Physicians usually complete 4 years of undergraduate study followed by an additional 4 years in medical school, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although it varies according to specialty selected, a doctor may also do as little as 3 years or as many as 8 years as an intern or resident before practicing on his own.
Typically, a student receives a bachelor's degree in a science-related field prior to applying to medical schools, reports the BLS. This may be in biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry or some other area of study, such as the social sciences. After finishing undergraduate work, the student must take the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT. Applicants to medical school must also have letters of recommendation and submit transcripts from their undergraduate work. Many medical school programs are exclusive and only accept applicants with stellar academic backgrounds, sometimes even looking at extracurricular activities and other factors when deciding on admissions.
Some schools offer programs that combine the undergraduate work of the student with a medical school program, expediting the doctor's education, with credentials awarded after 6 or 7 years. No matter the program, most doctors spend their final 2 years in medical school doing a rotation of work in various settings and specialties. After completing training, medical school students must pass standard exams to be licensed.