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Road to Becoming a Physician


Medicine offers a vast number of career choices. Many physicians treat patients full-time, while others also teach, conduct research, manage hospitals and clinics, or develop health policy. There is no single road to becoming a doctor, but most medical career paths share key characteristics.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has numerous resources to assist you in your health career:

High School Students

Learn what you can do now to prepare for a future career in medicine. For more information about the pre-medicine program at the University of Iowa click here.

Considering a Medical Career

Consider aspects such as the demands of the job, the amount of education required, and the lifestyle

​Medical Student Admissions Requirements (MSAR)

The MSAR is a resource that allows students to see profiles of different medical schools including useful information on course requirements, admissions statistics, curriculum offernigs and tuition and aid.

Visit the Carver College of Medicine's profile here.

Aspiring Docs

Learn how to get medically related experience, prepare for the application process, and hear stories from current medical students

Ask the Experts

Hear from experts in different fields on topics like medical careers, preparing for interviews, and finding a mentor

Taking the MCAT Exam

Learn all about taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

STEM Education

Our STEM Education programs are designed for K-12 students to give them a foundation in science, technology, engineering and math

What does it take to become a doctor?

Bachelor's degree (4 years) → Medical School (4 years) → Residency (3-5 years) → Fellowship (1-3 years optional) → Full-time practicing physician

Types of Physicians

There are two types of physicians, Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Osteopathy (DO). Medical licensing authorities recognize both training paths. Carver College of Medicine is the only MD school in the state of Iowa.

Doctors are said to fall into two main groups: Primary Care Physicians and Specialists. Primary care refers to the medical fields that treat most common health problems - family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, and in some cases obstetrics and gynecology. Specialists (or subspecialists) concentrate on particular types of illnesses or problems that affect specific tissues or organ systems in the body. They may treat patients with complicated illnesses who are referred to them by primary care physicians or by other specialists.