump start on your academics and extracurricular obligations.

You must enroll in the appropriate high school courses to prepare for a successful college entry. It helps if you are confident of the direction you want to pursue while selecting an undergraduate degree, medical school, and residency. 

Any modifications can prevent you from graduating from medical school before turning 30.

Pick the Appropriate Undergraduate Programs

Additionally, you must select the appropriate undergraduate major, medical school specialization, and residency programs. 

Once you have decided on a Bachelor's program, you must stick with it because any change to your undergraduate career or delay in graduation could cause you to fall behind.

If you are confident about your goals, you might want to consider BS/MD programs. These programs occasionally provide an accelerated schedule that enables students to finish their undergraduate degree in three instead of four years. 

In some highly unique programs, the combined undergraduate and medical school timetable is even six years. These programs are frequently quite selective and difficult to get into.

Pick a Medical Program That Lasts No More Than Four Years

It is real! There are medical schools that have three-year curricula, including the McMaster Medical School and the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. Although these MD programs are shorter in duration, you should still be ready for a demanding and accelerated curriculum.

Give Your Residency a Thought

The residency you select is crucial to completing your degree by age 30. Some disciplines, like internal medicine and pediatrics, demand that you spend three years as a resident.

The time it takes to become a doctor greatly depends on the chosen residency program. While neurological surgery necessitates a 6- to 7-year residency, internal medicine and pediatrics need three.

Therefore, before selecting a medical specialization, take residency length into account. Family medicine, internal medicine, or shorter residencies may be the best options for you to become a licensed physician more quickly.

Final Thoughts

A medical career requires a tremendous commitment of both time and effort. It would help if you considered school and residency periods when determining the "How long does it take to become a doctor?" question. 

It can take more than ten years to become a doctor. But you will experience a sense of accomplishment along the way. 

Being a doctor will be worth the time it takes. You can set your objectives and deadlines with preparation and research. 

Ultimately, you decide how long it will take to become a doctor. When wearing a white coat, stethoscope, and a medical license around your neck, you will understand how worthwhile even the most minor sacrifices have been.

Additional FAQs – Medical School Length

How Long Do I Need to Study Before Becoming a Doctor?

In the US, you must finish a four-year undergraduate program, spend four years in medical school, and then work as a resident for three to seven years. 

To become a doctor, you must study and work between 10 and 14 years.

Can I Take a Year Off After I Graduate from Undergraduate School?

You can take a gap year after graduation if you need extra time to prepare for medical school. Your prospects of getting into medical school will not be impacted. Utilizing your time to improve your application's competitiveness might even be beneficial.

What Makes Becoming a Doctor Such a Long Process?

Because it requires so much schooling and responsibility, being a doctor takes many years. 

Before practice, physicians must have a license. Only after completing the required training and experience can you obtain a permit.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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