If you have chosen to pursue a career in medicine, it is absolutely imperative that you understand what it takes to be an aspiring doctor. Apart from consistent passion and commitment, it is also necessary for you to know how long is medical school and what it would be like.
How Long is Medical School?
Even before we start talking about medical school, you must know that you are required to complete a 4-year Bachelor’s degree with subjects relevant to the medical course. Needless to say, you are expected to get a good GPA score to be eligible for medical school.
Many colleges or universities prefer students who have had some exposure to the healthcare field, in the form of projects, lab work, or volunteering. You must have good knowledge of the basic concepts and principles to crack the Medical Common Entrance Test (MCAT). It is highly recommended that you get a score that puts you above the 80th percentile of the test.
So How Long is Medical School Exactly?
Pre-clinical years: Your journey with medical school will typically last for 4 years. The first 2 years, called pre-clinical years, are all about understanding the basics through lots of theoretical information.
If you can learn and understand the basic concepts, principles, and systems thoroughly, it will help you a great deal with your United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 exam.
Clinical years: The next 2 years, called clinical years, expose you to practical, hands-on experience with clinical rotations. Clinical rotations usually last for around 80 weeks with 4 to 8 weeks on each rotation.
You will be a part of a team with your peers, senior residents, fellows, and an attending physician. Clinical rotations give you the opportunity to not only deal with real-life patient scenarios under supervision but also help you decide which specialisation you find yourself interested in.
The clinical years are also when you should take the USMLE – Steps 1 and 2. Although it is not compulsory to take the USMLE at this stage, it will surely save you a lot of time in the future. Also, your familiarity and exposure to medical concepts and patient interactions will help you prepare for the USMLE. Being thorough with your medical knowledge and its practical application will help you crack the USMLE Steps 1 and 2.
You will also need to pass your annual exams with a good score which you can leverage to get into a residency program. Once you clear your exams, you will receive an M.D. or a D.O. degree.
Here, you are more or less done with a medical degree per se.
Residency program: To gain more experience and exposure, the next step is to get into a residency program. This lasts from 3 years for general medicine to up to 6 years depending on your desired specialty like surgery or radiology. This can be followed by a 3-year fellowship program which lets you further specialise in the field.
What is Medical School Like?
After braving through your MCAT, the pre-clinical years can be quite overwhelming due to the information overload of theoretical concepts. Most students find it difficult to endure this phase. This puts a student’s commitment and resilience to the test.
Conclusion: Be prepared
Clinical rotations need physical, mental, and emotional endurance due to the long working hours and improving competence. During this phase, you will also be able to understand your strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities.
Preparing for the USMLEs also requires adept multi-tasking, planning, organising, and managing time effectively, and with consistent effort.
In conclusion, every day in the medical course will give you an opportunity to learn about your field of interest people, and yourself.