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Deciding to become a doctor is a notable aspiration, however, it comes with a complicated and lengthy path to completion. To help make this path easier, this article will give you a step-by-step plan to follow in becoming a doctor.

Taking some of the guesswork out of the process will not only help make sure you are successful but also take some of the anxiety away from this somewhat complex pursuit. 

That way, you can focus your mental energy on checking all the necessary boxes needed to acquire your medical license, and leave some of the stress and confusion behind.

1. Attend Medical School

Gaining the knowledge that you need to become a doctor will be a large part of your beginning phase. Doctors must complete premed, then choose their area of specialization and pursue additional education in that area.

Med school will consist of two more years of classroom classes, one year of rotations, and then a year of focus on your chosen specialty. 

If you are still on the fence about what type of medical specialty you want to pursue, this article will hopefully help you choose by giving you an overview of what each specialty entails.

During the last four years of your education, you will need to pass two tests. 

The USMLE, or United States Medical Licensing Examinations, Level 1 is taken after your second year in med school. The Level 2 USMLE is taken after you’ve completed your last year.

2.  Complete Your Residency

Before you can become a doctor, you need to spend a certain amount of years in an internship that allows you to gain more hands-on experience in the medical field of your choice.

Most residencies take three years to complete, but some take more if your specialty is more demanding. 

After you are done with your first year of residency, you take the last USMLE, Level 3. Then you complete the rest of your years in residency, for which you earn a small annual salary.

3. Become Licensed

In the field of medicine, the qualifications to become licensed are done on a state-by-state basis. Some states are much more lenient on their licensing expectations, while others are more strict.

You will need to research the specific state or states in which you wish to practice and make sure you meet the qualifications before applying.

The application process is complicated and lengthy. It can take up to three months before you get approved. You must submit a lot of paperwork and fill out a lot of forms but you can’t skip this process.

It can also cost over $500 in fees and application costs to get licensed so make sure you budget this into your expenses.

4. Get Board Certified

There are a number of medical specialty boards, each with its own exam to pass. Contact the medical board that governs your specialty to find out the specifics on how to become board certified.

Although this part of the process is not necessarily a requirement, it does help to prove your dedication and expertise in your field. The process is expensive and no walk in the park but well worth it.

5. Start Applying for Positions

Once you get the word that you have been approved for a medical license in your state, it’s time to start looking for a job!

In this process, you may get a few employment offers. Be sure to read through the employment contract thoroughly. 

Many physicians consider the negotiation process difficult and get professional help to ensure they are awarded a fair salary and benefits package.

6. Protect Yourself

Being a doctor comes with its fair share of risks. To protect yourself from these risks, it is recommended that physicians purchase a variety of insurance policies.

Many employers will provide malpractice insurance and disability insurance, however, these policies can lack a few important clauses. 

For this reason, most physicians will purchase individual policies to further protect themselves.


In no way is the road to practicing medicine simple or easily done. The years of learning and rigorous application process to become a doctor can earn you a high income and plenty of esteem.

Understanding what lies ahead will help you be prepared to continue pushing forward to successfully become a doctor.