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What Are the Qualifications to Become a Doctor?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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It can take a long time to become a doctor in most countries. It’s moreover important to research specific requirements in the country where the person will work or train as a doctor. These can truly vary and may not always be transferable from one country to another without additional work.

In places like the US, students must get into college and complete a four-year Bachelor of Science degree, preferably in pre-med. Pre-med isn’t always required and some people can take related science degrees like biology or chemistry instead. Usually, it helps to attend a good quality school, and get superior grades, at least a 3.5 grade point average.

Equally important is score on tests to get into medical school, called the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Questions on the MCAT include many on biological and physical sciences and a section on verbal reasoning. High scores on this test plus solid grades help to increase the chance of acceptance to a medical school. If you're considering taking the MCAT, here are upcoming MCAT testing dates.

Medical school takes three to four years, and those doctors going immediately into general practice must also complete a year of training thereafter. Once this is training is over, people can take certifying examinations to get licensure. Many people wish to specialize and end up completing several more years of additional training, and take other certifying exams to work as things like pediatricians, obstetricians, or surgeons.

The educational requirements are significant for those who want to become a doctor, but they are not the only requirements necessary. There are some practical things needed too. For instance, except for very few people, most people will pay lots of money in order to become a doctor and attend the various schools involved. This means either having a source of income with which to meet education costs or being able to qualify for loans or financial aid. Even with financial aid, most new doctors end up owing a considerable amount of money from schooling costs.

If a person plans to become a doctor in another country from the one he/she trained in, there may be additional requirements. These may include proving that training in another country was equivalent and taking all exams that are required to license a physician within another country or state. Another common requirement is demonstrated proficiency in the legal language of that country. For instance, a person who became a doctor in Mexico might need to show proficiency in English to practice in America.

Since requirements to become a doctor can change, it’s important to stay on top of any new laws, exams or licensing regulations that may apply. Speaking to the licensing board about becoming a doctor is a good way to proceed, but it can also help to speak to medical schools and people like college counselors to help improve chances of becoming a doctor. Even with good grades, a way to fund school, and high test scores, this career requires stamina and great sacrifice, and the field is competitive. Not everyone who goes to medical school becomes a doctor and not all people who would potentially be good doctors make it into medical school or through training thereafter.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon341546 — On Jul 12, 2013

I wish that I had the aptitude to become a doctor, but I'm too dumb and I like my sleep. Being a doctor pays really well and it is a prestigious job, so if you have the brains for this you should stick it out.

By anon297837 — On Oct 17, 2012

I think this is great because I would like to become a cardiologist and I have set my mind on this goal since I was in the third grade (seven and eight years old). I am now 12 and I am in the seventh grade.

By anon291584 — On Sep 15, 2012

Becoming a doctor isn't an easy task, so what I have got for my friends who also want to become a doctor is that they should try very hard and they should set a reason why they want to become a doctor, because without this reason, there will even be a time where they might stop this course. I tell you that being a doctor is the most fantastic job that I have ever done in my life!

By anon243109 — On Jan 26, 2012

Good! I'm searching for the credentials to become a doctor briefly! That is, the degrees, experience, etc.

By braindrain — On Apr 04, 2011

I think the thing that was most nerve-wracking for me as a pre-med graduate was taking the MCAT. It is so scary thinking that if you can't get a good enough grade on one test, everything you have worked for as an undergrad could be gone in an instant.

I have always been the type of person who loves school and studying. I like to keep busy and I love a challenge. So for me, the long years of schooling were not an issue. Like I said, the only qualification that really caused me stress was the MCAT. Ultimately, it worked out fine though.

So, if you want my opinion on how to become a doctor, study hard during your undergraduate career. Learn as much as you can so that you don't have so much anxiety over one simple test like I did.

By Opossums — On Apr 02, 2011

When I first began studying pre-med at my university, I was nervous about how many steps were involved to become a doctor. While all of my friends were focused on earning their degrees in four years (or less for some of my friends), I was thinking about the seven to eight years I'd probably spend on my education at a minimum.

Eventually, as I learned more about my field and got into more advanced classes, I became less worried about the time commitment. I think the most important thing for anyone who is thinking about becoming a doctor to understand is why they truly want to become a doctor.

For me, I realized that I loved science and was extremely interested in the material and wanted to learn as much as I could about the subject. And that's important. If I was only interested in the financial aspect of becoming a doctor, I probably wouldn't have made it through the years of schooling. You have to truly love it if you're going to devote that much of your life to it.

I'm curious as to learning how other people dealt with the stress of the thousands of qualifications needed to become a doctor? Or was it not a stress at all for some of you? Thanks!

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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