To become a physician, a lengthy educational process is required. Aspiring doctors must first earn a bachelor's degree, usually with a strong emphasis in science. After completing an undergraduate program, students must undertake another four years of study.
To be admitted to medical school, students must have a high grade point average (often between 3.5 and 4.0) and score well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Many medical schools have science prerequisites that students must have completed before being admitted. The Ohio State University College of Medicine, for example, requires students have a year each of undergraduate chemistry, organic chemistry with a lab, physics with a lab, and biology.
Once a student completes medical school, they must complete a residency period of three to seven years. The residency is required to become licensed to practice as a physician. Length of residency depends on the specialty; pediatrics at Hasbro Medical Center through Brown University, for example, requires only three years, while the neurosurgery program at Yale New Haven Hospital is seven years.
Many doctors opt to pursue a fellowship after completing the residency for additional training and specialization. This is an ideal path for those interested in subspecialties, such as gastroenterology.
Physicians must become licensed by their state in order to practice medicine. The Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing requires all physicians have a medical degree from a LCME-accredited school as well as at least 24 months in a residency program. Some states also have testing requirements.
Board certification is also an option that many physicians seek out. The American Board of Medical Specialties offers certification from 24 boards in 36 specialties and 88 subspecialties.
Continuing education is extremely important in the medical field. Not only do most states require a certain number of continuing education credits per year to maintain licensure, but it is important for physicians to stay on top of current research and advancements in the field.