Everyone gives a different answer to the question, “why do you want to become a doctor?” but funnily enough, they also give the same answer. Students invariably share some kind of desire to help people, early childhood encounter with a doctor or illness, that medicine is in the family, their love science, their sacred calling, etc. The fact that people usually have the same reason for entering medicine is what makes answering “why do you want to become a doctor?” so difficult during medical school interviews or when writing a medical school personal statement. But the important thing to remember about knowing how to answer “why do you want to become a doctor?” is, according to our expert Dr. Monica Taneja, MD and graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, to create “a clear timeline” of your path to medical school. This blog will explore further what Dr. Taneja means, and show you a path to how to answer “why do you want to become a doctor?” based on our work with premeds and conversations with practicing physicians. 

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Article Contents
15 min read

Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor? Creating a Clear Timeline How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor?” Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor? How to Start Thinking About Your Answer “Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor?” How to Build Your Answer Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor? Sample Answer FAQs

Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor? Creating a Clear Timeline

What does Dr. Taneja mean by creating a “clear timeline”? She means that you have to create a narrative with a beginning, middle and end, with the beginning being your initial motivation for pursuing medicine; the middle being everything you did – “all the highlights”, in Dr. Taneja’s words – to get to the end, which is the interview stage of the medical school application process. Your interviewers want to hear about your journey to this point and how different it is from every other applicant’s – this is the central motivation behind why admissions committees ask “why do you want to become a doctor?”; they want to hear the whole story.

Like I tell students I work with, when telling your story during interviews or in your personal statement or your medical school secondary essays, you want to almost entertain your audience; you want them to sympathize with you, and you want them to root for you. If you or your loved ones becoming ill isn’t your story, then talk about whatever it was that drew you to medicine. Talk about your interest in science. Talk about how, if your parents or other family members are doctors, watching them work inspired you. Maybe it wasn’t even a childhood experience. Maybe, if you’re a non-traditional medical school applicant, you chose to become a doctor later in life.

Christopher Czarnecki was five years out of university when he realized that he wanted to pursue medicine, so there are many paths to becoming a doctor. Fang Wang, who eventually became an MD/MPH first “decided to go to public health school to learn the skills for chronic disease prevention and management,” to gain a better understanding of how to care for a specific patient demographic. Megana Varma, who took the PA to MD path worked as a physician assistant before being accepted to two DO schools. She decided on this path because:

"When I worked as a medical assistant, I saw myself assimilate with the workflow, how the care team operated together, and patient-centered interactions."

Megana does not only talk about helping people, but she gives specific examples, such as “how the care team operated together” and “patient-centered interactions” as her reasons for becoming a doctor. She had to explain that decision, and you should do the same. What was behind that decision? And, more importantly, what did you do after?

Did you learn how to study for the MCAT? Did you talk to a medical school advisor to gauge your chances of getting into medical school and make sure you meet medical school requirements? These questions apply to everyone, in every demographic, who wants to get into medical school, because showing what you’ve done to get to the point where you’re one step away from getting into medical school is the key to answering “why do you want to become a doctor?” 

How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor?”

One example of how to answer “why do you want to become a doctor?” by telling a story with a clear timeline is Dr. Neel Mistry. A graduate of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Mistry backed up Dr. Taneja’s advice by presenting his story with a clear beginning, middle and end. When he was asked “why do you want to become a doctor?”, Dr. Mistry “talked about a childhood experience that drew me to medicine.” He then “reflected on my core values and interests,” and rather than simply stating his values and general interest in medicine, Dr. Mistry then “tied that into why medicine was the best fit” for him.

This last part is especially important since you want to be able to show your interviewers why you think becoming a doctor is the best way for you to manifest your desire to help people, if that is your reason for wanting to become a doctor. Wanting to help people is all well and good, but there are many professions you can enter to help people – lawyer, paramedic, police officer, teacher – so, an important aspect of answering “why do you want to become a doctor?” is making the case that medicine is the only way for you to achieve this goal.

Using Dr. Taneja’s advice, and inspired by Dr. Mistry’s example, here are three important points to remember when thinking about how to answer “why do you want to become a doctor?” 

  • The beginning: communicate the event or events that triggered your curiosity about the field
  • The middle: explain what you did after to learn more about the field
  • The end: explain what solidified your decision to choose medicine and identify your specific reasons

These are general points so they can be used by anyone to fit any story. For many, including Dr. Mistry, the beginning might have been during childhood; the beginning of his timeline was a “childhood experience”, which, as I said above, is what many premeds talk about when asked “why do you want to become a doctor?”. For example, Kathryn Carbajal, who applied to medical schools in the US, said that she wanted to become a doctor “after watching my grandfather suffer complications of Type 2 diabetes.”

This experience is unique to Kathryn, and you might have a completely different story or beginning, but whatever it is, you have to start there for the sake of creating a “clear timeline”. You don’t want to confuse your interviewers with a shifting timeline, where you jump back and forth between your childhood, high school and undergraduate years.

In Kathryn’s case, she started with her grandfather’s experience with diabetes and then she could have gone on to talk about what she did to follow-through on her motivation; she could’ve started volunteering with diabetes support groups as an extracurricular for medical school; or she could’ve gone the academic route by talking about taking elective undergraduate courses in fields related to the disease, such as physiology, biochemistry or genetics. 

At this point, I want to remind you that your reason for wanting to become a doctor is not as important as the actions you have taken to make that dream a reality. Everyone has a different (or similar) reason for wanting to become a doctor, but what will distinguish you during the application process, or interview, is showing what you’ve done personally to follow-through on this desire, much more than simply stating this desire.

Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor? How to Start Thinking About Your Answer

Taking everything we’ve talked about up until now into account, we now can start looking at how you can start thinking about your answer “why do you want to become a doctor?”. Your reason for wanting to become a doctor may jump out at you right away, crystal clear. Or maybe it was a series of choices or events in your life which led you to an interest in medicine. Regardless of where you fall, if you don’t have a ready answer, it’s time to dig deep and start asking yourself some self-reflective questions.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started on creating your personal narrative:

  • What were the defining moments in your life?
  • What were your early experiences with the medical profession? Which ones made an impression on you?
  • When was the moment you decided to apply to medical school? What spurred your decision?
  • Is there someone in your life who inspires you? Why?
  • What qualities do you have that you think would make a good doctor?
  • What started your curiosity or interest in medicine?
  • What experiences do you have that have grown your interest in medicine?
  • What about the medical profession most appeals to you? Why do you want to become a doctor over another related profession?

These are good questions to start brainstorming the content of your answer. You don’t have to have an answer to all of these questions, but you can choose one or two that stick out to you and then use as the foundation to build a longer, but concise narrative. But even though I talked about how you have to be entertaining, or have a compelling story, you should not in any way make up a story or outright lie about your past. Our expert MD and a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, cautions “straight lying or overly unrealistic situations should be avoided.” However, in the service of hooking in your audience, Dr. Cazes does say “it is OK to slightly embellish some details of your story to make it more interesting.”

You shouldn’t create a fantasy about what you’ve done – anyway, as Dr. Cazes says, “it is easy for reviewers to spot a fake story or an overly unrealistic one” – because you feel your background is lacking in achievement or experience. But you should remember that one of your goals in answering “why do you want to become a doctor” is to be interesting, which you can do by making certain details, or circumstances more high-stakes and vivid without telling a lie about yourself.

For guidance, Dr. Cazes uses the example of talking about “the time your friend was smashed up against the boards in hockey and you, with your limited first aid experience helped.” The embellishment here is “your limited first aid experience” if you indeed had first-aid certification at the time, since saying you had no experience makes the story more interesting. A lie would be saying you played hockey, when you never played hockey. To summarize, you shouldn’t lie about having an experience, but you can adjust some details to highlight your best qualities.

Want more tips on how to answer this question? Watch this!

Highlighting Your Best Qualities

Your “best qualities” is something I want to get back to, since I quoted Dr. Taneja about using “all the highlights” in the middle of your answer to “why do you want to become a doctor”. Your highlights – all the places where you stand out or achieved something exemplary (awards; publications; participation in groundbreaking clinical research) - are something your answer should definitely include, especially if they are the culmination of hard work and initiative.

Your highlights should be the icing on the cake, but since you don’t want your answer to be overly long (if you’re in an interview) or if you want to talk about various experiences (in a personal statement), you should limit yourself to talking, or mentioning, only a few – 1 to 3 experiences tops, to be exact. You’ll talk a lot about important experiences in your AMCAS work and activities section or AMCAS most meaningful experience section, as they are ommon medical school requirements, you should focus on the experiences that can be put together into an engaging and impactful story of how you decided to pursue medicine.

You don’t want to be overly boastful and talk about all your highlights – as Dr. Jaime Cazes points out “it is very easy to come off as being braggy” but you want to pick one or two that best highlights something unique about you or, as Dr. Mistry says, touch upon “major themes” about your story. “Major themes” and “highlights” are connected because you can establish something about yourself early on – for example, Dr. Mistry’s themes were “lifelong learning, intellectual complexity, and ability to lead while making a tangible difference in patients’ lives” - which you can then book-end with a “highlight”.

Using “lifelong learning” as an example, you can talk about anything from volunteering as an academic tutor, learning a new language, sport, or hobby, attending important conferences or joining specific student clubs. But don’t just list the activities. You want to find something within this experience that taught you something new or helped push you toward medicine, which is what Dr. Taneja did. She not only talked about “key points in my initial decision-making process” but followed that with “the highlights that show (emphasis added) that I validated the path.” “Validated the path” is another great quote from Dr. Taneja and it gets to the heart of how to build the best responses to “why do you want to become a doctor?”

Validate Your Path

I think what Dr. Taneja means by “validating your path” is something that I’ve talked about throughout this article, which is that your reasons for wanting to become a doctor are not as significant as the actions you’ve taken to become one. Why?

Because being a doctor is incredibly difficult. There is both no “easiest doctor to become” nor an easiest doctor to be; regardless of the medical specialty you choose, each comes with its own unique challenges and triumphs. Your interviewers want to see that you’ve put in the time and energy (both mental and physical) to prepare yourself for the long and arduous journey of becoming a doctor, which, on average, can take up to eight or ten years. 

In general, medicine is not a career for people who do not see themselves working more than 50 hours per week and on holidays. This is not a career for people who prefer to move around a lot or travel. This is not a career for people who aren't responsible and focused. Medical school admissions committees ask applicants this question because first, they want to learn more about you and your motivations for studying medicine, and they want to see if you have given serious thought to your future as a doctor.

“Why do you want to become a doctor?” may seem like it has an obvious answer, but it requires deep reflection, self-awareness and thoughtfulness to answer it. And since everyone’s answer to this question will be different, this is also an opportunity for you as a medical school applicant to forge a connection with the reader or the interviewers and make yourself stand out.

“Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor?” How to Build Your Answer

Since we’ve covered what you should talk about in your answer and where you should draw your inspiration from, I’ll go over them one more time and then present a sample answer to “why do you want to become a doctor” written according to the guidelines given to us by real MDs.

1. Establish a Clear Timeline

We started this article with Dr. Taneja’s advice about creating a timeline, and that is the best way to approach crafting an answer to “why do you want to become a doctor?” If you’re unsure about what to talk about and are having a hard time organizing your thoughts, do what Dr. Cazes did and “start with a story”. Give yourself a beginning, middle and end so you can fill in those key moments with your experiences, thoughts, reflections, and most important, your actions. To do this, you’ll really have to dig deep and be honest with yourself about what started your fascination with medicine and wanting to become a doctor. You can use the questions we posted above as a starting point to do this, and then, when you have your reason for wanting to become a doctor, you have to move to the next point, which is what you’ve done to, in Dr. Taneja’s words, validate your path. Conversely, in the beginning of your answer, if you don’t have a specific moment or event that sparked your interest in medicine, but you’re more interested in the academic or scientific aspect, you can mention that as your desire, or “major theme” as Dr. Mistry put it, that has attracted you to medicine and then follow up with actions you’ve taken.

2. Talk about Your Highlights

Once you’ve settled on your reason to become a doctor, you then have to show what actions you’ve taken to prepare yourself for medical school and the medical profession. Desire alone is not enough to get you through anything let alone the gauntlet that is four years of medical school, five or more years of residency and any number of years in a medical fellowship to specialize in a specific field, so, your highlights should show that you possess the qualities that medical associations in both the US and Canada have published as the ideal qualities any prospective physician should have. Among the seventeen different AAMC’s Core Competencies for premeds you’ll find: cultural awareness; cultural humility; empathy and compassion; interpersonal skills; oral communication skills; and critical thinking, so your “highlights” should be any instance in your past where you embodied any of these competencies. In Canada, the CanMEDS Framework lists seven “roles” a competent and professional physician should embody, which include: scholar; health advocate; professional; leader. The same applies to these roles, in that you should, in Dr. Cazes words, “always give specific examples” for how you have lived up to these roles, “as opposed to broad statements about yourself.”

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3. Finish with “Why Medicine?”

After you’ve established your reasons for wanting to become a doctor, and have given concrete examples of what you’ve done to develop the qualities of a competent, future physician, you then need to talk about what specifically made you decide on medicine. This can be tricky, as everyone will arrive at this decision differently. And, again, there may not be a singular event that occurred, but more an amalgamation of different experiences that helped you decide. If you’re having trouble finding a specific reason or cause behind choosing medicine, you can, according to Dr. Cazes, “look back on your CV/experiences and think about a specific moment or thing that happened that formulated who you are as a person.” You should show a natural progression from your initial desire, or let’s say, your flirtation, with the idea of becoming a doctor to a time when you became certain that you wanted to become a doctor.

Why Do You Want to Become a Doctor? Sample Answer

My journey to become a doctor began when my father lost his foot to diabetes. He didn’t even know he had diabetes, until it was too late. We lived on the Glebe Farm reservation outside of Brantford, and there were no preventative medicine doctors or any outreach to prevent any disease, let alone diabetes. Seeing how my father struggled to adjust to life as an amputee, and later finding out it could have been prevented left me with a profound awareness of the healthcare shortages and disparities in Indigenous communities.

I started to research online for any organizations or groups involved in preventative healthcare, which led me to the Kingston Aboriginal Community Information Network (KACIN), a Facebook group in Kingston. Through this online community, I had the opportunity to connect with the Indigenous Diabetes Health Circle (IDHC), through which I gained my first experiences in education and preventative medicine. 

We initiated a program that offered online seminars and webinars about mindful movement, designed to help people in remote areas prevent diabetes through physical activity and healthier lifestyle choices. But, despite our efforts, many people continued to be diagnosed with diabetes, which made clear to me that going into medicine was the path I needed to follow. My personal experience with my father and my experience with KACIN, and the IDHC, have solidified my determination to become a doctor. It is my calling to start helping people, and I am ready to take the necessary steps to make this dream a reality.

Terrible Reasons for Wanting to Become a Doctor

I wanted to finish with a list of terrible reasons to become a doctor. While some of these may be a small part of why you want to pursue medicine, they cannot be your main reason, so avoid sharing these at all costs!

  1. To make money: You will, but there are way easier and more profitable ways. The dream to become the highest paid doctor is not going to impress the admission committees.
  2. Because your parents are doctors: If you're doing this to earn someone else's respect or love, this will never work. Medicine is not a birthright. However, the skills and aptitudes for medicine can be socially and environmentally influenced. Either way, you have to want it independently of your parents or grandparents.
  3. To hold power over people: An obviously bad answer.
  4. To launch a career in politics: See #1. Wanting to use your cultural authority as a doctor to be a sociopolitical advocate and an agent of progressive change is, however, different from wanting to be a career politician.
  5. To make a name for yourself: You can, but see #1. And also you shouldn't be building a personal brand off of another's pathology.
  6. To prove your self worth: Medicine can be esteem-crushing. You will fail harder in medicine, and with terrible consequences, than in any other profession before you start to figure it out. So save your ego the bruises.
  7. Because your current career is terrible: You have to be driven from a positive place, not from a deficit.


1. How do I answer “why do you want to become a doctor?”

To answer this interview question can be tricky, since it is open-ended and everyone’s answer will be different. To answer it, you need to identity the primary reason why YOU want to become a doctor and how you came to this realization. Take some time to brainstorm and reflect on your past experiences which have led you to pursue a career in medicine, then turn this into a short, personal narrative you can deliver as an interview answer. 

2. Why do medical school interviewers ask this question?

Medical school interviewers ask this question because they want to get to know you on a deeper level, but they also want to know your motivations for pursuing a career in medicine. They want to admit students who have a genuine, passionate interest in medicine. 

3. What are some good reasons for becoming a doctor?

Some good reasons for becoming a doctor include helping others, of course, and there are many professional benefits of being a doctor. Medicine is also a diverse, stimulating and interesting field which is constantly evolving and has many career avenues for practitioners to explore. 

4. What is a good answer to this interview question?

A good answer to this interview question will be different for each applicant, but a strong answer will be genuine, self-reflective, well-structured and passionate. Present your personal reasons for pursuing medicine as a career as more than just a desire to help people or because medicine is an interesting field. Use a personal narrative to explain what has drawn you towards medicine.

5. Does my answer to this interview question matter?

Yes, your answer to this question is extremely important. Medical school interviewers are expecting a strong and clear answer. Any uncertainty or insincere reasons you give for wanting to be a doctor may lead to you being rejected as a candidate.

6. How do I structure my answer to this med school interview question?

Start by sharing what sparked your initial interest in medicine, then explain what you did to deepen your interest in becoming a doctor. Finally, explain what the defining moment was or what solidified your decision to become a doctor.

7. Who can help me prepare for my med school interviews?

There are many resources to help you prepare for medical school interviews. One of the best ways is to use mock medical school interviews, as they are the closest simulation to the real deal. You can also seek help from medical school advisor or medical school admission consultants, who can give you personalized feedback on your interview answers and interview performance.

8. What should I avoid in my answer to “why do you want to become a doctor?”

Avoid naming money, prestige or job security as reasons why you want to be a doctor. If your parents were doctors or pushed you to become a doctor, this will not be viewed as a good reason by admission committees, either.

9. What are the 3 most important qualities of a good doctor?

There are many qualities that make a good doctor, but above all, doctors need to be excellent listeners and communicators and empathetic and caring to their patients. Doctors need to be advocates for their patients, be able to work well as part of a medical team, and have a desire for lifelong learning.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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Modou Lamin Kinteh

Thank you so much


BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Modou! Thanks so much for your comment. We are glad that you found this helpful!


Kivumbi Kirabo James

Thanks alot , this was really helpful to me especially now that I am facing hard time with my HSC biology course. I realise that my perseverance to the hardship could be another strength to make me an outstanding doctor.


BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Kivumbi! Thanks for your comment. Glad you found this helpful!


Aaishra Tiwari



BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Aaishra! Thank you for your comment. Glad you found this helpful!