How to Become A Physician

Physicians are highly trained medical personnel who diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses. They are in-charge of examining patients, prescribing medicines and performing diagnostic tests. In addition to that, they often advise patients on proper diet, hygiene and preventing common diseases.

The path to becoming a physician is a long one, requiring a lot of time and effort. Having said that, it is perhaps one of the most rewarding careers, intrinsically and monetarily.

If this line of work sounds like something you would be interested in, then the following guide on how to become a physician would be of great use to you.

Should I Become a Physician?

If you become a physician, you would be helping people feel better on a daily basis, and perhaps even saving lives. In addition to that, it is a high growth and high paying career with room for further advancement at all stages.

Having said that, however, the job of a physician is tough and requires long hours of work. You will have to be emotionally and mentally stable to deal with the stress of having someone’s life depend on you. Skills such as compassion and good communication are therefore integral to success as a physician.

The following table provides a quick insight into the career of a physician, detailing the salary potential, along with the job outlook, education requirements and key skills required to succeed in this career.

Education Required

Doctoral or Professional Degree

Major Requirement

Medical Studies


Required in all states


3-7 years residency

Key Skills

Communication skills, compassion, attention to detail, dexterity, leadership

skills,organizational skills, patience, physical stamina, problem-solving skills

Annual Mean Salary (2018) – Surgeons


Job Outlook (2018-28) – Physicians & Surgeons

7% (Faster than average)

Career Outlook for Physicians

Employment for Physicians and Surgeons is all set to grow by 7% in the years from 2018 to 2028. This demand will be driven by the growing and aging population. As the population ages, there is a notable increase in chronic illnesses, requiring more medical attention and therapies. Even with an increasing number of newer technologies and advancement in medical machineries, the demand for physicians and surgeons will not decrease.

Job prospects are expected to be great for nearly all graduates, since they are matched to residencies immediately after finishing their education. Prospects would also be great for those willing to practice in remote areas.

Career outlook for surgeons would be different in different locations. For instance, California has the highest employment level in this occupation, with 3,090 surgeons employed. California is closely followed by Ohio, Massachusetts, New York and Florida.

Salary potential also varies across states, with Wyoming being the highest paying state, followed by Wisconsin, Utah, South Dakota and South Carolina. 

Steps to Become a Physician  

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

This is the minimum level of education required to get into medical school. Students are encouraged to take courses in the natural sciences, along with getting some basic healthcare experience. Even though a specific major is not required, students should ideally complete coursework in physics, chemistry, math and biology.

Step 2: Clear the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

Once you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you will be eligible to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The performance scores from this test, along with several other factors would be considered by medical schools while handing out admission letters. The MCAT is a standardized test designed to assess reasoning, writing and problem-solving skills.

Step 3: Earn a Medical Degree

Once you get accepted into a medical school, you will be studying various aspects of the field for 4 years. The first two years would involve classroom and lab work, while the last two years would allow students to work directly with patients under the supervision of an experience doctor. Coursework involved would be in topics such as pharmacology, pathology, biochemistry etc.

Step 4: Complete a Residency

Residency programs are designed to give aspiring doctors the experience they need to practice in the real world. Students are given a chance to work in a specialty area of medicine, such as internal medicine, psychiatry, anesthesiology, emergency medicine or pediatrics.

Step 5: Get Licensed

All states in the US require physicians to be licensed to practice. The licensing process may vary from state to state, though typically, students are required to graduate from a medical school, complete a residency program and pass the licensing exam, the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

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