How many years of school to become a Medical Doctor
The number of years it takes to study Medicine and Surgery in Nigeria is 6 years. You will spend 3 years learning Medical courses of normal body functions in Anatomy, Physiology, and Biochemistry; and another 3 years to study the abnormal functions in pathology, medicine, and surgery and how to treat these diseases (Pathologies) before you will become a medical doctor in Nigeria.
After the required 6 years of Undergraduate study in Medicine and Surgery, you must have gained a good knowledge on how to treat minor diseases and you can resuscitate (stabilize a patient) before the senior doctors (registrars and consultants) further take up the case. This means after 6 years of undergraduate study in medicine and surgery, you are still not qualified enough to handle diseases alone as you will still go through another 4 to 6 years of postgraduate study known as Residency Program.
In the residency program, you will be paid monthly salary depending on your level. But in undergraduate study, you will not be paid unless you are on scholarship (which is rare these days).
So in order to become a medical doctor who is a professional (that is, if you want to be a Gynecologist or a General Surgeon or any Professional Doctor you want to be (Consultants or Professors of Medicine and Surgery), then you must start your Residency program after your undergraduate study. The period of your residency program is what is referred to as Postgraduate study in Medicine and Surgery.
Other options after becoming a qualified medical doctor in Nigeria
It is not compulsory for you to become a consultant before you start practicing medicine and surgery after your undergraduate study in Medicine and surgery. You will be given your license to practice medicine and surgery during your Induction and Oath taking ceremony; usually done immediately after you finish the undergraduate program. If you do not want to do your residency program, you can start practicing immediately. You can apply and start working in any hospital with a vacancy or you can decide to become a Medical Officer of health. The only advantage of residency is that it enables you to become a consultant (highest qualification of clinical medicine and surgery); you get to become a specialist in a chosen field of study.
If you still want to further in your career, you can become a Professor of Medicine or Surgery by lecturing and doing all the necessary research before you become one.
How many years it takes to become a Specialist in medicine and surgery in Nigeria
Becoming a specialist in a chosen field varies and some specialties take more years to study and become a consultant in such fields than others. So to answer how many years it takes to study Medicine and Surgery, here is a list of the number of years it takes for all the programs of medicine and surgery according to the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria.
The number of months indicated below is the minimum period (in months) you have to be trained before you are qualified for the exam. The part 1 exam is for junior residents called Junior registrars. Part 2 exam is for senior residents called the Senior registrars. Therefore when you start residency you need to be trained for a minimum amount of period to become qualified to write part 1; then be trained again for another minimum amount of period to write part 2 exam. So when you write and pass part 1, you become a senior registrar. Then when you write part 2 as a senior registrar and pass, you become a consultant. A consultant is a specialist in a field or aspect of medicine such as Neurosurgery, Cardiothoracic surgery, Psychiatry, etc.
- To become a consultant in Anesthesia you will need to be trained for 24 months as junior registrar and another 24 months as a senior registrar.
- Dental surgery requires 24 months for junior registrar and 36 months for senior registrar
- General Dental Surgery needs 24 months of minimum training as a Junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar
- Family Medicine will take you 24 months to be trained as a junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar.
- Obstetrics and gynecology requires 30 months and 24 months as a junior and senior registrar respectively
- Ophthalmology requires 24 months of minimum training as a junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar
- Pediatrics requires 24 months as a junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar
- Pathology requires 24 months as a junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar
- Internal medicine requires 24 months as a junior registrar and 36 months as a senior registrar
- Psychiatry needs a minimum of 24 as a junior registrar to be qualified to seat for the part 1 exam and another 24 months for senior registrars
- Public health (Community health or Community medicine) requires 24 months as a junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar
- Radiology needs 24 months as a junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar
- Otorhinolaryngology (E.N.T – which stands for Ear, Nose, and Throat) requires 36 months as a junior registrar and 24 months as a senior registrar
- Orthopedics requires 30 months as a junior registrar and another 30 months as a senior registrar
- Surgery as a whole requires a minimum of 24 months of training as a junior registrar and 36 months as a senior registrar. Exceptions in surgery are: Cardiothoracic and Neurosurgery require a minimum of 48 months of training as a senior registrar before being qualified to write the part 2 exam.
Remember that the months stated above are minimum requirements. This means, there may be some circumstances that could arise in which you may actually need more time to be trained before you can qualify for the exams; this could increase the total period of becoming a specialist or a consultant.
Problems and Challenges that may add to your years and make you stay longer
Having known the standard number of years it takes to study Medicine and surgery in Nigeria, there are some conditions or unforeseen circumstances that may force you to take a longer period of time to study medicine in Nigeria. These challenges may include:
- Incessant Industrial actions (Academic staff strikes, Non-Academic staff strikes, Nurses and Pharmacists strikes)
- Accreditation and Administrative problems
- When you fail exams and have to add repeat another year
- Partial accreditation of your center (hospital of attachment where you are being trained)
The important and common one is the incessant strikes in Nigerian Universities or Colleges of Medicine and Surgery. When the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) goes on strike, whether it is National or within your University, it will affect you. If Nurses, Medical Laboratory Scientists, Pharmacists and other Health workers (JOHESU Joint Health Sector Union) go on strike, it will affect your clinical practice because patients will not be available for you in the clinic. You will be forced to halt your clinical practice pending when they resume and patients become available.
If the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) goes on Strike, it will still affect you again because you need the resident doctors to teach you as the consultants may be busy or they may not be able to teach everyone at the same time as they are few. Because of all these, you are unlikely to take 6 years to complete Medicine and Surgery undergraduate study. The postgraduate study is also affected by some of these issues. These, therefore, increase the number of years it takes to study medicine and surgery and also the time it takes to be a specialist.
Other factors that may contribute may include poor administrative staff who may not do all the necessary documentation needed for accreditation of your medical program and that might force the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria – MDCN (the government approved body that governs and directs medical practices in Nigeria to ensure the maintenance of standard and compliance such as approving medical licenses to doctors to practice or to hospitals to be established) to withdraw the license of your medical school. This happens often in some universities.
The other problem might be when you have academic problems that you have to add another year.
All these factors affect the number of years you will spend and they occur often and there is a high probability that when you start medical school in Nigeria, you may be affected especially when you are going through government (Public) universities compared to Private universities.
Number of Years to study Medicine in other parts of the world
Medical schools across the world take almost the same number of years as in Nigeria, even though there may be variations with a difference of 1 or 2 years depending on the country.
How many years to study medicine in the USA
Studying Medicine and Surgery in the United States of America require you to have studied some undergraduate courses for 4 years before you apply for medicine. Such courses are mostly medically related such as Nursing or Biochemistry or any medically related course. After you are done with such, you can now apply for Medicine if you meet the requirements.
When given the admission, you will spend about 4 or 5 years depending on the college. This may therefore add up to about 8 or 9 years (4 years for the non-medicine course and another 4 years or 5 for Medicine course). Their advantage over Nigerians is that there is nothing as strike or poor administration and even if it exists, it doesn’t take long to rectify.
Similar cases apply to the number of years to study medicine and surgery in the UK (United Kingdom) or Germany or Canada.
In General, studying Medicine and Surgery takes a longer time and requires more effort compared to other courses and this is the reason why Doctors (anyone who studies Medicine and Surgery is called a Medical Doctor) are paid higher than others.
You will study for longer period of time, you will still continue to study even after you finish and you will hardly have time for other aspects of life and their training requires more resources (Establishing Teaching Hospitals) and because of this, they are paid more.
If you want to be a Medical Doctor, especially in Nigeria, be prepared to go through many years of intense training; some of your non-medical colleagues will finish, go for Youth Service (NYSC) and start working. Some may marry but you will still be studying in School. This is the reason why it is said that you should be passionate about it and not go into it for the Money or the Job security it offers as you may become discouraged with time. Nevertheless, it is possible and you can do it as others before you have done it. I wish you the best.
Written by Dr. Bongdap Nansel Nanzip (Investor, Doctor, Entrepreneur, and Programmer)