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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the attributes of a successful physician?

  • a high level of knowledge and clinical skills
  • professionalism
  • leadership skills
  • ethics
  • compassion
  • communication skills with diverse patients and colleagues
  • commitment to continued professional development

What tests do I need to take to become a physician?

What degrees do I need to hold to become a physician?

  • Bachelor's degree (BA or BS) from a college or university. There are also combined programs where students can obtain the BA and MD degrees.
  • Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (DO)

Many physicians may also hold other advanced degrees, such as:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Master's of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master's of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Doctor of Jurisprudence, or Law (JD)

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What is the difference between an MD and a DO?

A DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) is a physician just as an MD is a physician.

What is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine?

What is the difference between a physician and a doctor?

A physician is an MD or DO (see above). Many people also refer to physicians informally as doctors, eg., "Doctor Smith." Strictly speaking, however, anyone with a doctorate degree (e.g., PhD, EdD, PharmD [pharmacist], or DDS [dentist]) is a doctor as well.

How do I finance my studies in medicine?

See Paying for medical school for more information.

What applications will I need to fill out?
Can you tell me which medical schools are ranked the highest?

The AMA does not have a system of ranking medical schools, nor does it support the development of such a system. Further, the AMA does not acknowledge or attest to the ranks some medical schools may claim. Each medical school has its own unique characteristics, which are reflected in its educational missions and objectives.

In what types of settings may I practice?

Physicians may be employed by others (for example, hospitals, the government, medical schools) or they may be self-employed (private practice). The individual physician may practice alone (solo practice) or with other physicians (group practice). Groups may be large or small and may have physicians of one specialty (single-specialty group practices) or of many specialties (multispecialty group practice).

Many other career options are open to those with a medical degree and a related advanced degree:

  • research and academic medicine (MD and MD PhD)
  • public health (MD MPH)
  • business (MD MBA)
  • medical law (MD JD)

How many hours do doctors work?

Physicians spent an average of 57.6 hours per week in professional activities in 2001, according to the AMA's Physician Socioeconomic Statistics, 2003-2004 Edition.

What if I have a graduate or professional degree?

Medical schools grant advanced placement on an individual basis. Talk to the schools you are interested in about their advanced placement policies and procedures.

What if I choose a medical school outside of the United States?

US citizens choosing to go to medical school abroad are faced with the same requirements as foreign born international medical graduates (IMGs). The certification process is described on the Web site of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), which has sole responsibility for certifying IMGs in the United States. Upon obtaining their ECFMG certificates, IMGs must compete for a residency position. Residency training in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education is necessary to be eligible for a licensure in the United States.