How many years does it take to become a doctor?

How many years does it take to become a doctor?How many years does it take to become a doctor? We’ve all heard about how long and arduous medical school is, but how long does the whole process actually take? The answer is: it varies. Generally, it will take anywhere between twelve to fifteen years overall for a typical physician. Let’s break it down and find out how many years to become a doctor.

First Step – College

One requirement for admission to medical school is a baccalaureate degree. So, of course, the first step to becoming a doctor is completing college. In general, this will take four years. Of course, we can’t take that for granted these days, so it may take anywhere between four and six years to graduate, depending on what you do as an undergrad.

Running tally – 4 years

Next – Medical School

After college, you are off to medical school. Medical school will take four years. Assuming that you are off to medical school immediately after college, we’re now up to eight years.

Running tally – 8 years

I’m a doctor!

At this point, you’ve got the MD. You can make people call you doctor. You’re referred to physician. You are not, however, licensed to practice medicine! At this point, you’re going to undergo what’s called an internship. This lasts one year. After passing the USMLE and undergoing a one year internship, you are legally allowed to practice medicine. You’re not even close to being done yet, though. Get ready for…

An aside…

Okay, just to clarify a little bit. Your internship is generally going take place during your first year of residency, not separate from it. So, we’re not going to include year taken up by internships in our running tally.


After your internship, you’re on to your residency. This is where things get complicated. Depending on your choice of specialty, it could take anywhere from three to eight years (including internship). If you’re studying internal medicine, for example, you will undergo three years of residency. If you’re trying to become a neurosurgeon, you will spend a whopping eight years! I guess that’s good, though. You are going to be slicing up people’s brains, after all!

Running tally – 11-16 years

For he’s a jolly good fellow…

Again, depending on your choice of specialty, you may go through fellowship training. In general, the more specialized your field of choice, the more likely you are to go through fellowship training. For example, the difference between an internal medicine doctor and a cardiologist is fellowship training. Medical fellowships generally take between one and three years, depending on program.

Running tally 11-19 years

And here we are! Your medical certification is done. After you’ve passed your board certification, you are now an attending physician! You’ve completed your education and you’re ready to practice medicine in any way you see fit.

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