The GED degree is equivalent to a common high school diploma so it allows you to enroll in credit-bearing college coursework.
So yes, in that sense, if you would like to be a doctor, the GED® diploma will get you there, but it will take some perseverance on your behalf.
In America, we can find quite a few doctors who started their medical education and careers after earning their GED.
The GED credential opens the door to a challenging college education and for bright minds who passed the GED with perfect scores, medical school might be an option.
Keep also in mind that there are many scholarships available to qualifying bright students so if you have the ambition to become a doctor, a GED might get you there.
How to become a Doctor
If you want to become a doctor, you have to attend medical school. Medical school is a four-year process in which the medical student takes 1.5 to 2 years of basic science courses, then another two years of clinical coursework.
Entrance into medical school is tough. Applicants are required to have graduated from college and have taken several courses in the sciences, including physics, chemistry, and biology (more about that later).
The term ‘doctor’ applies to many specialists, they may be, for example, gynecologists, obstetricians, ER doctors, psychiatrists, pediatricians, neurologists, dermatologists, cardiologists, primary care providers, or cardiologists. All these healthcare professionals are, in one word, physicians.
First, you’ll have to apply to college. This could be a local community college, but if you want to enroll in a U.S. medical school, you will have to transfer to a 4-year college or university to earn your Bachelor’s degree. Your GED allows for a college education so there’s nothing that should hold you back.
Your major isn’t that relevant, but you should make sure that you complete all coursework that’s prerequisite for medical school. All U.S. med schools have the same prerequisites that include at least: one year of physics; two semesters of biology (one semester of molecular and/or cellular biology and one semester in general biology, for example), one year of general chemistry; and one semester of organic chemistry. More about this later.
One year of Orgo used to be required, but most med schools accept biochemistry as well for a second semester of Orgo. This will also help you greatly with passing the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test).
You may also take a year of human physiology and anatomy and some courses in social science. And though not necessarily required, some courses in psychopharmacology, neurobiology, viral/bacterial pathogenesis, and immunology could be recommended as well.
To be able to enroll in medical school after you graduated, you’ll have to take and pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), in the spring of your junior year. Then, you apply to medical school through AMCAS and hopefully, you will be invited for an interview.
If you get admitted, four more years of school will be your party until you get your D.O. (Osteopathic schools) or M.D. (Allopathic schools). You’ll have to take a residency which may range anywhere from three to seven years depending, for example, on the specialization.
There are many fields for students to pursue, from internal medicine and pediatrics to surgery and ophthalmology.
Specialized and surgical residencies are harder to secure due to intense competition. Primary care residencies such as family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics are more plentiful and much less competitive.
The educational path
The typical educational path for you, as a GED holder, could be slightly more challenging than for high school graduates as you didn’t have the chance to follow, for example, biology or physiology classes in high school. You’ll have some catching up to do, but if you are motivated to become a doctor, you definitely can!
Let’s take a closer look at what your usual educational track will look like:
- First, you’ll have to get your GED diploma.
- Then, you will have to enroll in community college and later transfer to a 4-year university or college and get a bachelor’s degree.
- You will need to take and pass the MCAT so that will require lots of studying, commitment, and perseverance.
- When you have completed your undergraduate degree and passed the MCAT, you can apply to Medical School, and when you’ve completed that, you can study even more to become a doctor.
The best thing you can do is to make a list of community colleges you first want to apply to and also a list of universities or colleges you want to go to after community college. Contact the schools’ Admissions Offices or check their websites and learn all about their application processes and how they will recognize your GED credentials. More details below.
Key things to do
If you want to be a doctor, there are a few important things you should keep in mind if you want to get accepted to a U.S. medical school. Let’s take a closer look at what you absolutely need:
- You will have to maintain excellent grades. This really should be your #1 priority.
- You must attain excellent scores on the MCAT. So get optimally prepared for the admission test that every med school applicant has to take.
- Get as much shadowing medicine experience as you can. This demonstrates your commitment and helps you to learn more about medical specializations.
- Get experienced in medical research. You may support a doctor or one of your professors with their research work.
- Gain as much relevant experience as possible. You may do volunteer work in a clinical emergency department, find a job as an EMT, or find a similar job. You may even get paid for the work you do.
- Letters of recommendation will prove to be very useful. So ask your professors, study mentors, or perhaps the doctor that you shadowed to help you with letters of recommendation. That will definitely benefit your application.
- Demonstrate your leadership skills. You can become a tutor, a mentor, or even a board member of a study club. As you are a GED graduate, you may consider taking on a job as a GED tutor. Wouldn’t that be great?
- Provide proof that you are committed to helping other people. It is important to be active in community service or a volunteering project. Make sure to choose something that’s meaningful to you and it doesn’t need to have a direct medicine relation.
So first, you’ll have to apply to a community college or university. There are many doctors in America who first signed up for community college to transition later to a 4-year university to go on to medical school later.
Usually, medical schools prefer if you take the required science and math prerequisite courses at a 4-year college or university rather than at a community college.
Prerequisite math and science courses include:
- General Chemistry (1 year)
- Organic Chemistry (1 year)
- Biology (at least 1 year, but generally many more bio courses)
- Physics (1 year)
- At least 1 class of biochemistry
Bear in mind that you’ll need to take and pass the MCAT as well and that you need high scores to get admitted to medical school. Though the MCAT is a challenging exam, you can attain great scores if you give all you’ve got in your undergraduate classes.
So you see, becoming a doctor takes a lot of studying and hard work, but that’s all for a good reason, wouldn’t you agree? Do you want to visit a doctor who wouldn’t have spent so many years of studying to get where s/he’s at? So even for you, the GED graduate, with lots of determination, hard work, and some grit, there wouldn’t be anything from stopping you to reach your goals, right?!
Maintain a good GPA
Good grades and a good GPA are necessary if you want to be invited for an admissions interview. Applicants with a GPA below 3.0 are actually likely to not be admitted into medical school at all.
Today, research has increasingly become an ‘optional’ requirement as more and more applicants list ‘research’ on their resumes. Unique experiences and extracurricular activities should also be included in resumes and can help score an admissions interview.
As said before, students applying to medical school are all required to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), a standardized computer-adaptive test like the ACT or SAT, but the MCAT tests college-level reading comprehension and science instead.
Today, med schools have the drive to recruit more and more primary care physicians because of the strong nationwide need for primary care doctors and increased demand in many states. To get into med school, some sort of basic clinical experience is required and applicants need to demonstrate that they have a strong affection with the world of medicine and that they understand the professional field they will get into.
Community service and/or research experience are not necessities during med school but students are highly recommended to get involved in this sort of activity and to get the most out of their medical education. All through med school, standardized tests are required, and passing a number of standardized tests is actually part of the graduation process.
MDs and DOs
Generally speaking, we can divide doctors into two main types, M.D.s (Medical Doctors) and D.O.s (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine).
Both categories of doctors are diagnosing and treating patients for a wide variety of medical issues, but D.O.s may additionally specialize in holistic patient care and preventive medicine.
Within these two main categories, we can see numerous specialties. Doctors may be working in the fields of immunology, radiology, plastic surgery, pediatric or geriatric healthcare, urology, or allergy to mention just a few specializations.
During the past decades, we have witnessed tremendous technological advancements and improvements in the sector of medicine. There has also been a huge improvement in patient care, but today, physicians face also huge challenges.
We see more and more non-medical individuals intruding into all sorts of physician’s settings, and legislators are making all sorts of laws, and more frequently lawyers are threatening medical liability.
Doctors are the professionals we will call when we get the flu, when we have a broken arm, or when the contractions start coming every few minutes.
We call doctors to make an appointment when we see irregular freckles, and we visit them when we cough too much, when we have a cold, when daddy’s heart needs to work too hard, and when we suspect our mom to lose her memory.
Undergraduate (Premedical) Degree
GED graduates who are meeting undergraduate admission requirements have the freedom to major in any academic field but they must take medical school prerequisite courses such as biology, mathematics, physiology, anatomy, and chemistry.
Students who are choosing a premedical major are optimally prepared for admission to medical school. Premedical courses include topics such as physics, biological sciences, biochemistry, and organic chemistry. Premedical courses are specifically designed to prepare students for taking the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) and successfully attending medical school.
Medical school requirements
In the final year of their undergraduate study, students should get optimally prepared to sit for the MCAT. The MCAT is a computer-adaptive standardized exam that evaluates a student’s problem-solving, critical thinking, and writing skills. The MCAT additionally assesses a student’s knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts related to the medical professional field. All U.S. medical schools require applicants to take the MCAT and submit test scores with applications.
High school equivalency (GED)
The GED exam is an ideal alternative for students looking to enroll in credit-bearing college courses but who cannot return to high school to complete their secondary education. Today, there is also an option to sit for the GED in an online proctored version. This online test was recently introduced.
Your GED scores will help college admissions officials assess if your academic knowledge and skills level is at par with that of high school graduates. If your GED scores are in the ‘College-Ready’ or College-Ready Plus Credits’ ranges, you may see SAT or ACT requirements waived and get admitted to a 4-year school without having to take any remedial coursework.
Students who score in the GED ‘High School Equivalency’ range may be required to first enroll in a 2-year community college so they can work on their required premedical coursework (courses in science and mathematics. When they have completed the 2-year community college program, they can apply to a 4-year university or college and work toward earning a bachelor’s degree.
The GED exam is scored on a 100 to 200 scale. There are four separate GED modules and on each module, the passing score is 145. A score in the 145 to 164 range is the GED ‘High School Equivalency’ Score, the 165 to 174 range means ‘College Readiness’, and the 175 to 200 scoring range means the student has attained ‘College Ready Plus up to 10 College Credits’ status.
So becoming a doctor with a GED is quite possible though it may be perhaps the unconventional way. If you’ve gone to a community college, then earned your undergrad degree, and subsequently transfer to medical school, they may or may not require to see your GED or high school records. That depends on the school and the prerequisite courses you took. Usually, the higher the institution ranks, the more likely they will be to take high school/GED records into consideration.
Keep in mind that becoming a doctor takes at least 11 years and for you, the GED graduate, perhaps even longer. It takes at least four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and then at least three years of working in a clinical setting. So you see, becoming a doctor with a GED is definitely possible but you may face many years of hardship.
Many professionals hold a GED
There are so many people that hold a GED and do extremely well in life. Holding a GED isn’t a bad thing at all! Whether or not a four-year college or university will request your high school or GED transcripts depends generally on a few factors such as how many credits you’re having, whether you hold an associate’s degree, and even then they may anyway want to see your high school or GED transcripts.
So when you’ve done well in community college and also very well in a four-year college or university, then yes, they will let you enroll in practically any U.S. medical school. What’s key is that you have maintained an outstanding GPA throughout your college years.
So your options after you’ve graduated from a community college depend heavily on how well you did in that school. There’s no need to think that everybody’s looking down on people with a GED. There are numerous lawyers, teachers, dentists, doctors, and so on, who all hold a GED, and there are so many people who first signed up for a community college to transition later to a four-year school.
Applying to med school at an older age
Many professors at U.S. medical schools find that often, older applicants are very impressive candidates. Usually, students start to dream of becoming a doctor early in their lives, but sometimes, people get to realize that becoming a doctor is their calling year after finishing their college education.
Students who have solid careers in different fields and want to be a doctor should be aware that premeds who are somewhat older may consider their life experience and age as their unique selling points.
They had more time for cultivating their interests, often have a stronger real-world resilience, a ‘sense of self’, and demonstrate competence. They are aware that deep inside, they’ve come to know that the medical profession is their calling. So they are highly motivated and should definitely pursue it.
Then again, premeds in their late-30s, or perhaps even older, should be aware that they are unlike their peers, they are outliers. The average age of medical students in medical schools in the U.S. has averaged about 24 over the past few decades.
Older premeds should be as open as they possibly can about how they came to the decision that they want to apply to med school. They should be proud to tell their stories. Prospective medical students who clearly explain their reasons and motivations for pursuing a career as a doctor can be sure to reassure admissions officers that they are willing and able to complete medical school successfully and that they are committed to the medical profession.
Medical school usually takes four years and after that, graduates usually take on medical residency afterward that takes 3 to 7 years in which they will focus on a particular specialization field of medicine. So it is key for aspiring doctors, after completing their college education, to consider whether they are ready to spend so many years for a career as a doctor.
And also worth considering is the cost of a medical education. Many students need to take out a loan to pay for their education and last year, the median amount of medical student debt was around a staggering $200,000! So especially older premeds who currently have good positions should consider both the cost of attending medical schools and the effect of forgoing their salaries.
So when you hold a GED diploma, are somewhat older, and would like to be a doctor, it is definitely possible to get admitted to medical school but the road ahead might be challenging and costly. Don’t forget that the perception that GED holders and older premeds are less viable candidates to get into medical school is a false narrative.
Experts say there is totally nothing wrong with people pursuing a different career or who decide later-on in their lives that they want to be a doctor. Both GED graduates and older medical students may very well excel in med school and especially older students often bring in pretty unique perspectives. Generally, older students tend to be highly creative and efficient, and extremely motivated.
The Physician Assistant
If for you, the GED graduate, becoming a doctor is taking too long, too much of a cost, and perhaps out of reach, maybe becoming a physician assistant is an option. Being a physical Assistant (PA) is actually among the most important and rewarding careers in the medical sector. We often talk about nurses and doctors, but physician assistants play vital roles when it comes to diagnostics and treating patients.
Their role is diverse and varied. They are often the ones that meet one-on-one with patients and collaborate with medical professionals. They are involved in developing treatment plans and are often responsible for administering medication.
Physical Assistants combine a vast variety of knowledge and skills, and they are often the ones that keep clinics and hospitals moving ahead and in the right direction. PAs have excellent job security, are well paid, and are working together with people from all walks of life and of all ages. So if you can’t become a doctor, think about if you’ve got what it takes to be a physician assistant.
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