Doctors are responsible for a variety of healthcare related tasks including examining patients, taking medical histories, prescribing medication and performing diagnostic tests. In addition to these basic tasks, they also counsel patients regarding diet, hygiene and preventive healthcare. The amount of time it takes to become a doctor is dependent on various factors, including the specialty you choose.
What Does a Doctor Do
The duties of a doctor are also dependent on the chosen specialty. For instance, surgeons operate on patients to treat various illnesses and diseases. Anesthesiologists focus on surgical patients and pain relief methods. Family and general physicians examine and treat various kinds of illnesses that occur in daily life.
General internists are responsible for diagnosing and administering nonsurgical treatment for a range of problems related to internal organs. General pediatricians take care of infants, children and teenagers and specialize in diagnosing problems in this particular population demographic. Obstetricians and gynecologists provide healthcare relating to pregnancy, female reproductive systems and childbirth. Psychiatrists primarily deal with health issues relating to the mind.
Other common specialties or subspecialties include allergists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, radiologists and pathologists.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Doctor
To become a doctor, you will have to fulfill a certain set of requirements. The following guide sheds some light on these, along with an estimation of the time it takes to complete each phase.
- Bachelor’s Degree – 4 Years
This is the start of a long educational journey for aspiring doctors. No specific major is required at this stage. However, students are recommended to take up courses in biology, chemistry, physics, English and math. This would help create a strong foundation for future medical studies. Students are also encouraged to apply for internships in local hospitals and clinics to gain experience in a healthcare setting.
- Medical School – 4 Years
To get into a medical school, students will have to clear the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). They will have to submit scores from this test, along with college transcripts and letters of recommendation. Once you clear the admissions and interviews phase, you are likely to get an offer letter from a medical college. This 4-year long degree involves 2 years of classroom and lab studies, where students take courses such as biochemistry, anatomy, medical ethics, medicine law and psychology. During the last 2 years of this degree, medical students are required to get some hands-on experience by working with actual patients in real-world medical facilities, under the supervision of trained and experienced doctors. These two years also have rotations, whereby students are taught the ins and outs of various medical specialties.
- Licensing – Up to 6 to 7 Months
The amount of time it takes to clear the licensing process varies by state, since the licensing process is also different for each state. For instance, the average time for obtaining a medical license in Alabama is 6 to 8 weeks, but it could take up to 6 months. Similarly, Florida has a timeline of 2 to 6 months from the time of the receipt of application. The licensing process for doctors in every state can be found on their official medical board websites. Having a look at the process for the state you are applying for will give you a good idea of what kind of time investment you are looking at.
- Training – 2 to 6 Years
Once you have cleared all the requirements to become a general doctor, you may go for a specialization. With a specialization, you can avail higher paying employment opportunities. You can enter a residency program in your specialty of interest. The duration of this residency would vary depending on the chosen specialty.
How Much Does a Doctor Make in the US
As per 2018 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physicians and Surgeons in the US made an annual median income of more than $208,000. This is the highest pay bracket for any occupational category on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Anesthesiologists and Gynecologists also enjoyed very high salaries.