If you’re considering medical school, you’re probably wondering how long the road is to become a licensed doctor. The journey can take anywhere from 9–15 years, but don’t be discouraged—each stage has its own focus, making the time go by faster than you’d expect. Let’s take a look at each one.

Pre-Med Student (2–4 years)

Before applying to medical school, you’ll have to complete prerequisite coursework, which consists of Biology, Organic Chemistry, and Physics, among other foundational classes. If you know beforehand that practicing medicine is your life’s passion, consider applying to the American International College of Arts and Sciences – Antigua (AICASA), where you can complete pre-medical training in two years—that’s right, in half the time of most programs! Qualified graduates are also guaranteed entry to American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine. Know what that means? No time is lost to preparing for and taking the MCAT, applying to schools and awaiting response, or worse, having to reapply after rejection from those schools.

Medical Student: M1 & M2 (2 years)

After completing Basic Sciences during your first two years of medical school, you’ll be ready to take the USMLE Step 1. Unlike the MCAT, this test actually matters (we’re obviously big MCAT fans) and must be passed before you can proceed to the next stage of your medical education—clinical rotations. Students at most Caribbean medical schools spend a majority of this time in the classroom, but AUA’s clinically integrated curriculum keeps students in state-of-the art simulation labs and exposes them to a variety of clinical scenarios. What better way to prepare for the USMLE Step 1?

Medical Student: M3 & M4 (2 years)

You’ll spend your final two years of medical school as a clinical student at different teaching hospitals, where you’ll learn from and observe their physicians. Core clinical rotations are usually completed during M3, while M4 allows you to choose the rotations that most interest you—so treat your rotations as a sampling of their respective residency programs and start seriously considering your speciality. Take this opportunity to network; it’ll make a difference if you apply to one of these programs. Then it’s time for your next big exam, the USMLE Step 2. You are only eligible for residency after passing this two-part test.

Resident (3–5 years)

Okay, take a breath. You’re almost there! By now you’re a resident and you’ve selected your specialty. That’s a big deal. Residency programs vary in length depending on the specialty you’ve chosen. At the end of your first year, you’ll take the USMLE Step 3 and finally say goodbye to this colossal exam series.

Fellow (1–2 years)

Fellowships, which are optional, are designed for physicians who want to become highly specialized in their field. For example, maybe while completing your pathology residency, you become fascinated by molecular pathology (it happens). To pursue this subspecialty, you’d apply to a fellowship program. Otherwise, you’re in the homestretch and ready to sit for state licensure exams.

Licensed/Board-certified Physician

After obtaining state licensure, you are officially done with exams and living the dream. Unless, of course, you want to become board-certified, a process that’s completely voluntary. Medical licensure basically means you meet the competency requirements to treat and diagnose patients, but with board certification, you’re accepted as an expert in your field.

Be aware of the expected timeline and proud of your accomplishments at each stage. The process does not take a Caribbean medical school graduate any longer than it would for his or her U.S. counterpart. Remember, no one becomes a doctor overnight.

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