8 months ago
Admissions Advice

How many years does it take to become a physician?

I'm a freshman who wants to be some sort of physician. I've heard anywhere from 7-14 years, so can anyone give me an accurate quantity? Thanks!

Also, side question: I'm not outstanding (A+) range for math, but I really enjoyed bio, but I don't like physics. I've heard you do math and such in med school and pre-med, so should I be worried about that?


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
8 months ago

Most college students can earn the M.D. diploma in 8 years since Medical School is 4 years on top of Undergraduate School. In the US, there are also 50 accredited BS/MD programs that are accelerated so you can cut your college down to 7 years. There are a couple of programs that are 6 but you go to school all year full-time.

Once you get your diploma you have to do a residency in your specialty which takes from 3 years to 7 years. The simplest one would be a Family Practice or Internal Medicine and the longer ones are if you want to be Surgeons like a Brain Surgeon or Cardio-vascular surgeon.

So the soonest you can be in board-certified doctor with your own patients is 10 years and the longest would be 15 years. If you consider the high cost of medical education you will be anywhere between 28 and 33 by the time you can start paying back those student loans. When you are a resident you get paid but it's in the 40-50K range which will be a very modest living, no different than many undergraduate starting salaries.

You do not have to be a Math whiz to get into medical school as the MCATs have about the same amount and same difficulty of math as the SAT and ACT. But since you want a high MCAT score, you want to study for those. Also, there isn't a lot of physics on the MCAT test as much as Biochemistry topics. So remember that medical schools are highly competitive so you'll want top 98%-99% MCAT scores. Therefore don't assume you can put off learning all your STEM coursework until Medical School because they'll expect you to have some level of mastery prior to starting.

MCAT score ranges are from 472 to 528 and the mean is 500. However, no one gets into Medical school with a 500. You'll need a 520 to get into a Top20 school with an undergraduate unweighted GPA of 3.85 to 3.96. And the acceptance rates are between 2% and 6%. So getting into Medical school is about 2/3 times as hard as getting into a good undergraduate college in comparison. Even medical schools ranked 90-100 have MCATs of 505 to 510 with 3.6/3.8 GPAs and acceptance rates of 4% to 12%.

8 months ago

I agree with many things that @CameronBameron has said in their answer. However, I would like to make a few clarifications. Starting from freshman year of high school, here is the average timeline for a typical medical professions: High school (4 years), Undergraduate (4), Gap year (1-2), Medical school (4), Residency (2-5). The most variable year lengths in this timeline are the Gap year and Residency sections. A gap year is a time when to-be medical students or applicants take a year off after undergrad to strengthen their medical school application with research, pursue non-medical things, pursue higher education in a STEM/nonSTEM field, or work in industry. The residency is essentially a long internship in a hospital system after medical school. Here, you are doing more intensive clinical training in a field that you are interested in pursuing (called a "specialty"). The average family medicine residency is about 2 years, while the average surgical residency is 5 years. Some physicians may even choose to pursue further subspecialty training in a Fellowship which can add another 1-2 years after residency training.

Another thing I would like to clarify is that guaranteed medical programs (with names like BS/MD, BA/MD, BS/DO, etc.) are NOT all 7 years in length. Some can be 6 years and others 8 years, with the variation coming from the length and acceleration of undergraduate years. I will also add that these are very competitive for admissions, with some of the top programs having rates of admissions lower than most Ivy League schools. These programs are NOT a common path for most eventual medical school students.

Finally, my last clarification is in regards to the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This test has 4 sections: Physics/Chemistry, Critical Reading, Biology/Biochemistry and Psychology. There is a need for math primarily in the physics section, but nothing beyond a little advanced algebra or geometry, required for kinematic and fluid dynamics problems. There will always be math in your pre-med courses in undergrad as well as in medical school (for a range of natural science studies), but it definitely something I trust you will pick up with a few hours of studying. The last thing I will say is that the average MCAT score for medical school applicants is a 504 (just above the 80th percentile). So, if you want to apply to schools outside the top 30, there is no need to strive for the perfect score. However, still aim to be well above this average score, have a high GPA and strong resume to prove that you are ready for medical school to admissions committees.

Hope this helps!


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