What Is the Minimum Education Required for a Job in Medicine?

There are few professionals that are required to put in as much time and study in preparation for their careers as doctors. The preparation process for a career in a medical specialty can take even longer. Keep reading to find out more about the minimum education required to become a medical professional. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Minimum Requirements for a Job in Medicine

To become a physician or surgeon, you must graduate from an accredited medical school after completing undergraduate coursework. You'll also have to undergo postgraduate, residency training and obtain licensure. This process generally takes a minimum of ten years.

Important Facts About the Education Requirements for a Job in Medicine

Common Courses Mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics; anatomy, genetics, pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, and neurology
Degree Fields Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Licensure All doctors must be licensed by their states; required to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN)
Similar Occupations Occupational therapy assistants and aides, surgical technologists, psychiatric technicians and aides, physical therapist assistants and aides
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 12% growth (for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)
Median Salary (2018) $46,240 (for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical School Preparatory Courses

Admission to medical school generally requires at least three years of undergraduate study. Undergraduate students may enter pre-medical programs which allow them to take these courses while pursuing a major. This program might also prepare one to apply to dental college or veterinary school.

Medical school admissions can be very competitive. After finishing up the mandatory coursework, you need to score well on the Medical College Admission Test. Some programs also expect letters of recommendation from professors.

Medical School

The first year of medical school gives you an overview of the basic sciences. Second-year students learn about advanced concepts in medicine and begin developing clinical and diagnostic skills. In the third year, you may begin clinical rotations in internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery and other specialties. You might learn how to conduct physical examinations and treat patients under the supervision of licensed doctors. As a fourth-year student, you may take electives and complete rotations in specialties of your choice.


After graduating from an accredited medical school, you must pass a national test. M.D.s must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, while D.O.s must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also recommends that you contact your state medical board in order to find out if there are additional licensing requirements.

Residency Programs

To become a doctor or surgeon, you must complete 3-8 years of residency training, depending on your specialty; however, D.O.s often participate in 1-year internships after medical school, followed by 2-6 years of residency. Much like medical school, admission to residencies can be very competitive, and you'll most likely apply through the Electronic Residency Application Service. Once admitted, you'll complete paid, clinical rotations in your specialty. After completion of residency training, you may qualify for board certification in your specialty.


A certificate in practical nursing takes one year to complete and qualifies you to perform basic nursing functions under the supervision of physicians or registered nurses. Becoming an RN typically entails at least an associate's degree in registered nursing, which may take 2-3 years to complete. RNs and LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination and meet any other state-specific licensing requirements.

Medical Assisting

You might also choose to become a medical assistant. Medical assisting programs generally last 1-2 years and culminate in certificates or associate's degrees. You'll learn to perform the clerical tasks that the profession entails, such as keeping records, answering phones, scheduling appointments and assisting patients with insurance forms. You'll also learn to conduct clinical tasks such as recording vital signs, collecting samples for laboratory testing and assisting the physician with examinations.

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