Within the field of internal medicine, an infectious disease specialist is a highly trained doctor who has expertise in diagnosing and treating patients infected with various parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses that are spread through human contact. While most family practice doctors can take care of treating routine infections, infectious disease specialists are given a call when expert knowledge is needed to treat an infection that cannot be identified, is resisting treatment, or poses a severe threat to others. In order to help unravel the health mysteries that accompany various diseases, infectious disease specialists typically need to complete over one decade of post-secondary training. Read on to find a step-by-step guide on how you can get started on the long, yet rewarding journey of becoming an infectious disease specialist.
1. Earn a Relevant Bachelor’s Degree
The first step for aspiring infectious disease specialists is to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution to receive admissions into medical school. Although a specific major is not required, choosing to study biology, chemistry, physics, nursing, psychology, health science, physiology, or mathematics can be very beneficial. Since medical school is well-known for being extremely competitive, you will want to achieve the highest grades possible and acquire relevant work experience for the best shot at acceptance.
2. Acquire a Good Score on the MCAT
As part of your application to med school, you will need to submit your undergraduate transcripts as well as your scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is a standardized examination comprised of multiple choice questions that has been specifically designed to evaluate your problem solving, critical thinking, and scientific knowledge for future studies in medicine. You will be required to take the MCAT no later than the end of the year preceding the year you are planning to begin medical school.
3. Achieve a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Degree
Once you are accepted into medical school, the next step for aspiring infectious disease specialists is to complete four years of advanced studies for completing a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Although programs vary significant from school to school, most programs will consist of two foundational years of standard classroom instruction and two clinical years for working with actual patients in hands-on learning under the supervision of an experienced doctor. It is suggested that you specialize in internal medicine to receive the training that most closely aligns with your career goals in treating infectious diseases.
4. Complete a Residency in Internal Medicine
Simply acquiring your M.D. degree will not grant you the right to begin treating patients without supervision, so you must then complete your residency for around three more years. During your residency in internal medicine, you will receive the experiential learning experience needed for your chosen specialty area and earn the title of Doctor of Internal Medicine. In order to further specialize your career in infectious disease, it is strongly recommended that you complete an additional fellowship program in infectious disease medicine for two to three more years.
Overall, choosing to pursue a career working with patients suffering from infectious diseases is an admirable decision that will require you to commit at least 13 years of training from undergraduate education through residency. Since infectious diseases are the second leading cause of death globally, becoming an infectious disease specialist will allow you to participate in exciting medical detective work and help save countless lives from growing disease threats.
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