How Long Does It Take To Become a Doctor?

woman doctor in coat

This website is for anyone looking into a medical career path. If you are thinking of becoming a doctor, read this first.

Get ready to answer “how long does it take to become a doctor?” and many other questions…

So You Want To Become a Doctor?

So you think you want to become a doctor. Before even thinking about medical school, take a step back and think about why you want to get into medicine and become a doctor.

Doctors are respected and make lots of money. Yeah, I’m going to be a doctor!

If that is your attitude, I’m sorry, you probably shouldn’t become a doctor. Not only does it take many years to become a doctor, you are going to do a lot of work once you are a doctor. It is a long, arduous process and a stressful, hectic career path.

But it can also be very rewarding. You will be saving people’s lives and generally just having an impact on many, many people. If you love to help people, there aren’t many careers that are better.

So if you are planning to become a doctor because you strive to make the world a better place and truly want to help others, then that is what counts. If so, here’s what you should know about schooling…

How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Doctor?

Going to school to become a doctor is a serious undertaking – it is going to take over ten years! Seriously, plan to spend 11-16 years doing your schooling and internships before you are truly a doctor.

After graduating high school, you will spend 4 years in college getting your Bachelor’s degree. Then you will spend 4 years in medical school. Then assume a minimum of 1 year as a hospital intern followed by 2 years as a resident.

That makes 11 years to become a doctor! Depending on your chosen specialty, it could take even longer.

And don’t forget, once you become a doctor, the schooling never really ends! Yes, you will have to continue your education with yearly classes, seminars, etc. This is because you need to keep up to date with advancements in the medical field. If you don’t, you could lose your license and certification.

Continue on for more details on schooling…


As mentioned earlier, a typical path begins with four years of college for “pre-med” followed by four years of medical school.

You probably won’t find an actual pre-med major, but that’s OK. You just need to focus on getting the required courses that will prepare you for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT.) Generally these courses revolve around biology, chemistry, and physics. Get started early, because you should take the MCATs your junior year. (Check with the AAMC for more details specific to your career path.)

Once you get accepted into medical school, plan for four years of intense studying and research coupled with lots of real-life experience. This is going to be more demanding than you can even imagine. But, for anyone that really wants it, they usually achieve their goal. I believe the current statistics show that 96% of med students successfully receive their M.D. degree.

Internships and Residency

You will probably start out your career at a teaching hospital. This will take roughly another three years, which will be spent as an intern and then a resident. You could consider this a sort of graduate school where you need to obtain a license to become your goal all along, a practicing physician.

Honestly, you can get a good idea of what this is like from the TV show Scrubs. Many medical dramas on TV are completely fictional, but this sitcom does a good job portraying the less-glamorous parts of becoming a doctor.

As mentioned previously, depending on what medical speciality you go into, this portion of your schooling could take 3-6 years.

Work Weeks, Salary, and Benefits

If you are even thinking of uttering the standard “40 hour work week” job description, the medical profession is not for you! Work weeks are unpredictable and most doctors will be looking at 60+ hour work weeks. But that doesn’t take into account hours spent “on call” or emergencies.

It is more of a “life” than a “work week.”

Of course, the salary is usually there to justify the work. Doctors routinely make more than $100,000 per year. The average is around $160,000 a year.

Opportunities and job security are usually good.