Becoming a Doctor in the U.S.

Becoming a Doctor in the U.S.

Do you dream of your child practicing medicine in the U.S. but are confused about what it entails? Let us share some vital information.

Foster critical life skills

First things first, there are skills your kids need to develop for a career and life in medicine. Apart from unwavering support and unconditional love, what they need from you are lessons in the following:

  1. Resilience: As a student of medicine, your child needs to handle everything from varying attitudes and temperaments to different communication styles from patients and colleagues. It is important to inculcate this quality and help your child develop a thick skin.
  2. Balance: It can be challenging to juggle academics, extracurricular activities, and relationships. Your child will thank you for giving lessons in patience and being fully focussed on every moment. Setting rules such as no use of technology during dinner, homework, or vacation is one example.
  3. Persistence: Let’s face it, a career in medicine gets challenging. What’s important for students to learn is pushing forward despite these challenges. It is possible that they might miss out on their first choice of college or job. It might even seem overwhelming to check off all the requirements of medical schools. Help your child develop emotional intelligence by learning to persevere despite all disappointments.

What an international student MUST know

Now that we’ve discussed the core values, let’s move on to what you need to know to gain admission to a medical school.

  1. Where to apply: There are a limited number of medical schools in the U.S. that accept international students. Be sure to review all admission guidelines carefully before applying to any school. Step one is to identify schools that allow international applicants.
  1. Academic requirements: Most medical schools in the U.S. expect applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree. Being a foreign applicant, your child would have a significant disadvantage without a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Undergraduate coursework done from the U.S. puts your child at an advantage. Do note that foreign education transcripts are not accepted by the American Medical College Application Service. This is one reason that most medical schools in the U.S. would like applicants that have completed coursework in the country. Some expect one year of coursework in the U.S. Others might need all medical school prerequisite courses to have been completed in the U.S.
  1. Service-based and clinical experience: Medical schools in the U.S. prefer applicants that have experience in clinical settings. Working beside physicians would give your child an edge and a deeper understanding of the profession. What would give further advantage is a demonstrated passion for service. It is critical that your child gain this experience in the U.S. itself. Familiarity with the American healthcare system is essential.
  1. Importance of English proficiency: The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) requires exceptional critical reading skills. English proficiency not only affects medical school studies, but also performance on the MCAT. Your child would be required to read and understand English text well before analyzing it in multiple sections of the test. Consider enrolling in a range of English literature and writing courses to strengthen their language skills.

How long does it take?

There is no easy way to put this: It would take your child 10–14 years to qualify as a fully-licensed medical practitioner. Make sure that your family is in it for the long haul. Do remember that while the investment of money and time might be considerable, the rewards are just as high. Here’s a list of steps that detail how long it takes to become a doctor.

  1. Undergraduate program: The precursor to medical school is an undergraduate degree, which takes four years to complete. Your child might not need to major in a specific subject, but medical school aspirants usually take up chemistry or biology. Other degrees that are applicable include psychology pre-med, medical technology, exercise science, or nursing. These curricula typically include subjects like physics, human genetics, anatomy, and biological studies. Spend a good amount of time researching undergraduate programs to select a preferred major for your child.
  1. The MCAT: During undergraduate education, your child should prepare for this five-hour exam that tests subjects like physical science, critical thinking, and biology. A typical average score for this is 500. What we recommend is that your child take this test a full calendar year prior to starting medical school.
  1. Medical school: This includes four years of crucial training to help your child excel as a doctor. While the first two years have classroom learning along with lab work on patient conditions, the last two years give clinical experience and application of medical knowledge outside the classroom.
  1. Residency program: This is the medical equivalent of an internship for an aspiring doctor. This might take between 3–7 years for your child to complete. The duration of the residency program depends upon the specialty selected.
  1. Medical license: Your child becomes eligible for a medical license after completing the first year of the residency itself. Study the state exam’s criteria, and upon passing, your child will be a certified practitioner in the state where the exam was taken!

Do not get daunted by all the hurdles that you need to cross to make your child a doctor in the U.S. With the essential information we provided, we hope to bring this rewarding profession within closer reach.

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