How to become a doctor at 40

The road to becoming a doctor is a long and rigorous one that requires four years of medical school and at least three years of additional training after graduation. If you want to switch careers to become a doctor and are currently in your 30 or 40, this large time investment may discourage you. However, as long as you are truly passionate about becoming a doctor and have the right credentials, you can successfully become a doctor in your 40s.

Research schools. For instance, large research institutions like Stanford University usually accept more applicants who want to become specialists. Other schools, like Southern Illinois University, focus on producing graduates who will become small family practitioners. You might also find that some schools are more open to accepting older students with a less traditional background.

Take required prerequisite courses. Most schools require two semesters of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Some schools require calculus, statistics, genetics or other classes.

Take higher-level science classes if you took your basic prerequisites many years ago. This shows admissions committees that you are still a good student and that you are capable of learning and applying scientific concepts at a high level. These upper-level classes will also help you prepare for the medical school entrance exam, the MCAT.

Study for and take the MCAT. Admissions committees will hold your score to the same standards as a traditional applicant's. Most schools take only MCAT scores that are less than three years old, so if you took yours many years ago you will need to retake it.

Contact the financial aid office at schools you wish to attend to find specifics of available scholarships and grants. Most medical school financial aid is geared toward students in their 20s who have no dependents. Therefore, you might have to supplement the financial aid you receive from your school to help support your family.

Gather recommendation letters. Most traditional applicants submit three letters from science professors and a letter from a community reference or a job. As an older applicant, you might not have three science letters; you might instead want to submit letters from your supervisors and doctors you volunteer with.

Submit your application. Most medical school applications are online now, and you can submit a common primary application to as many schools as you want simply by checking a box on the online application.

Practice interviewing. You will probably be asked more questions than the average applicant about why you want to go to medical school. Be prepared to articulate your reasons for wanting a midlife career change.


Assess your financial situation and decide if you can afford medical school. The American Medical Association reports that as of 2009, the average medical student carried £101,494 in educational debt at graduation.

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About the Author

Ethan Schwartz has been a scientific and freelance writer for a year, writing scientific literature for "Gene Therapy" and articles on education, health and personal finance for eHow. Schwartz graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and will begin medical school in July 2010.