After you complete medical school, you still have to undergo residency and complete a fellowship before earning your license as a medical practitioner. Earning a specialty in medicine qualifies you to work as a physician in your area of interest. The path to becoming a certified physician is a lengthy one, and many students often confuse the different types of education levels required to work in the field.
What is General Medical Education Training?
After you complete medical school, there is still additional education required. Post med school students have to complete a multi-year residency before they qualify to become licensed physicians in their state. A fellowship then makes them eligible for board certification in a specialty, and continued medical education will qualify them for a sub-specialty.
Different med schools offer their own majors and specialty programs. Choosing the right one for you will come down to a matter of your passion and interest in a particular field of medicine. Many undergraduate students aren’t aware of how much commitment it truly takes to become a doctor. Even after you’ve gone through your undergraduate, med school and residency, additional training is required for all physicians to ensure they are always delivering the highest quality of care to their patients.
How Long Does Residency Last?
Depending on your specialization, residency in general medical education training can last between three to seven years. A residency is how a student completes their GME in a particular field. For example, if you want to work as an immunologist, your med school education will prepare you for your GME in allergy & immunology. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recognizes 28 specialties for students to pursue. These include surgery and sub-types such as neurological and thoracic surgery, anesthesiology, pediatrics, family medicine, preventative medicine, psychiatry and more.
There is also a transitional year specialty for students who are planning to take advanced courses that first require a year of generalized practice studies. You may or may not have to take a preliminary or transitional year depending on your area of specialization. Students in anesthesiology, for example, must first complete a transitional year of general medical education before they begin focused studies in their specialty field.
How Much Does a Medical Residency Cost?
While there is no tuition like in med school, resident physicians still have to pay fees to work through their training. The first are residency applications and match fees. The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) costs $99 to apply to 10 programs. You’ll also have to pay for travel costs to attend interviews and, after being accepted to a program, moving fees and living expenses. Luckily, residents earn an average salary of $61,000 per year. This may not seem like much given the amount of debt most med students have, but it will be enough to help you pay down your loans and secure housing.
If you’re currently in college thinking about your future as a physician, there is time to save money and avoid being overwhelmed by debt in the future. One option is to look to a loan from a private lender. Private student loans can help you pay for your graduate medical degree on more flexible terms. In addition to lower interest rates, you’ll also be able to refinance or consolidate your debts after you start your residency.
How to Choose the Right Med School for You
Name alone does not mean a school is the best fit for an aspiring practitioner. Rather than thinking it’s Ivy League or bust, consider the cost of tuition, professionals on staff and reputation of an institution. In many cases, you can save tremendous amounts of money by applying locally. Quality is key, not quantity, so don’t overspend by applying to as many schools as possible.
You should limit yourself to no more than 30 schools, but half of that is also reasonable. Do your research beforehand to consider how your MCAT score will impact your likelihood of receiving an interview. While some of the top schools may be part of your list, you should not apply to only the most prestigious and exclusive institutions. Most importantly, you must consider how a school’s program aligns with your ambitions as a physician. If you are primarily interested in contributing to the field through research, then you want to choose schools that will get you into the lab. If you are more interested in humanitarian work, you may choose a school that is more focused on clinical applications.