close up of doctor shaking patients hand

So You Want to be a Physician?

The field of medicine offers a challenging, yet rewarding career. If you are attracted to helping people and have the aspiration to use scientific knowledge to serve society, then a career in medicine might be the right choice for you.

As you think about a possible vocation as a physician, ask yourself the following questions:

  • 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?
  • Are you able to think quickly on your feet and make important time-sensitive decisions?
  • Do you enjoy learning?
  • Are you intrigued by the ways medicine can be used to improve life?

If you answered “yes” to the majority of these questions then you should consider further exploring this career option.

It is important to be aware of the challenges and rewards that a career in medicine has to offer. Becoming a physician requires a serious educational commitment. It typically takes from 11 to 16 years to complete your education, including four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school and anywhere from three to eight years of residency in a specific specialty area. In order to maintain a medical license, physicians are also required to continue taking courses and learning about advancements in their field throughout their career.

There are two types of medical degrees which lead to a career as a physician: allopathic, who hold an MD degree (Doctor of Medicine), and osteopathic, who hold a DO degree (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both degrees offer the opportunity to be fully qualified to practice medicine in the United States. Both allopathic and osteopathic doctors attend 4 years of medical school, 3-8 years of residency, and must pass multiple licensing exams. According to the American Osteopathic Association, “osteopathic medicine is a parallel branch of medicine with a distinct philosophy and approach to patient care which focuses on holistic patient care, the unity of all body parts, the body’s ability to heal itself and preventive medicine.”

For more information on allopathic medicine, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges website at: For osteopathic medicine, visit the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine at:

If you enjoy science and are particularly interested in making research discoveries, you might consider obtaining a joint MD-PhD.

*Adopted from literature of the AAMC.