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Physician Education and Training
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Understanding the education and training of physicians, the most highly-skilled and trained of the health professions.

Physician Education and Training

Physicians are the most highly educated, trained, and skilled health care professionals. Their training lasts between seven and 15 years and includes tens of thousands of hours of hands-on patient care. Throughout their lives, physicians are constantly updating their practice to reflect the latest medical knowledge and research, emerging public health threats, and the needs of their communities.

Here are the steps to becoming a licensed physician in the state of Washington.

Earn a bachelor’s degree

  • The beginning of a physician’s educational journey: completing a four-year undergraduate program.

Pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) exam

  • To help determine an applicant’s preparedness for medical school, the MCAT tests knowledge in general chemistry, organic chemistry, general biology, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology, as well as critical analysis and reasoning skills.

Complete medical school

  • Totaling four years, medical school consists of a mixture of classroom and lab time in basic sciences, such as anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, and more coupled with the unique experience of clinical practice at hospitals and clinics in the last two years.
  • Passage of the first two parts of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which tests medical knowledge and expertise on diagnoses and diseases is also required.
  • Washington state is home to three medical schools: University of Washington School of Medicine, Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, and Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.

Accumulate significant debt

  • The average medical school debt for the graduating class of 2019 was $201,490, according to the most recent data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.


  • Depending on medical specialty, residency programs take 3-7 years to complete, resulting in a physician spending 12,000-16,000 hours of hands-on patient care.

Pass part 3 of the USMLE exam

  • The final part of the USMLE focuses on the ability to efficiently practice medicine and prioritize patient care.

Apply for Washington state licensure

  • The Washington Medical Commission, which regulates physicians in the state, lists a series of requirements in order to obtain a license to practice medicine.

Practice medicine!

  • Many physicians stay to practice in the communities they’ve trained in.
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