Physician: An Introduction to Med School

Medical school, where students earn either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree, is generally a 4-year program for college graduates who hope to become physicians. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for medical school graduates.

Medical schools provide both classroom education and hands-on application. This extensive education provides the student with a basic background in medicine and anatomy, preparing them for the residency experience and licensing exams required to begin their own practice.

Essential Information

Medical school, which encompasses graduate education programs for the pursuit of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degrees, is a requirement for those who hope to become physicians. Medical school includes four years of study and training for the prospective doctor.

Career Titles Medical Doctor
Doctor of Medicine (Allopath)
Doctor of Osteopathy (Osteopath)
Education Requirements Prerequisite pre-med undergraduate courses; M.D. or D.O.
Other Requirements MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) for enrollment in medical school
Licensure and Certification License is required in all states and requires passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Steps One and Two; optional board certification in a medical specialty
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for all physicians and surgeons (higher than average for all occupations)*
Median Salary (2015) $187,200 for all physicians and surgeons; salary varies significantly between specialties*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical School Prerequisites

To gain admittance, students must complete an undergraduate degree program. Many future medical students choose to study biology or chemistry in college, though there is no set major for aspiring physicians. Regardless of undergraduate degree choice, all pre-med students must complete a core list of science classes including:

  • Biology
  • Calculus
  • General Chemistry
  • Physics

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, nearly all applicants must take the MCAT to be eligible for medical school ( The MCAT tests individuals on writing skills, verbal reasoning and knowledge in the sciences.

Medical School

M.D. programs, commonly referred to as medical school programs, are 4-year programs for college or university graduates who hope to become physicians. During their first two years, students cover topics in cellular biology, neurology and organic chemistry. In doing so, they learn how the sciences apply to medical issues. During this phase of medical school, much of the learning is divided between classroom and laboratory study. The first portion of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) may be taken after the second year of medical school (

In the program's second half, future physicians begin rotations. During these last two years, students work in hospitals and clinics, where they learn under the direction of practicing physicians. Students rotate through different areas of hospitals as they study pediatrics, gerontology, trauma care and other disciplines. The second portion of the USMLE may be completed during the fourth year.

Medical Residency

After students have completed medical school and received an M.D. degree, physicians are still not yet qualified for practice. Students must complete a 3-7 year medical residency, the length of which varies based on medical specialty and school. Students are paid, while they work full-time treating patients and receive significant supervision from established doctors.

After completing residency, some physicians must also complete a 1-year fellowship to prepare for practice in a particular medical specialty. Specialty areas, such as vascular, geriatric, pediatric and internal medicine, may necessitate the completion of a fellowship program.

Salary Information

Because of the wide variety of medical specialties, physicians have different salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a job growth of 14% for the broad group of physicians and surgeons in the years 2014-2024.

The broad group of physicians and surgeons made a median salary of $187,200 as of 2015, though specific salaries vary by area of practice. For example, general and family practitioners earned a median yearly wage of $184,390 in May 2015, according to the BLS. Another medical field is in pediatrics, and general pediatricians earned $170,300 as a median annual wage in 2015.

Medical students must be able to read and understand complex biological and chemical information. Dissecting cadavers and reading medical images are both components of medical school. Due to the evolving nature of medicine, physicians must continue their education throughout their careers.

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