How Long Does it Really Take to Become a Physician?

At times, there is a demand for physicians at the start of their career (or younger physicians). The perception is that a physician at the start of their career will last longer in a position they are recruited for than a more seasoned physician (or older physician). However, the perception and the reality don’t often align when it comes to finding the best candidate for the job. Here’s why:

Doctors in the United States spend years and sometimes decades acquiring the necessary skills and degrees to become an MD. During the typical first four years in college, an aspiring MD will take courses such as Anatomy, Physiology, Biology, and Chemistry along with their other required courses.

Most Medical Schools are four-year programs, although a few offer 6 year extended programs. For the first two years of medical school, the student is in a laboratory/classroom environment. For the last two years, the student is allowed to examine patients under the supervision of an experienced physician.

Once they graduate, the residency process begins. During the residency, the physician acquires experience in diagnosing, prescribing medications and the overall management of a patient. Typically this will last from 3 to 8 years. General Practitioner / Family Practice / Pediatrics would be examples of a 3-year residency. Most Surgical Specialties will require 5 years.

Once the Physician ends their residency period, they may decide to join a fellowship program. For example, if a Cardiologist wants to become an ACC member, they would need to take a 3-year fellowship program from the ACC accreditation.

Adding it all up, a physician will be in training for 11 to 16 years prior to their entering the job market with all their credentials, placing an experienced candidate in their mid- to late-30s at a minimum.

These are data to keep in mind when recruiting the ideal candidates to fill your positions.