Physician Education and Degree Program Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Physicians, commonly called medical doctors, diagnose, treat, and prevent injuries and illnesses in patients. Candidates must complete approximately eight years of education, including a four-year Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program. Such programs are presented in two parts. The first portion is classroom instruction in the life sciences and the fundamentals of medical care. Coursework may include anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, pharmacology and immunology. The second portion includes practical rotations and a residency program. Before you can get into a M.D. program you need to earn a four-year bachelor's degree in biology or pre-medicine and an acceptable MCAT score.

Doctoral Degree in Medicine

The coursework in an M.D. program covers a variety of theoretical and practical information necessary to practice medicine. Many of the classes discuss topics related to science, while others are about medical diagnostic techniques, treatment methods and medications. Courses on the subjects noted below are typically required:

  • Human physiology
  • Immunology
  • Medical ethics
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that there should be a 4% increase in jobs for physicians and surgeons between 2019 and 2029. Although pay can vary greatly depending on a physician's area of specialization, the BLS reported that the average annual income for physicians and surgeons was $206,500 in 2019 (

Licensure and Continuing Education Information

Every state requires physicians to be licensed before they can work. New physicians must pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), which covers diagnosis and treatment for common medical ailments. Physicians who want to obtain board certification in a particular area of medical practice may be required to complete residency requirements of up to seven years after graduating from medical school.

To becoming a doctor students must complete a four-year M.D. degree program and medical residency, following a four-year bachelor's degree in biology or pre-medicine. This training prepares students to earn state licensure and engage in one of the highest-paying careers in the nation.

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