Emergency Medicine Doctor: Educational Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Emergency medicine doctors are physicians who work in hospitals or trauma centers caring for patients needing urgent care. To become an emergency medicine doctor, an individual must complete an undergraduate degree, and be accepted to and complete a medical school program. This is followed by a residency, and the completion of a fellowship if further specialization is sought.

Essential Information

Emergency medicine doctors work under stressful situations to treat patients who are in critical condition and need emergency care. The schooling for this career is extensive, and requires an undergraduate degree, medical school, residency program, and a possible fellowship.

Required Education Bachelors degree, medical school, and residency program
Other Requirements State medical licensure required; specializations may require fellowships
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% (Faster than average)*
Average Salary (2020) $218,850*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (all physicians and surgeons)*

Educational Requirements for an Emergency Medicine Doctor

Emergency medicine doctors work in emergency rooms (ERs) or trauma centers and treat patients who need immediate care. These professionals specialize in advanced cardiac life support, trauma care and management of other life-threatening conditions. They may treat general emergencies or work in a specialty and treat only patients within that specialization. Emergency medicine doctors must be able to make quick decisions and lead a team of other medical professionals during intensely stressful situations.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated in 2020 that physicians and surgeons as a group made $218,850 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment for doctors overall will rise 4% in the U.S. during the 2019-2029 decade.

Undergraduate Degree

Most students earn a bachelor's degree prior to medical school, but only 3 years of undergraduate work is required for admission. While there isn't a bachelor's degree program specific to emergency medicine, students may major in pre-medicine or a related science-based major. Relevant coursework that prospective emergency medicine doctors may take include chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology. Undergraduates may gain practical experience volunteering in medical centers.

Medical School

The first two years of medical school are referred to as the pre-clinical years. During this period, students study the major systems of the body, diseases and foundational techniques in patient care. The final two years are the clinical years in which students perform supervised clinical clerkships. Clerkships in emergency medicine introduce students to the concepts used in identifying life-threatening conditions and providing treatment.

Students looking for prospective medical schools may want to consider only accredited schools because graduation from an accredited school is required to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). All states require doctors to pass the USMLE to legally practice medicine. Medical schools in the U.S. are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

Residency Program

Residency programs typically last three or four years and provide increased independence with greater responsibility in patient care. The first year introduces residents to the broad aspects of emergency medicine, such as critical care and trauma. For the remainder of the program, residents perform rotations in specialties, like toxicology and pediatrics, and may experience flight training. Some programs offer a joint residency in emergency and internal medicine.

When applying for residencies, students may want to consider only programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). According to the ACGME, accredited programs are a prerequisite for certification by primary medical boards and many subspecialty medical boards.

Fellowship Program

Individuals who wish to specialize in a particular area of emergency medicine will need to complete a fellowship. Fellowships in emergency medicine include medical toxicology, hyperbaric medicine and ultrasounds. Most fellowships last one or two years and introduce individuals to the analytical techniques of their specialty. These programs may allow fellows to perform advanced research and share their findings.

Emergency medicine doctors must be able to think on their feet, lead a team, and must have a wide knowledge of urgent care practices. Aspiring emergency medicine doctors might consider studying pre-medicine courses or a science as an undergraduate, before applying to medical school. After medical school, they need to complete an emergency medicine residency, gain state licensure, and have the option of specializing through a fellowship.

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