News & Events
Med School FAQ: How Long Does It Take to Be a Doctor in the Philippines?
The journey to becoming a doctor can be long and arduous because training in medicine is gradual, with new learnings and responsibilities added every year. Therefore, becoming a doctor entails many sacrifices along the way. There will be times when you will find yourself at a crossroads and question whether or not you are cut out to have a career in medicine. However, nothing is more gratifying than overcoming all the hurdles you will be facing in medical school and reaping the benefits of the profession. At one point, you might have asked yourself how long does it take to become a doctor. In this guide, we will walk you through the factors that affect someone’s timeline in becoming a doctor and the total number of years med students in the Philippines go through to be full-fledged doctors and have a fruitful career in the medical field.
How long does it usually take for people to become doctors in each country?
To pursue a medical career in Australia, aspirants need to attain a bachelor’s degree first before enrolling themselves in a four-year postgraduate medical program. Then they would have to complete a full year of internship before becoming fully registered doctors.
The Chinese medical education system usually trains their medical students for five years, followed by 1-year internship before rewarding them with their final degree.
The unique thing about studying medicine in Germany is that the medical programs in the country are not divided between bachelor’s and master’s. Hence, one can already become a doctor after completing a medical training program that takes six years.
The average time of medical education in Japan is six years, which comprises four years of preclinical education. First, future physicians learn the foundations of medicine followed by two years of clinical education. Here, they get to have a more hands-on experience when it comes to assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients.
Aspiring doctors in the Philippines need to finish their undergraduate degree program first before entering medical school. This step alone will already take 3 to 6 years, depending on the chosen pre-med course of the student and the college he enrolled into. Then, future physicians have to attend four years of medical school, finish one year of internship, and spend 3 to 5 years of residency. After these, they have to spend 2 to 4 years in fellowship to train in their preferred medical specialty.
Before becoming a doctor in the UK, aspiring doctors need to attain a medical degree and immerse themselves in years of training. These prerequisites may take up to 16 years, with five years dedicated to achieving their medical degree, two years to finish post-graduate foundation courses, and 3 to 8 years to train for their chosen medical specialty.
United States of America
To become a doctor in the United States, it will take 11 to 14 years. Aspiring doctors need to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, attend four years of medical school, and complete a three- to seven-year residency program. Only after completing these stages can a doctor apply for a state license to practice medicine.
Factors that Affect People’s Timeline in Becoming a Doctor
Usually, students enroll in a four-year undergraduate program. However, in some instances, it can last up to five or six years, depending on the undergraduate program you enrolled in. Therefore, your chosen college or university can also affect your timeline in becoming a doctor. The majority of the universities in the Philippines typically have bisemester enrollment, while some selected schools have tri-semester or quarter-semester. Undergraduate students in schools with tri-semester or quarter-semester enrollment typically finish their undergraduate programs faster than those in universities following the traditional bisemester enrollment.
While it is true that you do not have to be rich to enter medical school, you still need to have some resources to fund your studies and acquire the necessary materials, such as books and laboratory equipment, required in your classes. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, some students have to leave medical school to work first and save up for their medical school expenses. Some students would take a gap year to build their credentials to apply for scholarship grants.
Medical Student Burnout
Medical school can be highly taxing due to the sheer amount of lessons students have to learn and the overwhelming number of requirements they have to do. Because of these, some students experience burnout, a state of emotional exhaustion, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. While medical school is only preparing the students for what they will be experiencing once they start working in an actual clinical setting, some students choose to take a break from medical school first to protect their well-being and become more prepared for the challenges they will be facing once they go back to school.
Total Number of Years Med Students in the Philippines Go Through to Be a Doctor
College Pre-Med: 3-4 Years
Pre-med is a general term people use to refer to the undergraduate programs they are taking to show that they are planning to go to medical school and are taking classes needed to get accepted in a medical school. Students usually enroll in undergraduate programs that they think will give them an edge once they are already in medical school. However, there is not an actual pre-med major. For example, a student can be a chemistry major, an English major, etc., and still get accepted and perform well in medical school. Other factors are considered during medical school admissions, such as your grade in school, NMAT score, and performance during panel interviews.
Medical School: 4 Years
Medical schools equip their students with the necessary medical knowledge and clinical skills to become excellent and successful doctors. During the first two years, students will be learning the fundamentals of medicine inside a classroom setting. They will also be working in laboratories to gain lab experience in analyzing and treating patient conditions. The students will spend the last two years of medical school in hospitals or clinics. In these years, they will be earning clinical experience by completing clinical rotations in different hospital departments.
Internship: 1 Year
Medical sc interns perform almost all the same duties as doctors. They take patient histories, examine patients, and do specific medical procedures. However, since medical interns do not have their licenses yet, most of their duties are still under the supervision of a licensed doctor. Medical interns are also sometimes allowed by their supervising doctors to make treatment recommendations to test their knowledge.
After the post-graduate internship, medical students can now take the Physician Licensure Exam (PLE) administered by the Board of Medicine (BOM) and supervised by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). Interns usually have two to six months to prepare and review for the licensing exam.
PLE has two categories – Basic Sciences and Clinical Sciences. Each of the categories covers six subject areas. The basic sciences category covers Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Pathology, and Pharmacology. The clinical sciences category includes Internal Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Surgery, Legal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine. The board takers should achieve an average rating of at least 75% with no grade below 50% in any subjects covered to pass the exam. After passing the PLE, the new doctors will now have the license to work as general practitioners.
Residency: 3-5 Years
To advance their careers, the majority of the new doctors will opt to undergo a residency training program. Medical residents acquire more hands-on experience in their chose specialization. Each residency training program has its respective regulating society. For example, residents who want to specialize in psychiatry are regulated by the Philippine Board of Psychiatry. These regulating societies are also the ones that administer diplomate board examinations after medical residents finish their programs. The following are some of the common types of specialty, along with the number of years required need to complete the residency training program:
- Anesthesia – 3 years
- Dermatology – 3 years
- ER Medicine – 3 years
- ENT – HNS – 4 years
- Family Medicine – 3 years
- Internal Medicine – 3 years
- Obstetrics and Gynecology – 4 years
- Ophthalmology – 3 years
- Orthopedics – 4 years
- Pathology – 4 years
- Pediatrics – 3 years
- Psychiatry – 4 years
- Radiology – 4 years
- Rehabilitation Medicine – 3 years
- Surgery – 4 to 5 years
Fellowship: 2-4 Years
During the fellowship program, doctors train further to become specialist physicians. Often, doctors closely work with a specialist. The physician who is learning about the specialization is called a follow. A lot of medical students aspire to become specialists. However, only a few qualify for the fellowship training program.
Alternative Paths People Take in Becoming a Doctor in the Philippines
Aside from the traditional path of becoming a doctor, there are other alternative paths people can take to become a licensed doctor in the Philippines. These paths are listed down below.
BS Human Biology offered by the De La Salle University (DLSU)
This is a six-year program offered by DLSU-Taft in partnership with the De La Salle University College of Medicine (DLSU – Med) of the DLSU Health Science Institute (DLSU HSI). The BS Human Biology program lets highly competent students become doctors in a short period. During the first two years of the students in the program, they will be taught about the fundamentals of biological sciences at the DLSU-Taft campus. Then, they will take classes along with the first-year students of DLSU-Med in their third year. Finally, after completing all the requirements, the students will obtain their BS Human Biology Degree and directly proceed to the second year of medicine proper.
Integrated Liberal Arts and Medicine (INTARMED) program of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine
The INTARMED program allows qualified students to attain their Doctor of Medicine degree in just seven years, which shortens the entire medical education students typically undergo by almost two years. The first two years of the program are devoted to pre-medical courses, the next four years are for regular medical studies, and the final year is for clinical internship.
Tips to Consider in Becoming a Medical Doctor
A well-planned schedule is essential.
Medical school is already different from college. You can get away with cramming before an exam in college. However, medical school is already an entirely different story. There is a substantial amount of information you need to absorb and understand. Hence, you should already develop your time management skills and good study habits before entering medical school.
Avoid comparing yourself to others.
Always remember that being in a medical school is not a competition. It will be inevitable that some of your classmates will get ahead of you in terms of understanding the concepts being taught in class and learning the clinical skills necessary to perform patient examinations or operations. Always learn at your phase and remember that every one of you is there to save lives in the future and not compete against one another.
It is best to start preparing for the licensure exam from the get-go.
The Physician Licensure Examination (PLE) is the culmination of all your efforts and sacrifices in medical school. Therefore, it is best to start preparing for the PLE even if you are only in your early years in medical school to ensure that you fully grasp the areas covered during the board exam.
Ask for help.
Medical school can be highly rigorous and stressful. Many students struggle academically because of the sheer amount of information they have to absorb and the piles of medical school requirements they have to do. Therefore, it is best to seek assistance from your professors or your peers. This way, you will find a sense of community in medical school despite all the hardships you have to face.
Do not be too hard on yourself.
A lot of medical students beat themselves up by not taking advantage of their free time to relax. While it is tempting always to read your books or finish your medical school requirements during your free time, you have to resist that urge. Instead, take some time off for yourself. Spend time with your family and friends. This will not only give you the relaxation you deserve, but it will also help protect your mental health.