Road to Becoming a Physician

Overview

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:

Considering a Medical Career

Considering 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, score data from the MCAT exam, and information about clinical rotations

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

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.