How to Become a Physician?

Are you thinking of becoming a Physician or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Physician, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Physician job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Physician

Physicians care for patients in an assortment of ways including treating chronic illnesses and advising about preventative healthcare. While they can specialize they share a commonality of primarily diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries. This is typically done by taking medical histories, performing physical exams, completing and interpreting diagnostic tests, and recommending treatment plans. Here are eight steps on how to become a physician.

Earn your undergraduate degree.

The first thing you need to do to prepare yourself for a career as a physician is to get your undergraduate degree. You can choose a relevant field, such as pre-med, focusing on biology, chemistry, or physics. Other majors may still be accepted, as long as they have appropriate prerequisites, such as anatomy and physiology, statistics, or chemistry.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Physician?

78% of people working as a Physician earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Physician?

  • Graduate Medical Education
  • Treating
  • Diagnosis
  • English
  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal and Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Filing
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Physician in the United States.

Complete your Medical College Admission Test.

Before you can apply to the medical school of your choice, you must pass the Medical College Admission Test. The Association of American Medical Colleges administers this test with multiple-choice questions to test your skills and knowledge.


Apply to medical school.

Getting into medical school can be a challenge, so you should be sure that you have maintained at least a 3.5-grade point average in your undergraduate courses. Take advantage of volunteer positions, internships, and research work to help you stand apart from the other applicants. You'll need a letter of recommendation as well for these programs.


Earn your medical degree.

Your next step will be to obtain your medical degree. You may earn either a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree or a Medical Doctor degree. Both use similar methodology when treating patients, though D.O.'s focus more on whole-person care and holistic treatment options, the importance of preventative treatments, and the musculoskeletal system.

Each type of medical degree requires four years of full-time coursework, with the first two years focusing on anatomy and physiology, biology, laboratory work, chemistry, the practice of medicine, and medical ethics and law. Your second two years will consist of supervised clinical hours in various specialties. You'll be responsible for patient care during this time, and you may find one area that interests you the most to pursue, such as obstetrics, pediatrics, or critical care.


Take your licensing examination.

Before doing your clinical rotations, you must pass the first part of th e United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). You then need to pass part two of the exam to demonstrate that you can provide care without supervision. This test is usually taken at the end of your degree program.


Complete a residency program.

Once you have graduated from medical school, you'll need to enter a residency program in your specialty. The Electronic Residency Application Service assigns your residency. You can expect to spend 3-8 years training to treat conditions, using advanced diagnostic techniques, and honing the specialized skills you need as a physician.


Get licensed in your state.

To legally practice as a physician, you need a valid medical license in your state. You need to pass the final portion of the USMLE. Each state has different rules and regulations that must be followed, including license renewal and hours of continuing education.


Apply for jobs.

Once you've completed your education, residency, and licensing examinations, you're ready to begin applying for physician jobs. Consider the requirements of each job and showcase your experience and exam results to stand out from the crowd.

Physician Career Path


8+Years of Experience
$199K - $361K /yrMost Likely Range
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Senior Physician

2 - 4Years of Experience
$177K - $330K /yrMost Likely Range
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Lead Physician

5 - 7Years of Experience
$183K - $342K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Physician Career Path

Physician I
Senior Physician
Physician Manager
Lead Physician
Senior Manager of Medical
Principal Physician
Associate Director of Medical
Director of Medical
Senior Director of Medical Science
Vice President of Medical Science
Executive Vice President of Medical Science
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Related Careers in the Healthcare Industry

Interested in other Healthcare careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Physician skills. Discover some of the most common Physician career transitions, along with skills overlap.

13% skills overlap
2% transitioned to Pediatrician