It’s very common for aspiring doctors to start their medical education right after undergraduate degree, which is when they are in their early twenties. But what if you want to pursue medicine at a later stage in life? What are your options?
Many older professionals who want to make the career switch might feel that it’s too late for them. They may be apprehensive because their previous jobs may have been irrelevant to the medical field.
The years of real-world experience and knowledge you have gained throughout your professional life will enhance your new career goals. If you’re wondering whether you’re too old or if it’s too late to become a doctor, read this article.
Things to Consider Before Switching to a Medical Career
- Duration of education and training: Medical school is four years, and residency will be another three to eight years, depending on your specialisation.
- Financial costs: The cost of a medical education is quite steep, but the money you have earned throughout your career can help ease some of the financial burden. You need to consider for how many years you plan to practice as a doctor and the return on your investment during that time.
- Health and wellbeing: Medical school and residency involve rigorous coursework and long study and work hours. If you’re planning to start medical school later in life, you should keep in mind the status of your personal health and determine whether your health will get in the way.
- Understand the process of making the switch: After working for many years, you may not be used to the student life as it involves studying, taking exams, attending interviews etc. The steps to becoming a doctor are quite complex, with each step getting harder as you move forward. It’s important that you understand the process thoroughly so you’re mentally prepared for the road ahead. Let’s take a look at the steps involved.
Steps to Becoming a Doctor Later in Life
UNDERSTAND THE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS
The first step in your journey to becoming a doctor is to go through the admission requirements of various medical schools. This will help you plan and focus on what you need to do to improve your application.
COMPLETE PRE-MED COURSES
Most medical schools require you to have completed certain courses in chemistry, biology, and other related sciences at an undergraduate level, so enroll in pre-med courses to gain a strong foundation in these subjects.
WRITE THE MCAT
The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is an important criteria that medical schools consider when admitting new students. The higher your score, the better your chances of admission.
GAIN MEDICAL EXPERIENCE
Gain relevant medical experience, like volunteering at a hospital, shadowing a doctor, or getting a clinical job in a hospital or medical facility.
APPLY TO MEDICAL SCHOOLS
Apply to medical schools after taking the MCAT. You can apply to as many as you want, but keep in mind that you will be up against stiff competition.
After the MCAT scores are out, and based on other aspects of your application, medical schools will shortlist you for an interview. Attend as many as you can, even if it’s a school you’re not very keen on enrolling in.
ENROLL IN A MEDICAL SCHOOL
After the interview, you will be notified if you have been accepted or not. If you’ve been accepted, great news. But don’t worry if you’re rejected. Being rejected means you can figure out ways to improve your application, and try again.
ENROLL IN A RESIDENCY PROGRAM
Post medical school, you will have to get into a residency program. Residency is a process in which new doctors practice and train under an experienced doctor. Residency takes three to eight years, depending on the specialisation, and is one of the final steps towards becoming a doctor.
Choosing to make the career switch to medicine at the age of 40 or later can be daunting, but it’s not impossible. The skills you’ve acquired over the years, such as communication, problem-solving, the ability to work well in a team, and other attributes that look good on a resume, are useful to have when switching to the medical field.