How Do I Become a General Practitioner?

T. L. Childree

A general practitioner (GP) primarily conducts annual checkups and treats common ailments. It takes a great deal of commitment, sacrifice, and training to enter this profession. You will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college to prepare for medical school. The next step is to take and pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), be accepted into and enroll in medical school, and take the first part of a three-step licensing examination. A three-year residency program must also be completed to gain the practical work experience required to become a general practitioner.

A general practitioner is a medical doctor who treats common ailments.
A general practitioner is a medical doctor who treats common ailments.

A tremendous amount of personal commitment and time is required to become a general practitioner. At least ten years of continuous study will be needed and you should have the perseverance to complete your training before beginning this career path. To succeed in the medical profession, you must also have a passion for helping others. In addition to these personal qualities, medical students must be quite intelligent to acquire and retain the vast amounts of knowledge needed to practice medicine. After you become a general practitioner, you must also keep your skills and knowledge current through continuing education classes and professional development seminars.

Residency is an important part of training for physicians that lasts from three to seven years.
Residency is an important part of training for physicians that lasts from three to seven years.

It is important to choose a medical school before beginning your formal education. Medical schools have varying admission requirements and you must determine the particular undergraduate course requirements in order to be admitted to your school of choice. Make certain that you enroll in an properly accredited college to qualify for future licensing and certification. Classes in inorganic and organic chemistry as well as math, social sciences, and humanities should be taken during college. As a general rule, you must earn a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in science to qualify for medical school admission, though most students study a "pre-med" track.

After earning your bachelor’s degree, you must also complete four years of medical school before you can become a general practitioner. Students are required to take and pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) prior to enrollment; exam preparation materials are available from a variety of sources, such as the career services office at your college, online, and in most bookstores. During medical school, you will be taught various biomedical science subjects such as physiology, anatomy, and microbiology, as well as pharmacology and neuroscience. A short period of hands-on training will also be required during your third year of school. You must also take and pass steps one and two of a three-part licensing exam during the final half of medical school.

A three-year residency is also required upon completion of medical school. During this residency, you will gain practical work experience through hand-on training from an experienced medical doctor. This training will allow you to focus your efforts specifically on the general practitioner field. You will also be required to take and pass part three of the licensing exam before completing your residency. After successfully fulfilling your education, residency, and licensing requirements, you will officially become a general practitioner.

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