The US has a major shortage of physicians, and that shortage is getting more severe. The Association of American Medical Colleges recently projected that the US will face a shortage of 45,000–139,000 doctors over the next twelve years.
If you’re interested in getting your medical license to become a doctor, the country needs you. Plus, you’re setting yourself up for a lucrative career with nearly unlimited growth potential.
Sound good? We think so too, and that’s why we created this guide to becoming a doctor in the US. From education and testing to residency and certification requirements, we’ve got you completely covered.
So, what are you waiting for? Keep reading for everything you need to know about obtaining your medical license in 2021.
Earn an Undergraduate Degree
If you want to go to medical school, the first step is to graduate from high school and apply to college. All US medical schools require applicants to have a Bachelor’s degree. Plus, you must get your degree from an accredited university.
Many students choose to major in a science discipline because it helps them tick off the courses required to get into med school. Check your med school’s application criteria to find out which pre-med courses you’re required to take.
In general, these courses include:
- Entry-level biology
- Chemistry, organic chemistry, and at least one semester of biochemistry
Don’t think you have to major in a certain field to get into med school, though. Social sciences (e.g., psychology) and humanities (e.g., philosophy) are the #3 and #4 most common major among med school applicants.
Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
The next step in the process toward getting your medical license is to sit for the MCAT. The MCAT is similar to the SAT or ACT, which are required for an undergraduate degree. It’s a multiple-choice, timed exam.
You can take the MCAT after you get your degree, but most med school applicants choose to take it during junior year. Applicants can retake the MCAT if you don’t get the score you want. But keep in mind that you can only take it 7 times in a lifetime.
Apply to Medical School
Once you get the MCAT score you need for your dream med school, it’s time to fill out that application.
And when we say application, we mean it — singular. You can usually apply to all your med schools with a single application. The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) will distribute separate applications to your dream schools.
Like taking the MCAT, there’s no exact timeline when you need to apply to med school. Many hopefuls take off a year or two before applying. Still, you do need to apply within a certain timeline to avoid your pre-med courses expiring.
Take Part I and Part II of the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)
While you’re living your dream white coat life at med school, you’ll also be responsible for passing part of the USMLE. The USMLE is a three-part exam. You’ll have to earn a passing score on Part I and part II before you can graduate med school.
Part I of the USMLE tests general medical principles. You don’t have to take this part of the exam until you’re coming into your third year of med school. That means you’ll have plenty of time to get up to speed.
Most med students take Part II of the USMLE during their fourth year of med school. This section tests clinical diagnosis and disease development knowledge, which you learn about during your third and fourth years of med school.
Choose a Residency Program
So, you graduated from med school. Congratulations! But you can’t apply for your medical license just yet — you need to go through a residency program first.
What is residency? When you’re in your final year of med school, you’ll have to pick a specialty. Your specialty will determine the type of residency you can get matched up with.
Most residency programs take three or more years to complete. This is the time when new doctors get hands-on experience and training in their chosen specialty.
Take Part III of the USMLE
The end of your three-year residency is when you’ll finally complete the last leg of your USMLE. Part II covers clinical management knowledge. It will also evaluate your ability to use what you’ve learned to safely and effectively treat your patients.
Get Board Certified
The penultimate step to getting your medical license in the US is to get board certified in your specialty. You can do this by taking either a written or oral exam, depending on your chosen field.
Obtain a State Medical License
You’ve made it! It’s finally time to get that medical license. You’ll want to apply for a license in the state where you wish to practice. States have their own medical licensing process, so contact your state’s medical licensing board to find out what you need to apply.
All doctors need state medical licenses to practice. This protects you and your patients. For example, your patients will be able to lookup medical licenses with this service to protect themselves from non-state certified caregivers.
Getting Your Medical License Is Easy With These Steps
From earning your undergraduate and med school degrees to passing the MCAT and the USMLE, you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to get a medical license. The good news? You couldn’t have picked a more rewarding career to work toward.
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