Becoming a Physician

Introduction

In order to become a physician, you must complete a Medical Doctor (MD) degree program at an accredited university, followed by residency in family medicine or specialty post-graduate training. Completion of the qualifying examinations of the Medical Council of Canada and licensing by the provincial or territorial licensing authority is also a requirement for becoming a physician. The path to becoming a doctor requires a commitment of seven to nine or more years. Some medical schools require two to three years of pre-med while others may require a bachelor's degree. After the MD degree, you may choose Family Practice (2 years minimum) or other medical specialties (at least 4 years) and will spend your time as a resident physician training for certification while being paid to care for patients.

Generally, the acceptance to medical school is based on the following factors:

  • A high grade point average.
  • Successful completion of certain undergraduate courses. The required courses vary from one institution to another. In general, courses in Biology, Mathematics, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, and English are recommended. Some universities suggest studying Humanities and the Social Sciences in order to have a broad academic background. A well-rounded education helps develop desirable qualities in a physician such as an understanding of how society works and excellent communication skills.
  • Results of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
  • Extracurricular activities - especially those reflecting public or health-related service, volunteer work, and other evidence of your initiative.
  • Letters of recommendation.
  • Personal interviews with medical school admissions committees.

Nearly all pre-medical courses may be taken at Athabasca University. View a list of AU undergraduate courses.

The following is a list of individual AU undergraduate courses typically completed by AU students preparing for taking the MCAT or those trying to get into a medical school.

Suggested AU Courses:
BIOL204 Principles of Biology I
BIOL205 or
BIOL207
Principles of Biology II
BIOL 235 or
BIOL 230
Human Anatomy and Physiology OR
Human Physiology
BIOL325 Introductory Microbiology
CHEM217 Chemical Principles I
CHEM218 Chemical Principles II
CHEM301 Introduction to Biochemistry
CHEM350 Organic Chemistry I
CHEM360 Organic Chemistry II
ENGL155 Developing Writing Skills (for the MCAT essay)
ENGL255 Introductory Composition (also for the MCAT essay)
PHYS200 Introductory Physics I
PHYS201 Introductory Physics II

* If you are enrolled in an AU undergraduate degree, consult with an Academic Advisor when selecting your courses.

It is often recommended that you have an alternate career in mind in case you are not accepted into a medical program as medical programs in Canada are quota programs. Although you may meet entrance requirements, you may not be accepted. Some students complete the AU Bachelor of Science (BSc) general degree or the BSc with a Major in Human Sciences. For more information regarding the AU BSc and the various Major and Minor options, see the AU Centre for Science.

It may be possible to complete a degree in a different area of study toward medical school admission. Regardless of your undergraduate program, specific science-related courses are required for medical school admission. Again, thoroughly review medical school admission requirements before enrolling in any undergraduate program.

See the full listing of AU undergraduate degree programs.

* NOTE: This information is general in nature. Medical school admission requirements vary. It is your responsibility to ensure that the courses or degree you take will be accepted by the medical school you wish to attend. Consult the medical schools admission information to ensure you have all the necessary requirements.

Next Steps

1. Research career information related to careers in medicine

The following links contain information on duties, working conditions, skills, education, salary, employment prospects and opportunities. Search using key words such as physician or general practitioner. Research any specialization you might consider as part of your career:

2. Research medical school admission requirements

Consult medical school admissions information for all the schools you would consider applying. This step is most important to ensure your application meets requirements and is competitive (also exceeds some requirements). Determine entrance requirements and details regarding transferring credit. Determine if your undergraduate course work must be completed as full-time studies. AU allows flexibility of part-time as well as full-time studies, but the medical schools may have a requirement for full-time studies.

Additional resources

There are several internet resources available to aid your research. Here are just a few to consider:

4. Contact an AU Counsellor

A counsellor can provide you with more information on this particular career path and help you determine which AU program supports your goals. You can use the online appointment form to schedule a telephone appointment with a counsellor or call 1-800-788-9041.

5. Become an AU Student.

Once you complete these steps, you are ready to become an AU Student.

6. Contact an Academic Advisor

Once you have applied and selected an AU program of study, Academic Advisors help you select courses and develop a program plan. (For courses or programs at another institution, you must contact that institution direct for assistance.) Academic Advising Services are available by email, using their online form, by phone, 1 800 788 9041, or in person at one of our AU locations. For more information see Advising Services.

References

Alberta Learning Information Services (2019). Alberta Occupational Profiles.
https://alis.alberta.ca/occinfo/occupations-in-alberta/occupation-profiles/family-physician/

Association of American Medical Colleges (2019).
https://students-residents.aamc.org/

National Occupational Classification
http://noc.esdc.gc.ca/English/NOC/Welcome.aspx?ver=16

University of Toronto: Preparing for Medical School.
https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/careers/further-education/professional-schools/medicine