Typically, it takes at least 11 years after graduating from high school to become a doctor. Additional years of study are often needed when a doctor specializes.

The process begins with a four-year undergraduate degree, which is either a B.A. or B.S. Next comes four years of medical school. At the end of this, a student receives a doctor of medicine degree, or M.D. However, in order to practice independently, doctors must participate in a residency program. This usually lasts three to seven years. For instance, residencies for internal medicine and pediatrics last three years, but general surgery takes five years. After internship, some doctors continue with one- to three-year fellowships in order to enter subspecialties, such as gastroenterology or child and adolescent psychiatry.