How do you become a medical doctor (MD)?

To become a physician in the United States, you should graduate from a 4-year college or university. (Although a 4-year degree is not always a requirement, it is highly recommended.) After you graduate from a 4-year college or university with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree, you go to medical school for 4 years.

The first two years of medical school are primarily spent attending biomedical science classes. The courses taken in the first two years include Gross Anatomy, Physiology, Neuroscience, Microbiology, Pharmacology, and others. After the second year in medical school, medical students take an exam called USMLE Step 1, which covers all basic sciences material that is taught in the first two years of medical school. After passing USMLE Step 1 you enter the second half of medical school. The last two years of medical school are spent both taking classes and on clinical rotations in hospitals. This is where you get hands on training under the guidance of physicians. During the fourth year, most students take the USMLE Step 2 exam, which tests clinical knowledge. Successful performance on USMLE Step 2 is required in order to receive the M.D. degree.

After four years of medical school, you graduate with a M.D. degree in medicine but you still cannot practice medicine. You must spend anywhere from 2 to 8 years more in residency, depending on medical specialty or subspecialty you want to pursue. If you want to be a generalist physician/family physician/primary-care physician you need to spend 2-3 years after medical school in residency training. If you want to specialize in some area of medicine, i.e. surgery, urology, cardiology or oncology, your residency will be anywhere from 3-8 years depending on the medical specialty you choose to pursue. As a resident you are in training, but you are employed earning a modest income. During your residency you must pass USMLE Step 3 in order to be state-certified for practice of medicine. USMLE Step 3 covers clinical thinking and clinical management.


Physician Salaries Pre-Med Timeline