Even with the current healthcare uncertainty in the United States, many people still want to become doctors.
In some cases, that's due to a desire to help people, and in others, it's because doctors make a lot of money. Even the three lowest-paying specialty fields for doctors paid average salaries of over $200,000 in 2016, according to a report from Medscape.
Clearly when being a pediatrician pays $204,000, endocrinologists earn $206,000, and family physicians make $207,000 annually -- and those are the bottom-paying rungs of the profession -- people will want to get in. That's helped by the fact that the numbers are even better for the highest-paid doctors, with orthopedists ($443,000), cardiologists ($410,000), and dermatologists ($381,000) taking the top spots.
Of course, many people become doctors first to do good, then for money. But given how hard it is to become a doctor, it makes sense that the end reward would be impressive paychecks. At a median salary of $242,371, according to research from Glassdoor, "physician" is actually the top-paying job in the U.S. in order of average median salary.
The problem, of course, is that becoming a doctor requires years of schooling. It's also very hard to even get accepted into a program, and if you do the costs can be very high.
How do you become a doctor?
In order to become a doctor you must first graduate with a bachelor's degree. It's helpful to have some science or even medical background, but it's not absolutely essential. In general you will want to have good grades, but it's possible to get into medical school without a 4.0 average.
After you graduate you'll need to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This is like the SAT for medical school, and doing well on it is a major factor in being accepted.
Assuming the first two steps go well and you are accepted, you'll then attend medical school. These are generally four-year programs broken down as follows, according to a Study.com article:
The first two years usually entail classroom and laboratory work, while the last two years allow students to work directly with patients under the supervision of experienced doctors. Medical school coursework generally covers topics in pharmacology, pathology, anatomy and biochemistry. Students also study the practice of medicine and legal issues related to healthcare.
After graduating medical school, you must next complete a residency program. These can last three years or more, during which time you are sort of a junior doctor. As a resident you'll work with experienced doctors, usually in a hospital, but you're essentially a caregiving assistant.
Once a residency has been completed, you must then obtain a license. Requirements vary by state, but a medical degree and completion of a residency program are necessary, and there is generally some testing.
Now, you're a doctor
If you assume four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school, and at least three as a resident, becoming a doctor takes at least 11 years, sometimes more. That, plus the difficulty of even getting into medical school, along with the expense of paying for it, explains why the field pays so well once you reach your end goal.