Do you want to become a doctor, but aren't sure of the steps to take?

Becoming a doctor in the US isn't an easy process, but it's worth it!

Steps to Become a Doctor: Education

You can start learning to become a doctor as early as high school. Medical training for a doctor can take 10-14 years beyond high school.

School Building

High School

Here are steps you can take to prepare while in high school:

  • extracurricular activities that build leadership skills

  • advanced studies to build math and science knowledge

  • prepare for standardized college entrance exams

College Building

Undergraduate Degree

Completing a 4 year degree is the first formal step towards becoming a doctor for most people. While in your undergraduate program, it's important to:

  • earn a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, if possible

  • complete your course program's pre-med requirements

  • take and pass the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test)

  • apply to medical schools during your senior year

Medical School Book

Medical School

Medical school won't be the same experience as your undergrad program. While in medical school, it's important that you:

  • take two years of classroom-based learning

  • complete hands-on training and research opportunities

  • take electives related to your chosen specialty

It's important that you maintain good grades as each school will have high grade standards. 📝

Work to build relationships with professors who can serve as mentors or write letters of recommendation. 🤝


Jody is beginning 12th grade. She wants to become a doctor. Which extracurricular activity would be suitable?

Steps to Become a Doctor: Training & Certifications

Medical training will be a major part of your education, and you'll receive extensive "hands-on training" and interactions with "real" patients.

Two doctors review medical data. Photo by Accuray on Unsplash

Once your training is complete, you'll then need to become a licensed, board-certified doctor.

Medical Personnel

In-School Training

During the last 2 years of medical school start to:

  • gain hands-on experience with patients in a variety of medical areas

  • choose or narrow down a specialtyfor your skillset



The length of the residency depends upon your specialty:

  • typically about 3-7 years long

  • patient care, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment



This requires completing all medical training, residency, and the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

  • 3rd year of medical school: pass Part I of the USMLE (basic medical principles)

  • 4th year of medical school: pass Part II of the USMLE (onset of illness and medical diagnoses)

  • before completing your residency: pass Part III of the USMLE (clinical management and safety practices)

Obtain board certification in your chosen specialty after completing the USMLE.

Steps to Become a Doctor: Skills Needed

Doctors regularly conduct medical procedures and interact with patients. This requires a variety of technical and soft skills.

A doctor checking a patient who is unwell.


Technical skills — taught throughout medical school and training

  • assess symptoms and provide diagnosis

  • utilize the tools necessary for the trade

  • keep up to date on medical research

  • evaluate patient data and analyze test results

  • administer treatments and medication

Two Hands Holding a Heart

Soft skills — personal attributes that can be improved upon with practice

  • ability to stay calm under stressful situations

  • listening and effective communication

  • problem-solving and critical thinking

  • interpersonal skills (empathy, patience, compassion)

Advice From a Pro on How to Become a Doctor

Follow these personal tips on becoming a doctor from Dr Susan Hecker:

A doctor saying,

  • choose an area of practice that you'll enjoy

  • monitor andpay off student debt before making big purchases

  • continue friendships outside the medical field for work/life balance

  • ask questions, if unsure of what to do or what is needed

  • avoid burnout, maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine

  • remain humble and provide excellent patient care

  • find a balance between science and common sense

And, remember, you won't be able to save every patient.

Take Action

Set yourself up for success on your journey to become a doctor.

A sign that says, Turn ideas into reality. Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash


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