How do I Become an Emergency Room Doctor?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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The individual who wishes to become an emergency room doctor must progress through several staged processes in order to attain this specialization. For most students, work begins in high school, moves on to a four-year degree in college, and is followed by medical school. After medical school and a one-year internship, students complete a residency program in emergency medicine, which takes three to five years, before taking board-certifying examinations.

Students who have strong grades and training in high school are more likely to get into stronger schools, which, in turn, may be more likely to impress medical schools. Ideally, the high school student interested in medicine will have excellent grades in math and science subjects. Some students are even able to take advanced placement courses in subjects like calculus or chemistry, which earn college credits and allow students to take more advanced courses when they arrive at college. If students do not have an impressive high school record, it’s suggested they begin their education to become an emergency room doctor at a community college, where a strong performance can allow them to transfer to a school with a good reputation in the sciences or pre-med.


During the college years, the goal is to get a degree in a science like biochemistry or to specifically major in pre-med. This is preparation to become an emergency room doctor because training in the sciences can help people score well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). High MCAT scores and very strong grades increase the likelihood of being accepted to medical school.

Those who want to specialize in emergency medicine need to successfully graduate from medical school. Typically, medical school takes four years to finish, which includes a final internship year. During this year, students rotate into different fields, and this can help students determine if they still want to become an emergency room doctor. If interest remains high, students attempt to match with a residency in an emergency medicine program.

The length of the residency to become an emergency room doctor varies from three to five years. Longer-length programs are designed for those doctors who would like to undertake a subspecialty in emergency medicine. For example, doctors might specialize in pediatric emergency medicine. A subspecialty is not necessary to work in this field. Once the residency is complete, doctors take board examinations and are certified.

Most people who want to become an emergency room doctor can expect to study and practice for at least 11 years, starting from the time they begin college. This time commitment may seem overwhelming, but in places like the US, there is presently a shortage of emergency room physicians. As a result, the job outlook is very good for these specialists.



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