A Guide to become a Doctor in the USA

Step by step explanation on how to become a doctor in US

For all the Indian students looking to study MBBS in US and become a doctor in US, here is a step by step guide on how to become a doctor in US.

Step 1: Complete the 10+2 or equivalent qualification
The basic qualification that an Indian student looking to study MBBS in US should have is 10+2 with Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The student should have a good grade, a minimum of 60% in aggregate. Although many medical schools do not consider the subject the student has studied in the 10+2 equivalent and only require the Pre-Medical program to be completed for admissions to the medical school, it is good to have these basic subjects for the Indian students so that they can cope better with the stringent academic norms in US.

Step 2: Complete the 4 year Pre-Medical Program
Unlike in India and many countries where the medical students can start with the MBBS program right after their 12th grade or 10+2, studying medicine in US requires a 4 year Bachelor degree. Although the medical schools in US do not specify the bachelor’s degree that students must complete to be eligible for the program, they do require a strong foundation in the natural sciences, biology and chemistry. Hence, a vast majority of the students seeking admissions to the medical schools in US complete the 4 year Pre-Medical bachelor’s degree program to help them realize their dreams of becoming a doctor in US.

Here is the list of subjects that the Pre-Medical program covers.

  1. Chemistry with the necessary laboratory courses
  2. Organic Chemistry with the necessary laboratory courses
  3. Biology along with the necessary laboratory courses
  4. Physics along with the necessary laboratory courses
  5. English
  6. Calculus, including advanced math classes and statistics

Step 3: Get admission into a good Medical School in US 
Most of the Indian students do not have a clear picture on how to get admission into a medical school in US. To get admission into a medical college in the US, one needs to undergo the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). MCAT is a computer-based, standardized examination for students looking to study medicine in US.

MCAT was designed to provide medical schools in the US with common measures to help them compare different applicants’ qualifications for the medical degree program. Med schools in US look at the applicants’ MCAT scores, along with their academic record to assess their foundations to become a doctor in US.

MCAT consists of four Sections:

  1. Physical Sciences section, which consists of Physics and Freshman/Introductory (Inorganic) Chemistry questions.
  2. Biological Sciences section, which consists of Biology and Organic Chemistry Questions.
  3. Verbal Reasoning section, which consists of passages and questions about them.
  4. Writing Sample Section which consists of Two Essay Questions, to be answered in half-hour each.

Step 4: Complete the Medical Degree Program
A common misconception of the Indian students looking to study a medical degree in the US is that the medical schools in US offer the MBBS degree. This is not the case.

The medical schools in the US offer the Undergraduate M.D. (Medical Doctor) or D.O (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree. After getting admission into a medical college in US, it will take the student about 4 years to complete the medial degree program. The first two years focus on theoretical lessons in various medical subjects and is predominantly classroom teaching and laboratory work. The next two years comprises of clinical internships at hospitals where the students learn from practical exposure under the supervision of senior physicians.

Step 5: Complete the Residency Program
After completing the undergraduate medical program at the medical school, graduates will need to complete the Residency Program. Depending on the specialization chosen, the residency program can last between 3-7 years.
Residents are taught different skills practically like developing problem lists, conducting physical examination of the patients, compiling notes and preparing their medical history, etc.
Along with these basic medical skills, the medial graduates are assigned to the departments of the fields they wish to specialize in so that they get good practical experience in those fields.

Step 6: Obtain License to Practice
Completing the medical degree itself isn’t sufficient for graduates to start their medical practice in US. All the states in the US require the medical graduates to obtain licensure in order to practice medicine.

While completing the residency program, the medical graduates also need to clear USMLE-3 (the first two parts – USMLE-1 and USMLE-2 will have to be complete while the student is at the medical school). USMLE-3 is the 3rd and the final licensing exam for the medical graduates and this should be taken up during the first year of the residency program. Once this exam is cleared, medical graduates will be given the license to practice medicine.