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The bravery and courage displayed by healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic have been an inspiration to us all. In fact, it may have inspired you to join their ranks. If you’ve dreamed of a career as a physician but thought you were too old to go to medical school, think again. Becoming a doctor later in life is an attainable goal. Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) is dedicated to making medical education accessible to as many people as possible, including those traveling a nontraditional path and making a midlife career change to medicine. 

While becoming a doctor later in life may seem like a risk, there are many rewards. There are several benefits for physicians who practice medicine after a career in another field. These doctors are well seasoned and usually have the maturity needed to undertake the rigor of medical school, residency and launching their medical careers. They also bring to the table real-world experience. They understand what it means to meet deadlines, complete projects, prioritize assignments and juggle multiple tasks simultaneously.

In addition to this practical knowledge, people transitioning to a second career as a doctor have had ample opportunity to hone “soft skills” that translate well to the medical field. Clear and concise communication, listening, problem-solving, collaborating and the ability to take constructive feedback are tools that serve doctors well in their work and are likely already part of older doctors’ toolkits from their previous careers. If you’re asking how old is too old for medical school, or is it too late to become a doctor, the answers may surprise you.

 

Can you become a doctor at any age?

Is it too late to become a doctor? Not if you have the desire and drive, but it also helps to be fully informed before you take the leap. RUSM offers a wealth of resources for career changers. Here are some essential tips to help you as you prepare to embark on an exciting new chapter in your professional life.

  1. Find the Right School

    RUSM helps a diverse array of students taking a nontraditional medical school approach. We understand many of our students may face obstacles in the course of fulfilling their dream—such as one recent graduate who focused on becoming a doctor at 40—so we strive to make that path as smooth as possible with helpful programs and knowledgeable admission representatives who can offer sound guidance during your time at RUSM.
     
  2. Study the Admission Requirements

    A communicative and responsive admission team is critical to understanding the requirements you need to fulfill before applying to medical school. They can advise you on what transcripts you must have to document your undergraduate GPA, as well as any prerequisite coursework you may need to complete before submitting your application. These can include courses in subjects such as biology, physics, and chemistry. Suppose it’s been a while since you’ve seen the inside of a classroom. In that case, you can take advantage of our Medical Education Readiness Program to brush up on your academics and give you a better chance of success in medical school because we know that career changers bring a breadth of skills with them. We also look at the personal essay, recommendation letters and interview responses to represent each candidate’s real qualities accurately. 
     
  3. Take the MCAT

    Once you’ve gotten your prerequisites and application solidified, it’s time to focus on taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This exam, required at all U.S. medical schools, covers a wide range of subjects, including science, sociology and psychology. It’s an integral part of your medical school candidacy, so you need to devote time and energy to prepare for it. Explore our MCAT resources, so you know what to expect on test day.
     
  4. Get Hands-On Healthcare Experience

    Career-changing medical school students often come from healthcare backgrounds that give them a working knowledge of the field. Some of the jobs they hold before becoming a doctor later in life include nurse, EMT, paramedic, or physician assistant. However, we do see many applicants come from numerous other fields. Teachers, engineers, computer programmers, and professional athletes are just a few of the many types of people who dream of a rewarding career as a physician.

    If you want to be a doctor and haven’t worked in the medical field, we recommend seeking out opportunities where you can learn more about your prospective new profession. This could include volunteering at your local hospital or with a healthcare nonprofit organization. You may also inquire with physicians in your area about the potential to shadow them while they’re on the job. Our admission representatives can also work with you on ideas to get more exposure to careers in medicine. Not only does it give you a feel for the job, but it may also help you decide what your medical specialty will be.
     
  5. Prepare for Big Lifestyle Changes

    Can you become a doctor at any age? Yes, but when you are older, this decision can have different considerations than it does for 20-somethings fresh out of college. If you’ve been working in a steady career, you will have to make sure you can cover your financial expenses when switching from a full-time job to medical school. If you are taking out loans to cover costs, you need to be comfortable paying off debt, especially if you are an older career-change student. (RUSM offers various types of financial aid packages and scholarships that can help offset tuition and fees.) The intensity in your daily workload will likely increase in medical school, so healthy habits (exercise, plenty of sleep, and a nutritious diet) are vital to keeping you in top shape.

    Finally, if you want to become a doctor later in life, you aren’t alone in your new endeavor. You may be the only one in your family in school, but it will affect their lives. Before applying, discuss your decision with them and take an exact look at how it will change your family dynamics. Your spouse or partner may have to take on extra responsibilities around the house, while your children may not get as much of your time as they used to. Medical school is a big commitment for everyone in the family, so it can be valuable to seek out programs that offer support for spouses and other dependents. The exciting part is that your family will be cheering you on when you graduate and earn that doctorate. It’s an accomplishment that will make you proud.

 

Becoming a Doctor Later in Life at RUSM

How old is too old for medical school? If you have the passion, commitment, and focus, you’re never too old. If RUSM graduate Joyce Busch could concentrate on becoming a doctor at 40, so can you. Don’t let your age stop you from fulfilling your dream. Career change students are an essential asset to medical schools, bringing experience, enthusiasm and emotional intelligence. All of these qualities contribute to making an outstanding physician, one who is, in the words of our motto, “Dedita Scientiae Medendi”: dedicated to the science of healing.

Becoming a doctor later in life is a noble undertaking. You are willing to change your life to serve others, and that is truly inspirational. If you are ready to learn more about how you can start your medical school journey, contact the admissions team at Ross University School of Medicine today.

Related Resources

 

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2021-2022, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 96% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2022-23 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2021-22 who were active applicants in the 2022 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.