Reality Check: Becoming a Doctor is a Long Process
Back when I was a little girl, I had every intention of becoming a doctor and making a difference in the medical world that way. However, over time, particular while I was completing my bachelor’s degree, I realized that being a doctor just wasn’t in the cards for me personally. And it had almost nothing) to do with the difficulty that comes with becoming a doctor, but rather the length of time it takes to actually become one.
Originally, I thought that after getting your undergraduate degree, it would just take a few short years to become a doctor – in the same way that becoming a lawyer just required a 2-year stint in law school. But after researching a bit more while I was in college, I realized just how painstakingly long it really takes to become a doctor.
To start, medical school is a full 4-year program, similar to an undergraduate program and making it longer than even most graduate programs. To put that into context, it is almost as if you go to school for 4 years to get your undergraduate degree, and then essentially have to repeat that 4-year period in medical school to fully complete your studies. In those extra 4 years, the rest of your peers are very likely to be living out their professional and personal lives while you are still stuck in school. They may already have received their first promotion at their place of work or are raising their first child by the time you get out of medical school.
And even after you’ve completed medical school, there is still quite a way to go in the form of a residency, where you work under a supervised physician for a few years to fully learn the ropes and become a fully licensed doctor. And depending on your specialization, residency can take anywhere from three to eight years. That is not necessarily time wasted if you are learning and making progress towards your dream, but always keep in mind that three to eight years is a long time, any way you slice it.
In the very best case scenario, assuming you go straight through undergraduate school, medical school and residency without any sort of gap years in-between, you are still looking at over a decade of your life becoming a doctor. It is no wonder why the average age of new doctors is their mid-thirties, and at that point you can already see the twilight of your life fast approaching.
Now this is not to say that becoming a doctor isn’t rewarding or valuable, or that you shouldn’t do it if you don’t want to waste a decade plus of your life. It just means that you have to keep in mind upfront that going down the path of a doctor is a long process and is something that you need to seriously consider before going down that path. Even if you love the medical field, you very well may think that spending a decade just studying is way too long, which is perfectly acceptable, in which case I would advise becoming a nurse instead, a career that is just as distinguished and important as that of a physician. While becoming a doctor can be one of your life’s goals, keep in mind the actual time it takes to become one, and think long and hard whether that long process is truly worth it for you.