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How do I Become an Internal Medicine Doctor?

Becoming an internal medicine doctor requires dedication and years of rigorous study. Start with a pre-med undergraduate degree, followed by medical school, then specialize in internal medicine during your residency. Are you ready to embark on this challenging yet rewarding journey to improve patients' health?
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

To become an internal medicine doctor takes extensive study. Most of these doctors, who may also be called internists, have completed medical school and a residency program specializing in internal medicine. Many of these physicians don’t stop at the simpler internal medicine residency and may choose a subspecialty like cardiology, gastroenterology or geriatric medicine to study after completing an initial residency.

Preparation to become an internal medicine doctor may begin as early as high school. Students are advised to get good grades and to especially focus their attention on studies in math and science. If possible taking math through Calculus, particularly in an Advanced Placement class, and science through biology and chemistry are recommended. Good grades can help secure entry to a good four-year school, where students continue on this path.

Internal medicine doctors often choose subspecialties, such as cardiology or geriatric medicine.
Internal medicine doctors often choose subspecialties, such as cardiology or geriatric medicine.

In college there are several majors that are viewed as favorable by medical schools. Probably the most popular is pre-med, but other acceptable majors could include chemistry, biology, microbiology or biochemistry. Each of these majors can help students prepare to take the medical college admission test (MCAT) a requirement for entry to many medical schools. Students typically take the MCAT early in their senior year, and use its scores plus good grades to secure placement in a medical school program. Note that some countries like the UK combine bachelor’s degree studies with medical school.

To become an internal medicine doctor, students need to get good grades.
To become an internal medicine doctor, students need to get good grades.

Medical school is three years of study and a final year of internship and it results in licensing when people have fulfilled all requirements. The person who wants to become an internal medicine doctor doesn’t stop studying at this point. Instead, he or she will apply for residencies during the internship year or last year of medical school training to specifically continuing training as an internist.

Prospective internal medicine students typically take the MCAT during their senior year.
Prospective internal medicine students typically take the MCAT during their senior year.

As mentioned these residencies are usually about three years in length, but they can be significantly expanded if a doctor wants to pursue a subspecialty in internal medicine. There are many subspecialties from which to choose. In the US, for example, people might specialize in cardiology, pulmonology, critical care, medical oncology, endocrinology, infectious diseases or infectiology or in other areas. The length of additional residencies or fellowships will depend very much on areas studied and a person who wants to become an internal medicine doctor doesn’t have to complete a specialty, though it may be more lucrative to do so.

Individuals interested in becoming an internal medicine doctor can expect to spend about 11 years in training.
Individuals interested in becoming an internal medicine doctor can expect to spend about 11 years in training.

At minimum, those wanting to become an internal medicine doctor can expect to spend about 11 years in training beginning with the first year of college. Training could be lengthier if a subspecialty is chosen, and might extend several more years. Total length of time can be dependent not only on specialization but also on a region’s specific training methods and medical board requirements of that region.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PracticalAdultInsights contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PracticalAdultInsights contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon964363

It takes about 11 years total. Four years undergraduate student (also called pre-med); four years graduate student to study medicine; three to five years to become a specialist.

anon303953

So what is the least number of years you can study to become a internal medicine specialist?

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    • Internal medicine doctors often choose subspecialties, such as cardiology or geriatric medicine.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      Internal medicine doctors often choose subspecialties, such as cardiology or geriatric medicine.
    • To become an internal medicine doctor, students need to get good grades.
      By: VIPDesign
      To become an internal medicine doctor, students need to get good grades.
    • Prospective internal medicine students typically take the MCAT during their senior year.
      By: AntonioDiaz
      Prospective internal medicine students typically take the MCAT during their senior year.
    • Individuals interested in becoming an internal medicine doctor can expect to spend about 11 years in training.
      By: Monkey Business
      Individuals interested in becoming an internal medicine doctor can expect to spend about 11 years in training.
    • Geriatrics refers to medical care of the elderly, and is a subspecialty of internal medicine.
      By: sepy
      Geriatrics refers to medical care of the elderly, and is a subspecialty of internal medicine.