Q. What do you call the guy who graduated last in his class at medical school?
A. Doctor

Becoming a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor Of Osteopathy (DO) in the US involves several years of training to evaluate, diagnose, treat, and prevent a wide variety of diseases, illnesses, and physical and mental conditions1. First the individual must take four years in a pre-medical program (typically majoring in biology, chemistry, or physical science). After this, they must take and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) given by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Once they have passed this, they must apply for and be accepted to a four year medical school.

Every doctor must take these first eight years of schooling, and upon graduation they receive their MD degree. Hopefully after all of this the new doctor has decided on a specialty because, they must still take at least three years of additional supervised training called their "residency". Training in additional subareas of specialty can take another one to three years. The three to seven years as a resident is full-time paid experience, however as stated, the doctor is still technically being educated and is under direct supervision.

In addition to all of this education and training, a doctor must pass various tests to receive a license to practice medicine (isn't it scary that they call it "practicing" medicine?) from the state they are working in. Different medical specialties require different licenses, and in the United States it is the American Medical Association (AMA), American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), American Dental Association (ADA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) which certifies physicians for these licenses1. Below are a list of medical specialties and subspecialties:

Allergy and Immunology


Colon and Rectal Surgery



Emergency Medicine

Family Practice

Internal Medicine

Medical Genetics

Neurological Surgery

Nuclear Medicine

  • Doctor of Nuclear Medicine - employs radioactive atoms and molecules in the diagnosis and treatment of disease with the help of radiation detection and imaging technologies

Obstetrics and Gynecology


Orthopedics/Orthopaedics and Orthopedic Surgery/Orthopaedic Surgery




Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation / Rehabilitation Medicine

Plastic Surgery

Preventative Medicine

Psychiatry and Neurology


Surgery / General Surgery

  • Surgeon - treats and correct a wide variety of conditions that require surgery including disease and trauma
    • Pediatric Surgeon - surgeon specializing in the treatment of adolescents, children, and infants
    • Hand Surgeon - surgeon specializing in the intricate workings of the hands and wrists
    • Critical Care Surgeon - surgeon specializing in the management of the critically ill and trauma victims
    • Vascular Surgeon - surgeon specializing in the treatment of disorders of the blood vessels (excluding the intercranial vessels or the heart)
  • See also: Colon and Rectal Surgery, Neurological Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Plastic Surgery, and Thoracic Surgery

Thoracic Surgery



See Also

Other Medical and Health Care Specialists (Non-Doctor Specialists)

1 It should be noted that the educational and licensing requirements for Dentists and Veterinarians are very different from those of Medical Doctors and Doctors of Osteopathy.

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