Becoming a physician, while it requires years of graduate study, offers significant emotional and financial rewards. In a listing of the 100 Best Jobs of 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranks the profession number five, based on job satisfaction, pay and growth opportunities.
A career as a physician may be the right choice for a person who excels in the sciences; is empathetic, a good problem solver and detail oriented; has leadership potential; and is committed to service to others. About 80 percent of today's medical students are enrolled in M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) programs and 20 percent are training for the D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both options require the same undergraduate academic preparation and graduate entrance examination—the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
Hood College offers the coursework students need to succeed in medical school and be well prepared for the MCAT. Hood's health professions adviser works with students to plan their academic program and navigate the complex and competitive application process. There also are many opportunities at Hood to develop and demonstrate the leadership skills and personal qualities medical schools value.
Medical schools are looking for students with strength in the sciences; a solid background in the humanities and social sciences; and the ability to think, read and write critically—all of which a Hood education provides.
Medical schools will consider applicants with undergraduate majors in any field, as long as they have taken required courses in biology, chemistry, physics and English; understand the psychology of human behavior; and have a solid grounding in the humanities and social sciences.
Because of their strong interest in the sciences, most aspiring physicians major in biology, biochemistry and chemistry. These majors offer a broad- based curriculum that includes classroom, laboratory and field experiences and that emphasizes hands-on learning. All classes and labs are taught by experienced faculty, not graduate assistants, and use the same sophis- ticated equipment encountered in medical school and clinical settings.
Opportunities for Practical Experience and Guidance
The likelihood of admission to medical school is enhanced by practical experience—volunteering or working in a health care setting with patient contact, job shadowing a physician, participating in organizations that serve others, taking advantage of leadership opportunities and learning how to conduct research and work independently. Hood's faculty mem- bers, the health professions adviser and Hood's Career Center work with students to find opportunities that match their interests.
Some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics. Internship opportu- nities in the sciences are plentiful since some of the nation's top research and biotechnology firms and government agencies have laboratories near Hood's campus. Recent internship placements have included the National Cancer Institute's Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, the National Institute of Childcare and Human Development and the National Institutes of Health.
Hood also helps students navigate the highly competitive medical school application process. Applicants are required to submit transcripts, scores from the MCAT and letters of recommendation. Their close interaction with students interested in the health professions enables our faculty members to write compelling letters of recommendation. Hood's health professions adviser offers programs and panels, as well as individualized guidance. In addition, many students demonstrate their commitment to leadership and service by participating in Hood's many student organiza- tions, which include science and math clubs.
Success of Hood Graduates
Recent Hood graduates have been accepted at medical schools at such institutions as the University of Maryland, Brown University, University of North Carolina and the University of Texas Health Science Center. While many Hood alumni with M.D. and D.O. degrees are employed in private medical practice, others are employed at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan (dermatology department head), Frederick Memorial Hospital (vice president for medical affairs), York Hospital in Pennsylvania (assistant residency program director in obstetrics and gynecology), Rhode Island Hospital (pathologist) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for physi- cians will increase 24 percent by 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects will be particularly strong for those willing to practice in rural and low-income areas. According to the BLS, wages of physicians and surgeons are among the highest of all the occupations, with median annual pay in 2010 (including experienced as well as entry- level doctors) of $183,170. However, pay varies by specialty; in 2010, primary care physicians' median annual compensation was $202,392 and specialists' median annual compensation was $356,885. More than half of D.O.s are in primary care.
Resources for More Information About Careers
The American Association of Medical Colleges offers advice and infor- mation about medical careers and medical school at www.aamc.org.
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine offers advice and information about osteopathic medical school and careers at www.aacom.org.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 edition (www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/home.htm) provides an overview of this career area and the employment outlook for the coming decade.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why prepare to become a physician at Hood?
A Hood College education provides the preparation needed to enter and succeed in medical school. The core curriculum offers a strong grounding in the liberal arts. While aspiring physicians may major in any field, most choose biology, biochemistry or chemistry. Regardless of the major a student chooses, coursework offered by Hood's science departments equips them with the scientific background needed for medical school―as well as for advanced study in other health professions such as dentistry, pharmacy or clinical laboratory science.
Hood's health professions adviser offers opportunities to learn more about careers in medicine and other health fields, as well as guidance in selecting and applying to graduate programs. Hood provides an exceptional level of individual attention, which enables faculty members to prepare compelling letters of recommendation―an important factor in medical school admission decisions.
All classes and laboratory courses are taught by faculty members who have significant experience in their fields, rather than by graduate students. In addition, there are opportunities for hands-on experience in Hood's well-equipped science labs and at nearby national health research centers companies. Students may also develop and demonstrate leadership skills, as well as gain practical experience, through volunteering or working in a health care setting with patient contact, job shadowing a physician, participating in organizations that serve others, completing an internship that familiarizes them with health-related research and participating in the student Health Profession Career Club.
What is the typical program of study Hood recommends for students preparing for medical school?
General Chemistry I (CHEM 101)
General Chemistry II (CHEM 102)
Pre Calculus (MATH 120)
Calculus I (MATH 201)
Biological inquiry I (BIOL 110-129)
Organic Chemistry I (CHEM 209)
Organic Chemistry II (CHEM 210)
Physiol. of plants and animals (BIOL 202)
Intro to cell bio and genetics (BIOL 203)
Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101)
General Physics I (PHYS 101) or (PHYS 203)
Biochemistry (CHEM 301)
Anatomy and Physiology (BIOL 307)
General Physics II (PHYS 102) or (PHYS 204)
Advanced biology course
Take MCAT in spring or summer
Submit medical school application in summer
Courses to complete major
What is the difference between M.D.s and D.O.s?
There are two types of physicians: M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). M.D.s are also known as allopathic physicians. Both M.D.s and D.O.s treat patients using a wide range of treatment methods including drugs and surgery. D.O.s place greater emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine and holistic patient care.
Both M.D.s and D.O.s may work in one or more specialty, including anesthesiology, family and general medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and surgery. More than half of D.O.s are in primary care.
What are medical schools looking for in applicants?
Competition for places in medical school is keen and admission committees are able to choose from among many talented students. Students must have completed required courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and English; understand the psychology of human behavior; and have a solid grounding in the humanities and social sciences. In addition to a strong academic record, important nonacademic factors include good moral character, excellent interpersonal skills, a deep commitment to health care, evidence of leadership potential and service to others. It is a plus if students have volunteered or worked in a health care setting with patient contact, job shadowed a physician, participated in organizations that serve others, taken advantage of leadership opportunities and learned how to conduct research and work independently.
Many medical schools seek to recruit a diverse class of students, including those from groups underrepresented in medicine (particularly African-American, Latino/a and Native American students, as these populations make up 25 percent of the population, but only 12 percent of medical school graduates). Very few U.S. medical schools admit noncitizens.
The medical school application form asks if applicants have a record of felonies or misdemeanors. Many medical schools conduct a criminal background check on all admitted students.
Describe the application process.
Applications for allopathic medical schools (offering the M.D.) are initiated through the centralized, online American Medical College Application Service (www.aamc.org/students/). Applications for osteopathic medical schools (offering the D.O.) are begun through the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (www.aacom.org).
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized, computer-based exam and is required for admission to both M.D. and D.O. programs. Beginning in 2015, the MCAT will include a new section on the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior.
Usually, medical schools require three letters of recommendation: two academic and one of the student's choice. Students applying to osteopathic medical schools should have one letter from a D.O. Hood's Health Professions Committee will prepare a personalized letter for each student who applies to medical school.
Most medical schools require personal, on-campus interviews. The interview is an important part of the selection process, and candidates should prepare well for the interview. At Hood, students may set up a practice interview with Hood's Career Center and Office of Service Learning.
What is involved in becoming a practicing physician?
Medical school usually takes four years to complete. The first two years are spent in classrooms and laboratories. During the final two years, students work with patients in hospitals and clinics under the supervision of experienced physicians in several different specialties. After medical school, almost all graduates enter a residency program in the specialty they wish to pursue; this generally lasts from three to eight years. Some go on to further training through a fellowship program.
M.D.s must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination. D.O.s must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensure Examination. Following residency training both M.D.s and D.O.s take a certification exam from the specialty board that oversees their particular specialty. Also, all states require physicians to pass a written and practical licensing exam before they begin practicing.
Practicing M.D.s and D.O.s keep up with the latest developments in their fields through continuing medical education (CME) programs. CME requirements are determined by each state's licensure board; the American Osteopathic Association also requires its members to complete a certain number of CME credits in order to remain board certified.
For more detailed information, see the websites of the American Association of Medical Colleges (www.aamc.org) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (www.aacom.org).
Learn more about the major.