If there's one thing that the pandemic taught us is that doctors are an invaluable resource for a community. A happy community is a healthy one, and doctors help us attain that goal.
The journey to becoming a doctor will likely take you a good 10 years and may not be easy, but it is a fruitful one. Join us as we guide you on how to become a doctor in India.
Before embarking on this journey, it's essential to ask yourself a few questions.
Becoming a doctor is no small feat.
Ask yourself -
Do you have the grades, aptitude, planning, and discipline to become a doctor?
Spend some time with yourself and write down your reasons for choosing this profession.
Passion is usually the correct answer. But it is not enough. You must have the willingness to be absolutely dedicated to your job, the ability to work harder than you ever expected, the understanding that you will have a longer journey ahead than your peers will, that you will have less personal time than them, understand that stress management will become essential to your life, and last but not least - you must love helping people and want to make a difference.
Do you wish to pursue medicine, dentistry, or veterinary sciences?
Figuring this out at an early stage can put you in a better position to compete and help you achieve your goals.
Whether it's human beings, their oral health or the animal kingdom - they are all worthy causes and deserving of your time and energy. What you think you will love best should always be a factor in making this decision.
Science, science, and more science. It is necessary to pick the Science stream and study Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in school.
The entrance exams to medical colleges contain questions in these three subjects, and only an aptitude for Biology will not do.
What you learn in school will form the foundation for your medical subjects in college - always understand your concepts, rote learning will not suffice.
Apart from picking the suitable subjects and writing board exams, it's also necessary to start prep for entrance examinations during 11th and 12th grade. Getting good marks in board exams does not, unfortunately, lead to good scores in the entrance examination as they are considerably harder and in a different exam format. It is, thus, better to start preparing in your grade 11 itself.
It's necessary to gain a certain level of mastery over the science subjects to crack the entrance exams.
Go through previous years entrance exam papers and understand what type of studying works best for you, rather than trying to do what everyone else is doing.
If self-study works best for you, start with that. A number of coaching institutes provide you with study materials and practice exams for those who want to take this route.
Certain people prefer intensive classes to help them study, while some require a balance between coaching classes and self-study. Various institutes across the country provide coaching classes of different intensities/depths to help all types of students.
And once again, remember - understanding what you’re studying, applying logic, and being clear on your basic concepts will go a long way in being a doctor - rote learning can only take you so far.
The 5th step requires you to put your prep to the test, quite literally.
The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is the way forward.
NEET is a national-level entrance exam for medicine, dentistry, and veterinary sciences. It is an all-India exam, the results of which will decide what college you go to.
The higher the score you receive, the greater are the chances of getting into college. Further, a high score will also allow you to pick between your choice of colleges.
NEET is an exam paper with a maximum of 720 marks, with the format being multiple-choice questions. It's crucial to answer carefully as negative marking can impact your score.
It's also necessary to research the entrance exams as some colleges such as JIPMER and AIIMS conduct their own examinations.
After writing the exam and getting a satisfactory score, the next step is applying for counseling to select colleges. Colleges are allotted based on all-India as well as state-wise NEET rankings. The ranking is determined based on marks achieved in the entrance exam, with board exam marks and age acting as tie-breakers.
Once you get into the college of choice, be ready for 5 and a half years of lectures, cadaver dissection, microscopes, late nights of studying, unending examinations, and learning how to treat patients both theoretically and practically.
The last 1-year is a mandatory internship period where you will be put through different departments. It is a year of immense learning by the end of which, you will definitely feel like ‘a real doctor’.
Medical school is tough, but so are you!
On completing the undergraduate degree, you will officially be a doctor.
However, in this field, the learning never ends. Despite being a doctor, rapid medical advancements over the last few decades have made it essential to specialize in a particular field.
MD is the master's program in medicine, whereas MS is the master's program in surgery.
MD and MS are 3-year courses. A diploma course, on the other hand, takes 2 years to complete.
Apart from MD and MS, you can also opt for Diplomate of National Board (DNB). In terms of academic equivalency, MD, MS, and DNB are at par.
Internal Medicine, General Surgery, Ophthalmology, ENT Surgery, Orthopaedics, ObGyn, Paediatrics, Psychiatry, Forensic Medicine, Anaesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Nuclear Medicine, Sports Medicine, Family Medicine are some of the many options available.
The next potential step is the Doctor of Medicine (DM) and Master of Chirurgiae (MCh) after MD and MS, respectively.
It's not possible to attain a DM or MCh after doing only a diploma course.
The next step after DNB is Fellow of National Board (FNB).
FNB is academically equivalent to DM and MCh.
Superspecialization allows you to further specialize and narrow your field of patient care. For instance, after internal medicine, you can super-specialize in cardiology, neurology, pulmonology, and so on, and after general surgery, you can super-specialize in cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery, and so on.
Not everyone is required to super-specialize and the decision is yours. However, this will not be a decision you will be ready to make much later in your journey.
Another alternate pathway to obtaining a quality education is by specializing abroad.
Each country has its own individual guidelines on how to do so, with the UK and USA being most popular amongst Indian students.
To study in the US, you need to write the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The USMLE has 3 MCQ-based exams & 1 practical exam to clear for getting your license and applying for residency there.
To practice medicine in the UK, write the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test (PLAB), which has 1 MCQ-based exam & 1 practical exam, following which you can start your Foundation Year 2 in Britain/Scotland/Wales.
If specializing not the best fit for you, consider the following courses and career options:
Yes, it is difficult to become a doctor in India, but it is worthwhile.
It takes perseverance and respect for life to be a good doctor.
Set forth on this journey if you have what it takes. Be prepared for long hours and much work but also immense satisfaction at a job well done.