Earning a medical degree requires years of academic planning, dedication to producing outstanding results, social (humanitarian), and academic excellence, the preparedness to go deeply into debt, and perhaps overcoming gender and/or cultural bias.
• Starting in high school, you should excel in the life sciences (the study of plants, animals, and human beings) and it is recommended to study Latin as much of the study of medicine including anatomy is making use of Latin based terminology.
• Think Ahead, Commit, Excel. Do not allow anyone or anything get in the way of your personal goals to be a medical doctor. Let any setback just roll off your shoulders. Keep your eye on the target – medical degree and the license to practice medicine.
• Volunteer in a clinic for people or animals. This will give you a chance to see if this is something you want to do for your entire life. You must always keep in mind that working as a doctor requires superior communication skills and a desire to work with people and to improve their state of wellbeing. It must be remembered a doctor is there to treat the person not just the symptoms of the illness. This option will look great on your resume for college or medical school and will make your coursework in both institutions easier.
• It would be wise, but not totally necessary, to get a bachelors degree in a life science. The more related to the medical profession the better as most medical schools require at least the following:
A year of general chemistry with laboratory courses
A year of biology with laboratory courses
A year of physics with laboratory courses
A year of analytical and expository writing in English
A year of calculus
A foreign language
Laboratory experience, courses in psychology, sociology, anthropology, or ethics, and extensive computer experience are all highly suggested
Showing a solid, reliable, steady academic history is vital.
Prepare for and do an outstanding job on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) as a result of the prep. Take practice tests with score of 10 as your goal in each of the following areas:
• Verbal Reasoning (Reading Comprehension)
• Physical Sciences (Chemistry and Physics)
• Biological Sciences (Organic Chemistry and Biology)
• Writing Sample (two essay questions)
• Make sure to have numerous financial aid opportunities. There are grants, scholarships, private loans, work-study programs, internships, incentive employment programs, teaching exchanges, military universities, and government backed loans. Any or all of these can make it possible for even the least financially secure student to obtain a medical degree and a license to practice. However, the road to success is filled with challenges.
• Grants – lots of competition as there is no repayment – often award is based on financial need.
• Scholarships – lots of competition as there is no repayment – often award is based on a track record of outstanding grades.
• Private loans – easier to obtain, higher interest rates, may need a co-signer, have to be repaid.
• Work-study programs – earn a little and learn a lot in your field – may be very short term
• Internships – earn a little and learn a lot in your field – may be a long term situation
• Incentive employment programs – agree to work several years to get some student loans repaid
• Teaching exchanges – teach for several years to get some student loans repaid
• Military universities- attend medical school tuition free but agree to several years in military service to repay the training costs
• Government backed loans – easiest to obtain, lower interest rates, may need a co-signer, have to be repaid.
• Choose carefully what medical school you want to attend. Do not apply to one that does not offer mentors to assist new students with their coursework, special education support if you need it, a strong outreach program for practical training/research/internship, the kind of reputation you are will to spend half a million dollars or more to obtain attached to your name, a strong support system for grants, scholarships, private loans, work-study programs, internships, incentive employment programs, teaching exchanges, or government-backed loans, or any other support or guidance you think you might need (i.e. students with special needs or married student housing for example).
• Enroll in the medical school where you are accepted and feel is best for your needs.
• Complete required courses. Be sure to excel in anatomy, cell biology, neuroscience, acute and ambulatory care, as well as any area of hands-on medical care or research where you feel you might like to specialize.
In the first two years, you will study anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, and microbiology as well as learning how to take medical histories, do an actual physical exam and the basic steps toward a diagnosis.
Before you pass to the third year, most countries require an exam to make sure you have accomplished all that you need to at this point.
In the third year you will have the opportunity to try several areas of specialty to determine what area has the most interest to you. The following may be options: internal medicine, OB/GYN, surgery, pediatrics, or psychiatry. You may have a chance to work in a clinic, acute care center, university healing facility, chronic care center, or a rehabilitative care center as an opportunity to develop the social skills that you will need to enable you to have a good bedside manner, the right amount of empathy and understanding to be the best doctor you can be.
Before year four, you are probably going to pick an area of specialty.
Year four will be the chance to take electives based on your area of specialty. There will be more examinations to pass based on what country and what medical focus you will practice.
• Graduate from your medical training and prepare to enter residency.
• Residency training will take another 3 to 7 years depending on your specific area. You will be paid a small salary during that time. Your role will still be as a student of medicine, however, you will have your own patients to care for while others are watching your behaviors, challenges, and accomplishments.
A few areas have one more year of training before residency.
You must decide on a state and pass the state medical boards for the practice of medicine, clinical thinking, and clinical management.
If you are interested in a career in the medical field consider all options. Studying for a medical degree at a university or medical school is only one option.