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Association of American Medical Colleges

Aspiring Docs Diaries

Harvard Medical School student Elorm F. Avakame with his parents

A blog about what it's like to be med student today

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How Do I... Decide if a Career in Medicine is Right for Me?

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Should I become a doctor?

Think about what kind of future appeals to you:

  • Do you like challenges?
  • Are you interested in science and how the body works?
  • Do you care deeply about other people, their problems, and their pain?
  • Are you a good listener?
  • Do you enjoy learning?
  • Are you intrigued by the ways medicine can be used to improve life?

If you answered “Yes” to most of these questions, chances are you have the right personality for a medical career.

What is a doctor’s job like?

Physicians diagnose and care for people of all ages who are ill or have been injured. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, conduct diagnostic tests, recommend and provide treatment, and advise patients on their overall health and well-being. While there are several different types of physicians, they can usually be divided into three broad categories:

  • Primary care physicians are the doctors patients usually visit most frequently. They treat a wide range of illnesses and regularly provide preventive care, and they also enjoy long-term relationships with their patients. Pediatricians, family practitioners, and general internists are primary care physicians.
  • Surgeons perform operations to treat diseases and repair injuries.
  • Specialists have expertise related to specific diseases, age groups, and bodily organs. Cardiologists, psychiatrists, geriatricians, and ophthalmologists are examples of specialists.

Visit Careers in Medicine for detailed information on medical specialties.

How much education does it take to become a doctor?

Becoming a doctor requires a serious educational commitment. It typically takes from 11 to 16 years to complete your education, including four years of college (undergraduate school), four years of medical school, and three to eight years of training in a specialty area (residency training), depending on which specialty you choose to pursue.

In order to maintain a medical license, doctors are also required to continue taking courses and learning about advancements in their field throughout their career.

How much do doctors make?

Salaries vary depending on where physicians live and the type of medical specialty they practice. The Median Starting Salary chart provides an overview of a sample of specialties.

What is a doctor's schedule like?

While salaries for physicians are among the highest for all occupations, the work hours can be long and unpredictable.

Many doctors work more than 60 hours a week. They may also have to respond to emergencies and be on call for their patients. Work hours vary depending on the type, size and location of practice.

MSAR®: Getting Started (eBook)

Medical School Admission Requirements

Interested in a career in medicine, but don't know where to begin? This e-book is designed to help you prepare for and apply to medical school.

The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam, Third Edition

The Official Guide to the MCAT, 3rd EditionAn MCAT prep must-have. Get 146 actual test questions, current MCAT score data, updates on 2013 test changes, and more.

The Official MCAT® Self-Assessment Package

MCAT Self Assessment

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Assess your MCAT strengths and weaknesses.