As children, almost everyone is asked this question: what do you want to become when you grow up? And most of the time, many children would have replied: I want to become a doctor. But only a few follow through on this aim as adults, primarily because of the many things it involves to become a doctor.
Let’s just put this straight: Becoming a doctor is not easy. The doctor profession involves dedication and commitment, which begins right from school and doesn’t end even when one completes a bachelors in medicine and until later specialisations. So it’s no wonder that only a few of those who are willing to put in the hard work and have a genuine love for service and care excel in this field.
But once you reach the summit, you’ll know that the effort was worth it. Doctors are one of the highest earners in any job market. There’s never a dearth of jobs for doctors, and we sure don’t need to tell you the respect, pride and satisfaction attached to the profession. So, once you get there, the only way your career can go is upward.
So, what are the steps to become a doctor? There are quite a few, so make sure you read this guide carefully.
Do well in school
This advice goes even generally, if you want to have a good career in other fields. But when we speak about the doctor profession, performing well in school is all the more important.
If you have a good academic record in school, your chances of doing well in the crucial final exams and cracking the entrance test to enter a good medical school are increased. Once you are enrolled into a course, there will be plenty of studying to do and many core subjects to master. If your grounding in dedicated studying and learning is weak, you will be lost on your journey, and the general tips for how to become a doctor may not work out for you. Believe us when we say that there is plenty to learn and practice in this profession, so you must start early.
Concentrate on science subjects
Do you want to know what subjects are needed to become a doctor? It’s mostly physics, chemistry, biology and maths. Some of us are attracted to these subjects from an early age and do well in them. Others, however, gradually come around to liking them and then start doing well. Whatever the case may be, one cannot become a doctor without these core subjects. You could earn a PhD and have “Dr.” before your name, but that’s a totally different career trajectory. A good score in these subjects and their combinations will put you in good stead in taking the first steps in achieving your goal.
Ace your high school exams and entrance tests
Medical schools have their own admission requirements. Mostly, these would be in the form of a particular cut-off in the qualifying grade 12 or equivalent exams and scores in an aptitude test. In India, for example, students need to get 50% in the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test or NEET, the gateway to all medical courses in the country. Additionally, they need to pass their grade 12 with at least 50% to be eligible for the NEET in the first place. Moreover, students from different social categories have different cut-offs in this test.
For colleges in the US, you will have to appear for the SAT or ACT and score well. You’ll also need a good GPA and a good score in the MCAT exams.
These are the surest ways, and the first steps on how to become a doctor.
In the Caribbean nations that are becoming popular for medical education, students don’t need to pass any entrance tests. However, such colleges may have specific requirements. The American University of Antigua College of Medicine or AUA, for example, has a minimum requirement of 70% in a grade 12 or an equivalent exam.
Select a good college
There are many factors that will help you determine which college you want to go to. Some might choose colleges based on rankings, such as from a list of top-ranked medical colleges in a country compiled by a credible agency. Others, however, might choose convenience over ranking, such as a college that is not only in the same city that you are presently in but is also a decent one.
Some aspirants might choose to go abroad. Doing this is becoming an increasingly viable option with medical education becoming affordable abroad. It’s safe to say that students have choices both within and outside their country. Whatever college you choose, make sure to do a thorough research on the history, list of alumni and college track record. You can also visit the college in person and ask existing students or a verified agency about their experience of studying there. It is crucial to make sure what and where you are getting in because you’ll be there for 5–6 odd years.
Bachelors in Medicine
Congratulate yourself for getting into a college because there are only so many people who make it this far. But don’t rest on your laurels yet. There’s plenty of work ahead and you’re just getting started.
What courses should I take to become a doctor, you ask? You don’t need to worry about it because once you enrol, you’ll know all about them.
In MBBS or bachelors of medicine, you will have to take up courses categorised under preclinical, which includes subjects such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, and para-clinical, which includes community medicine, forensic medicine, pharmacology, pathology and microbiology, to name a few. Lastly, the clinical subjects will be psychiatry, dermatology, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology.
In case you choose to study in a foreign university, the process will be slightly different. When we speak about the doctor profession in the US, for example, it’s very different from that in India. You’ll have to enrol into a four-year pre-med programme that will involve core science subjects like biology, organic chemistry and calculus. This is a route you need to take to get into a medical school in the US. So, for four years of the undergraduate degree, you will be studying health science subjects.
All this will be in preparation to get into medical college. At the AUA, which follows a medical education programme and standard similar to that in the US, the process is more student-friendly for international students. Getting into the doctor profession is tough, but AUA makes it seem easy, especially if you are a student from India. Visit the website to know more.
After you’ve fulfilled all requirements to get into a medical college, you go into a four-year MD degree at the end of which you become a doctor.
One of the most important components of medical education is residency and internships. It’s a chance to put your learning into practical applications. Different institutions have tie-ups with various hospitals where you can do this. At AUA, the course will involve 84 weeks of clinical rotations in US institutions. So, it will also give you a solid real-life application experience.
Choosing a specialisation
After an MBBS degree and residency, a student can choose from the various specialisations in the Master’s programme. One could go for non-surgical specialisations (MD or Doctor in Medicine) like neurology, paediatric, anesthesiology, gynaecology, cardiology and psychiatry. Or they could go for surgical specialisations (MS or Master of Surgery) like paediatric, plastic and cosmetic surgery.
For foreign degrees like in the US, you will have to choose your specialisation during the third and fourth year of your MD programme. Graduates then need to get a license to practise, and the world is out there for you to conquer.