The field of healthcare is expected to experience a high growth of 14% in employment levels, between 2018 and 2028. This growth rate is a lot higher than the average for all other occupations and would result in the addition of 1.9 million jobs. In May 2018, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare practitioners and technical occupations earned $66,440 in annual median income. This figure is substantially higher than the median annual wage for all occupations, $38,640.

This high wage can be attributed to the amount of time and effort it takes to get into this field, including the lengthy education, residency and licensure requirements. Once you have fulfilled all of these, a potentially lucrative career awaits you.

Types of Doctors

Before we get to the process of becoming a doctor, it is important to understand that the field of medicine has a lot of branches. You will have to choose what kind of a doctor you want to be. Following is a list of the most common types of doctors.

  1. Anesthesiologists
  2. Physicians who are responsible for administering and monitoring anesthesia prior to, during or after a surgical process.

  1. Family and General Practitioners
  2. Doctors who help identify and treat common illnesses in the general population.

  1. Internists
  2. Physicians who treat diseases and injuries of the internal organ systems with non-surgical processes.

  1. Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  2. Doctors who provide medical care to pregnancy or childbirth related concerns.

  1. Physicians and Surgeons, all other
  2. All medical doctors not mentioned in any of the other categories.

  1. Psychiatrists
  2. Physicians who help deal with mental disorders.

  1. Surgeons
  2. Medical professionals who treat injuries, diseases or deformities through various kinds of invasive surgical methods, using different kinds of medical equipment.

  1. Pediatricians
  2. Doctors who identify and treat illnesses and injuries in children.

How to Become a Doctor in the US?

The following steps about how to become a doctor in the US will guide aspiring physicians about the path to enter the field of medicine in the US:

  1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Even though there is no specific major requirement at this stage, it is preferable to go for pre-medicine or biological sciences.

  1. Pass the MCAT Exam
  2. While in college, you will have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which is a standardized, multiple choice exam used by admission panels in medical schools to determine a candidate’s ability to succeed as a medical student.

  1. Apply to Medical Schools
  2. Most medical schools in the US use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which is a centralized application processing service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

  1. Complete the Medical School Program
  2. This would be a four-year long program with full-time study after the undergraduate level. Curriculum includes classroom and practical training both.

  1. Complete a Residency Program
  2. Once you have completed your medical school degree, you can begin your residency in a practical healthcare setting.

  1. Earn Board Certifications
  2. Doctors may opt to complete a certification program in their chosen specialty. There are 24 specialty boards in the US that certify physicians in numerous specialties and subspecialties.

  1. Get a License
  2. Doctors are required to hold a license in the state they practice in. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. You are requested to check with your state’s medical board for a detailed guide on the requirements and processes.

  1. Apply for Jobs
  2. This is the final step in becoming a doctor. Many candidates start the job hunt while completing their residency. It is also quite common for residencies to transform into full-time jobs.

What Are the Duties of a Doctor?

Doctors perform a multitude of functions, depending on their specialty and work setting. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are the typical duties of Physicians and Surgeons in the US:

  • Take a patient’s medical history
  • Update charts and patient information to show current findings and treatments
  • Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
  • Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommend and design a plan of treatment
  • Address concerns or answer questions that patients have about their health and well-being
  • Help patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene

Those working in specialty areas would have additional duties.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Doctor?

It can take students around 11-15 years to become a doctor in the US. This involves earning a 4-year long bachelor’s degree, followed by 4 years of enrollment in a medical school. After this, doctors complete a 3 to 7 years long residency program, depending on their specialty. Once this process is complete, doctors can apply for licensure and start looking for jobs in different kinds of healthcare facilities.

How Much Does a Doctor Earn in the US?

The 2018 median wage for Physicians and Surgeons was $208,000 or more per year. This is the highest pay bracket listed on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The final amount earned by doctors would depend on the specialty they work in, their work place and any part-time practice or clinic they work in. The mean average annual wages for physicians and surgeons are as follows (May 2018):

Anesthesiologists $267,020
Surgeons $255,110
Obstetricians and Gynecologists $238,320
Psychiatrists $220,380
Family and General Practitioners $211,780
Physicians and Surgeons, all other $203,880
Internists, general $196,490
Pediatricians, general $183,240

The above salary data has been taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is the Job Outlook for Doctors in the US?

The overall employment for Physicians and Surgeons is expected to grow by 7% from 2018 to 2028. This growth rate is faster than the average for all other occupations, which is at 5%. The aging population will drive the demand for medical services. Rates of chronic illnesses are also on the rise, as consumers begin to seek medical care that uses the latest and the most expensive technologies and medications. Even though new technological advancements might hamper this high demand for physicians and surgeons, it is still expected to remain positive for many years to come.
Job prospects are expected to be good for nearly all graduates of local medical schools, who end up taking up jobs at their place of residency. Prospects will also be good for physicians who are willing to work in low income areas, away from the city centers. Physicians with specialties that deal with diseases affecting the aging baby boomers will also have positive job prospects. For instance, doctors who have specialized in radiology and cardiology will be in high demand because of the increased risk of heart diseases in the aging population.