How Long Does it Take to Become a Doctor?

How Long Does it Take to Become a Doctor
How Long Does it Take to Become a Doctor

Becoming a doctor is a noble pursuit that requires years of dedication and commitment. It transcends beyond the wearing of a white coat and wielding a stethoscope, but a sacred profession that requires love for humanity, and deep commitment to help them achieve good health. However, one may ask, “How long does it take to become a doctor?

You should bear in mind that the journey to becoming a doctor is a marathon, not a sprint – not an easy one at all; it comes with rigorous demands of studying and long years of training, but the rewards are immeasurable.

This writing will extensively, guide you through the timeline it takes to become a doctor; breaking down each step from your undergraduate studies, all the way to independent practice. It will also hint at the factors that influence the time duration, along with some of the potential shortcuts to consider.

What is a doctor’s job?

The primary duties of a doctor, sometimes known as a “physician,” are to diagnose patients and devise treatment regimens. 

They also go over any symptoms the patient may have, perform exams, request additional testing, write prescriptions, and, if required, send patients to experts. 

To ensure they preserve administrative standards and adhere to laws related to patient confidentiality, they also work with and teach assistants who work for their practice. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Doctor?

For their chosen specialty, doctors must finish a four-year undergraduate program, four years of medical school, and three to seven years of residency training. 

In other words, obtaining a complete medical license takes 10 to 14 years. After completing your residency program and medical school, you must pass an exam for the state where you want to practice medicine.

Even while becoming a doctor can take a lot of time and money, you can expect to make a lot of money after you do, especially if you choose to start a private practice. The average yearly pay for a doctor is $163,908, but if you reside in a region with a higher cost of living, your salary may rise.

Preparation for High School in Pre-Medical Education

Aspiring students should concentrate on laying a solid academic foundation during their high school years before starting their path to becoming doctors. 

To get admitted to respectable college programs, high school students should take courses with a strong concentration on science and mathematics and earn great grades.

Four-year bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is commonly pursued after high school, usually in a science-related discipline like biology, chemistry, or biochemistry. 

This four-year undergraduate degree is essential because it gives students the background information and prerequisites for medical school. Students should participate in extracurricular activities and obtain practical healthcare experience during this period.

Medical School Entrance Examination (MCAT)

Students must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to be admitted to medical school. This standardized test evaluates a candidate’s problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and familiarity with the ideas and principles of the natural, behavioral, and social sciences.

4-year medical school

The real path to becoming a doctor starts in medical school. The pre-clinical and clinical years comprise this phase’s first two years, normally lasting four years. Students concentrate on classroom learning and laying a solid foundation in the medical sciences during their pre-clinical years. During the clinical years, students gain practical experience by assisting patients in hospitals and clinics.

Application for Residency

Aspiring doctors must apply for residency once they complete medical school. Graduates apply to various residency programs in their preferred specialty at this time, including internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, or psychiatry.

Training for Residency (3–7 Years)

Depending on the specialty chosen, residency training lasts a different amount of time. Residency programs in general practice normally take three years, although training programs in specialist disciplines like surgery or neurology may extend up to seven years. During residency, doctors hone their medical skills and receive useful real-world experience.

Community (Optional)

Fellowship Request

Some medical professionals choose to pursue a fellowship after completing their residency. Fellowships offer specialized training in a particular branch of medicine, such as oncology, gastrointestinal, or cardiology. One to three years is usually the duration of fellowship programs.

Fellowship Education

Doctors can become experts in their chosen specialties through fellowship training. It combines clinical and research elements, allowing physicians to expand medical knowledge.

Board Licensure Board Examination

Doctors must become board-certified in their field to operate independently. This entails succeeding on a challenging exam given by the pertinent medical board. Board certification is a key step in gaining knowledge and authority in the medical industry.

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Do You Have to Be 30 to Become a Doctor?

According to the quick timeline we drew above, becoming a doctor takes an average of 12 years if the residency of your choice is four years. The average premed student will start their undergraduate studies when they are around 18 years old. If they complete their degree in 12 years, they will only be 30 when they start their professional, autonomous practice. 

This is the typical age, but is it possible to beat the odds and graduate from medical school BEFORE turning 30? 

It is feasible but incredibly difficult. Let’s look at your options for becoming a doctor before you turn 30. 


Knowing your medical goals will help you prepare for them in high school so you can get a jump start on your academics and extracurricular obligations. 

Pick the best undergraduate programs: 

Additionally, you’ll need to select the appropriate undergraduate major, medical school specialization, and residency programs. Once you’ve decided on a Bachelor’s program, you must stick with it because any change to your undergraduate career or delay in graduation could cause you to fall behind. If you are confident of your goals, think about BS/MD programs. 

These programs occasionally provide an accelerated schedule that enables students to finish their undergraduate degree in three instead of four years. In some extremely unusual programs, the combined undergraduate and medical school timetable is even six years. These programs are frequently quite selective and difficult to get into. 

Pick a medical program that lasts no more than four years. 

It is real! There are medical schools that have three-year curricula, including the McMaster Medical School and the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. Although these MD programs are shorter in duration, you should still be ready for a demanding and accelerated curriculum. 

Think about your residency period: 

The selected residency program greatly influences how long it takes to become a doctor. While neurological surgery requires 6–7 years of resident training, internal medicine and pediatrics need 3.

So, when selecting a medical specialization, consider the length of residency. Choose a family medicine residency, internal medicine residency, or shorter residency if you wish to become a doctor independently more quickly.

Exist Any Quick Routes to Becoming a Doctor?

Sadly, the response is no. There are ways to speed up the protracted medical school application process, but there aren’t any shortcuts (as there should be). Would you want medical care from a doctor who skipped out on clinical training and education? 

Most likely not! However, if you’re still very young in your schooling, you may be able to make some wise choices that may help you advance more swiftly. The secret is to plan.

Apply to colleges that regularly send students to medical school if you are still in high school. Take the BS/MD and early assurance programs, for example. 

If you are currently enrolled in college, finish as many necessary courses as possible before applying to medical school.

 Pick a major that would be simple to fulfill such requirements. Additionally, you want to get some of your lab work and study published in scholarly journals. Get organized for the medical school application deadline by starting your MCAT prep early, preparing your statement, and requesting letters of recommendation.

The only other methods to graduate from medical school sooner after completing all the prerequisite work are to select a specialty that needs less time in residency and to forego a fellowship. Everything else in the United States is required, including at least three years of residency and four years of medical school. You are responsible for researching whether becoming a doctor in another nation might take less time or more.

Read Also: Why do Doctors Make so Much Money in 2024? Full Explanations with FAQs

How to Meet the Prerequisites for Becoming a Doctor

To become a doctor, adhere to the following guidelines:

1. Completing your undergraduate studies

A four-year undergraduate degree is a prerequisite for attending medical school. Even while you can apply to medical school without having a specific degree, many people who want to become doctors major in biology or chemistry. Pre-med, psychology, nursing, medical technology, and exercise science are additional degrees that can be used. 

These undergraduate courses cover human genetics, biology, physics, and anatomy. To choose the appropriate major and decide that will set you on the route to becoming a doctor, be sure to look into the undergraduate degree programs each institution provides.

You can also network with local doctors during this time by setting up an informative interview or a job shadowing opportunity, giving you in-depth exposure to a doctor’s daily duties. It allows you to learn more about their career path, ask important questions, and receive tailored advice regarding your academic and professional future.

2. Pass the Medical College Admission Test well.

You can study for and take the Medical College Admission Test while pursuing your undergraduate degree. The MCAT is a five-hour, computer-based multiple-choice test that determines whether you have the necessary knowledge to continue with your application to a prestigious medical school. You’ll take tests in physical science, biology, and critical thinking. For this test, a score of roughly 500 is regarded as average.

Taking this exam a full year before starting medical school makes sense. For instance, you should attempt to take the MCAT in April or May 2020 if you want to start medical school in July 2021.

3. Complete the four-year medical program.

Medical schools give you four years of medical training to succeed as a doctor. The first two years are spent in class learning and using labs to cure patients’ illnesses. Additionally, you’ll discover sophisticated biological and chemical principles. The final two years of medical school are spent gaining clinical experience, where you can assess your ability to apply what you have learned in the classroom to real-world situations by participating in rotations at clinics or hospitals.

The United States Medical Licensing Examination, a three-part test that measures your proficiency in medical terminology, is the next standard you must consider. The first two phases must be completed while you are a medical student. The results of your exam can be a measure of your progress in your medical education.

4. Sign up for and finish your residency program

A residency program lasts three to seven years and is comparable to an internship for a doctor. Consider the specialty you choose carefully to determine how long it should take you to complete your residency program. The good news is that residents receive full-time pay, which can help with living expenses and some medical school loan repayments.

Normally, the fourth year of medical school is when you begin training for your residency program. You spend most of your time working directly with patients in a specific medical setting. After completing your residency program, you can also complete a fellowship if you wish to focus your experience in a particular field, such as internal medicine or pediatrics.

5. Get your state’s medical license.

After finishing the first year of your residency program, you are qualified to obtain your medical license. Your background in both academic and clinical settings ought to prepare you to succeed on the test. To prepare for the questions you’ll need to answer, examine the state exam requirements and consider taking practice exams.

The questions should relate to your area of expertise. Still, it is also helpful to ask your mentor and coworkers for assistance on what strategies they used to obtain their licenses in addition to knowing the fundamental ideas. In the state where you take the exam, you will be legally qualified to treat patients if you pass.

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How Long Does it Take to Become a Physician Assistant?

Becoming a physician assistant is an incredibly rewarding and challenging journey that typically takes 6-7 years to complete. Becoming a licensed PA begins with obtaining a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a science-related field such as biology or chemistry. This undergraduate education lays the groundwork for the extensive medical knowledge PAs must have.

After completing their bachelor’s degree, aspiring PAs navigate the competitive process of applying to physician assistant programs. These programs usually take 2-3 years to complete and typically consist of classroom instruction and clinical rotations. During this time, students immerse themselves in subjects like anatomy, pharmacology, and patient assessment skills.

Upon graduation from an accredited PA program, individuals must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) to become certified PAs. This exam tests their medical knowledge and clinical reasoning abilities. Once certified, newly minted PAs can begin practicing medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician while further honing their skills through real-world experience.

In summary, while it does require several years of dedicated study and training, becoming a physician assistant is an achievable goal for those willing to put in the effort. From earning a strong foundational education to completing rigorous PA programs and passing certification exams, aspiring PAs demonstrate their commitment to providing high-quality healthcare services as valued members of interdisciplinary medical teams.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dentist?

How long does it take to become a Dentist? On average, it takes around eight years to complete the necessary education and obtain the required licenses to practice dentistry. This timeline includes four years of undergraduate study and four years in dental school.

However, it’s important to note that this is just an average timeframe. The duration may vary depending on individual circumstances and any additional specializations one may pursue. Some students may complete a pre-dental program before entering dental school, extending the timeline by an additional year or two.

Once in dental school, students undergo intensive coursework and clinical rotations to develop their knowledge and skills in various aspects of dentistry. After graduation from dental school, aspiring dentists must also pass both written and practical exams to obtain licensure in their respective states.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pediatrician?

Becoming a pediatrician is no easy feat and requires years of dedication and hard work. On average, becoming a fully licensed pediatrician takes around 11 to 12 years. This timeline includes four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and three to five years of residency training.

However, it’s important to note that the path to becoming a pediatrician may vary depending on individual circumstances.

Some students may choose to complete a bachelor’s degree in pre-medical studies, while others may opt for a degree in biology or chemistry. Medical school typically follows undergraduate studies and involves coursework in various medical disciplines such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and pediatrics.

After completing medical school, aspiring pediatricians must then undergo residency training. During this time, they gain practical experience by working under the supervision of experienced doctors in hospitals or clinics specializing in pediatrics.

While some residencies last only three years, others can extend up to five years for those pursuing subspecialties like pediatric cardiology or neonatology.

In conclusion, although it takes an average of 11-12 years to become a licensed pediatrician; it is essential to remember that everyone’s journey is unique. The amount of time required ultimately depends on the individual’s educational choices and their chosen specialty within pediatrics. Regardless of the timeline followed, aspiring pediatricians embark on an incredibly rewarding career dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children everywhere.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Which route leads to becoming a doctor the quickest?

A four-year bachelor’s degree is often followed by four years of medical school and a three-year residency program in a general practice specialization as the quickest route to becoming a doctor. After high school, this equates to at least 11 years of study and training.

2. Is a fellowship a requirement for all physicians?

Only some physicians can finish a fellowship. Doctors who want to specialize in a particular branch of medicine, such as gastrointestinal or cardiology, frequently undertake fellowships. Fellowship training may not be available to general practitioners.

3. Can I practice medicine without a board license?

In rare situations, it is feasible to practice medicine without a board certification; however, doing so is not advised. It strengthens your reputation as a healthcare practitioner and exhibits your knowledge and ability in the field. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations often require board certification for privileges and employment.


Undoubtedly, becoming a doctor is a diffcult and lengthy process. Doctors spend several years studying and training. from their high school years, and continue through medical school, residency, and maybe fellowship.

While these can be tasking, the benefits of improving patients’ lives and making a difference, will make the journey worthwhile. Knowing how long it takes to become a doctor will give you the assurance and inner strength to pursue this profession.



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