Home Student & Career Tips How to Become A Medical Doctor in the USA

How to Become A Medical Doctor in the USA


This article aims to serve as a guide on how to become a medical doctor in the United States.

Earning the MBBS degree is one of the most prestigious cum rigorous activities in school till date. Little wonder why a few get the admission or even conclude the program. In fact, about 50% of science students in college aim at going to medical school but are either denied the admission or they voluntarily opt for other courses as a result of the rigour that accompanies the six to seven years in med school.

How to Become A Medical Doctor in the USA

Becoming a medical doctor is quite different from other courses such as social science, engineering, anatomy, accountancy etc.part from the over 6 years spent in medical school, there are a lot of requirements that must be fulfilled, though almost unified across the world like passing the medical exams set by the medical regulatory bodies, there however are still some peculiarities based on other factors such as the country and type of medicine. Some include a series of examinations in the course of study, continuous certification to stay relevant and grow in specialized fields, internships etc. In this article, we would take a close look at how to become a medical doctor in the United States of America, one of the best health care providers in the world.

The United States of America is a North American country of over 328 million inhabitants. It consists of 50 states and it is the world’s third- or fourth-largest country by total area.  Its official language is the English Language although other minor languages like french, Hawaii, Spanish, Arabic are present. Hence, the English Language is used as a medium of communication in secondary schools and higher institutions including medical schools.

The health care system in the USA is very impressive but complex. As of 2017, the United States had a life expectancy of 78.6 years at birth, although it has the highest number of suicide rates amongst the wealthy or developed countries. Other causes of death can be linked to drug and alcohol overdose. Diseases at the frontline in the US are coronary artery disease, lung cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and traffic accidents. In spite of these, since 1975, the U.S. has still remained on the ladder as a global leader in medical research and innovation. America solely developed or contributed significantly to nine of the top 10 most important medical innovations. There are health care coverages for the citizens, but they are combined efforts of the government and private sectors. Now to the medical profession in the US.

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A medical school is a tertiary institution or college in a tertiary institution where medicine is studied and degrees are awarded to physicians and surgeons. Medical school in the United States is most commonly a four-year graduate program with the purpose of educating physicians or surgeons in the field of medicine. They confer Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. There are over 100 medical schools in America and here are a few of them

  • University of Alabama School of Medicine
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
  • University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson
  • California University of Science and Medicine
  • Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Carle Illinois College of Medicine
  • Georgetown University School of Medicine
  • Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans
  • Columbia University Roy and Diana Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Admissions to medical school in the United States is regarded as highly competitive despite the number of medical schools spread around the country. However, there are some peculiar steps to becoming a physician or surgeon all embedded in a medical degree. Let us look at them in 7 steps to becoming a Medical Doctor in the USA.


Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Just like every other course, you must earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college before proceeding to a medical school. As an undergraduate, you can choose from a variety of science-related courses that would aid you to achieve success in med school since there are no specific undergraduate courses you must choose from. You must ensure that the course load includes a significant amount of scientific studies. Students are also expected to complete undergraduate work in the social sciences, English, and mathematics.

Step 2: Enroll and take MCAT

In the USA, you are advised as an undergraduate to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice examination used by medical school admission committees to assess a candidate’s likelihood of succeeding in the medical school program. The MCAT performance scores are required by almost all U.S. medical schools. The focus areas that are tested on the MCAT include biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Note that it is possible to take the MCAT up to three times a year. Your undergraduate study can be up to four or five years. With an excellent result, you proceed to medical school. Make adequate preparation for it, you don’t have to take it twice!

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Step 3: Complete Medical School

There is no fixed time to apply for medical school in the USA. You can begin the application process during the summer or choose to take a year off after your undergraduate degree either to get a job before going ahead to apply. Most medical schools in the US use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), a centralized application processing service from the Association of American Medical Colleges. In this portal, you are at liberty to target multiple medical schools, but submit a single application which would be distributed across the institution you have targeted. On average, medical school takes four years to complete, apart from your undergraduate studies. When you are accepted and enrolled, in the first two years, students take foundational coursework in the practice of medicine, bodily systems and diseases while in the last two years of medical school, students rotate through various hospital speciality departments and gain experience in patient care under faculty supervision. In the last phase you develop applied skills in various areas of medicine.

Step 4: U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.

In order to practice medicine legally in the US, students must also pass a series of examinations in their final year, which may include the United States Medical Licensing Examination- a three-part examination taken during and after medical school. Medical students must pass the first part of the examination, which covers basic medical principles, before entering their third year of studies. During their fourth year, students must pass the second part of the exam, which covers clinical diagnosis and disease development. Further, during the final year, students would have to narrow down their medical speciality options- neurosurgery, family medicine, paediatrics etc.

Step 5: Complete your Residency

Upon successful completion of medical school, students would submit an application for residency to a hospital that matches their interest and competencies. The National Resident Matching Program uses individual preferences to match residency applicants to programs. These programs usually last from three to eight years and cover general medical principles and specific medical specialities. They could be referred to as Resident Doctors at this point. Here the residents perform a variety of extensive duties, such as conducting physical exams, taking patient histories, attending conferences and interpreting lab information. Upon completion of the residency program, students must complete this process by completing Part III of USMLE. This examination covers clinical management and assesses the doctor’s ability to practice medicine safely and effectively.

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Step 6: Earn Board Certifications

Doctors can obtain certification in their chosen field and there are about 24 speciality boards that certify physicians in numerous specialities and subspecialties in the US. Board certifications require a written and an oral examination in order to be qualified for issuance.

Step 7: State License

Before practising full time as a medical doctor, you must earn your state medical license. Medical licensure is governed at the state level by state boards of medicine, and each sets its own licensing requirements and procedures. For instance, some states may only give candidates a certain number of attempts to pass the USMLE, while others have no limit on USMLE attempts. Trained and board-certified doctors must apply for state medical licenses before they enter the field.

Obtaining your licence fee is however not the bus stop in the medical profession, as you grow, you would have to renew your license. Licensure renewal is usually required every couple of years. The specific education requirements and time restrictions vary by state.


This whole process might be rigorous, but at the end of the day, it is worth it. In the USA, medical doctors are the highest earners with an average doctor earning about $400,000 annually depending on the speciality, level of education and location. But if you’ve got no interest in medicine, you are advised not to try it too.

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Joeme is a biochemist by training and a SEO content writer by passion. He has been writing content for the past 4 years. He has expertise in career-related information, education and university admissions.

He is also a certified web publisher.


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