A common childhood goal or dream is to grow up and become a doctor. Combined with the advances in health care, the plethora of specialty areas to consider, and an ever growing population, the demand for qualified medical doctors has never been greater. The desire to pursue a medical doctor or MD degree is one to be applauded. There are several things to consider when heading down the path to this MD degree.
Doctors work in a variety of specialty areas, but regardless of the area of specialty, earning the title of “doctor” requires that candidates complete a rigorous course of study. This education arguably requires the most rigorous study of any degree. After completing four years of undergraduate study, the doctoral candidate then must successfully complete four years of medical school. Subsequently, he or she should then expect to spend from three to eight years completing internships and residency programs. The length of these programs depends on the area of specialty chosen. There are a limited number of medical schools that will combine undergraduate studies with medical programs, allowing completion in six to seven years. Along with general education coursework that will be completed during the first two years of study, the pre-med and medical student will be required to complete a significant number of health and science classes. Since admission into medical schools is limited, students must receive extremely high grades to even be considered for admission into the doctoral program.
Those with an MD degree must be licensed and certified to practice medicine in every state in the union. This is also true for doctors practicing in any of the territories of the United States, as well as in Washington, D.C. Individuals who practice medicine must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. To sit for this examination, the candidate is required to have graduated from an accredited medical school. Although each state licenses physicians, most states offer reciprocity. Thus, being licensed in one state may make the person with the MD degree licensed to practice in other states. Doctors graduating from foreign medical schools are usually qualified to take the USMLE after establishing United States residency. As with other professional licenses, the prospective doctor should contact the state in which he or she wishes to practice medicine.
While a recent survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that over 660,000 physicians are practicing in the United States, only about 12% of those are considered self-employed. A significant number (53%) of doctors worked in offices of other doctors. Hospitals employ about 19%. The remainder was employed by state, local, and federal government agencies, outpatient care facilities, and by educational institutions.
The need for doctors is expected to continue to grow at a substantial rate. Physicians will be in especially high demand in rural areas. There is also expected to be an increased demand for physicians who work with the elderly and in some specialty areas. The areas of cardiology and radiology are expected to have an increase in the need for qualified physicians. This increase is due, in part, to the fact that as the population ages, risks for heart problems and cancer increase significantly.