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How many years of college does it take to be a doctor?

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Quick Answer

It usually takes somewhere between 11 and 16 years to become a practicing M.D. After four years at an accredited college and four years at a medical school, a doctor must complete a residency of three or more years.

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Full Answer

A medical student must first gain a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree with concentrations in areas such as biology or chemistry. For those intending to be a doctor, choosing a college with a strong premedical program is recommended. Following four years in college, the student must attend an LCME-accredited medical school to proceed. At the completion of medical school, the student receives a doctor of medicine degree but cannot practice independently. At this point, the aspiring doctor must complete a residency program.

Residency typically lasts three to seven years, but it could last longer, depending on the doctor's area of expertise. For example, general surgery requires five years of residency, while general practice only requires three. For doctors who are highly specialized, a fellowship may be part of their schooling, and this follows the internship. A fellowship is strongly recommended for subspecialties, such as gastroenterology and child psychiatry. From start to finish, a doctor preparing to enter into general practice needs at least 11 years of schooling.

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