By Josephine Reid
There are advantages and disadvantages to either career path, so it's important to be sure of your specific aspirations before you take the plunge. In terms of education and training, the two careers differ most in time/requirements, costs, and roles.
- Medical school: To be eligible to apply to medical school, you will need to have earned a bachelor's degree before entry and, in many cases, a higher-than-average GPA and MCAT score. Once in medical school, you'll need to complete at least four years to earn a medical degree, and then complete a three to seven-year residency training program depending on your chosen specialty. Though those in other careers typically cannot fast-track into medicine using other degrees or experiences, there are combined B.A./M.D. programs for those confident of their interest in medicine, which can shave a year off of training time.
- Nursing school: There are three paths to pursuing a nursing career: obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing (B.S.N.) degree in four years; an associate degree in nursing (A.D.N.) in two to three years; or a diploma from a hospital-run program, typically in three years. Advance practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, need a master's degree (M.S.N.), which takes two years. For many jobs, a bachelor's degree or higher is usually required. There are accelerated B.S.N. programs for those with degrees in other fields, which can take from 12 to 18 months, and combined B.S.N./M.S.N. programs of three to four years in duration.
If a nurse practitioner decides they want to become a physician, they have two options: a medical school for a doctor of medicine or medical school for a doctor of osteopathy. These are abbreviated as MD and DO. Although the training programs are very similar, osteopathy includes extra training in the musculoskeletal system and spinal manipulation. After medical school, they must complete the usual residency requirements and perhaps a fellowship as well.
A nurse practitioner has an advantage over some medical students in that they may have already taken many of the courses required in college or medical school. If courses completed in the master's program meet the prerequisite requirements for medical school, the nurse practitioner may be able to go straight from practicing as an NP to medical school. In some cases, however, you may need to repeat a course or take an additional course or courses to qualify for medical school.
Nurses should know that the benefits of a medical education are real and substantial, but not without sacrifice; medical training is long and carries a heavy financial burden.
An RN becomes a physician in two ways, and one is by taking the medical school route.
A bachelor’s degree with a concentration in the sciences is required for admission to an allopathic or MD program. If you have a BSN, that will be a good preparatory degree. Remember, however, that screening for admission to MD program is a highly competitive process. You must have an impressive Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) score, high GPA, and a remarkable essay.
To give you an idea how competitive MD school admission is, more than half of applicants get rejected yearly, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Assuming you hurdle the admissions process successfully, it will be 4 years of intensive coursework. One year of internship follows. You will then obtain a license as an MD, and proceed to 3- or 4-year residency to specialize in a particular area.Becoming a fellow may also be a future option. Medical school after completing your BSN requires 4-5 years of schooling.