Duties: Helping patients attain and maintain good health; examining patients; diagnosing and treating patients’ illnesses
Alternate Title(s): Doctor; M.D.; Physician
Salary Range: $75,000 to $400,000+
Employment Prospects: Excellent
Advancement Prospects: Good
Best Geographical Location(s): Positions are located throughout the country.
Education or Training - Medical school, including internship; residency required to specialize
Experience - Internship
Special Skills and Personality Traits - Compassion; emotional stability; good judgment; caring; diagnostic skills
Special Requirements - Physicians must be licensed by states in which they practice.
Specialist or Physician with a Larger Practice
Medical Doctors have a large number of responsibilities and duties. Their main functions are helping patients attain and maintain good health.
Medical Doctors are also referred to as physicians, doctors of medicine, or M.D.’s.
M.D.’s may specialize in a variety of fields. I f the specialty is general or family practice, pediatrics or internal medicine, the M.D. will often be the patient’s primary care physician.
Many Medical Doctors choose a specialty. Patients are often referred to these doctors by primary care physicians. Specialties include, but are not limited to, allergies, cardiovascular medicine, dermatology, gastroenterology, pulmonary medicine, surgery, pathology, radiology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, plastic surgery, homeopathy, and emergency medicine.
A physician or Medical Doctor’s responsibilities depend to a great extent on the individual’s specialty. Similar duties exist among all specialties. For example, all physicians examine patients. They are also expected to talk to patients to determine what symptoms and problems exist. Individuals may recommend, order, and perform a variety of diagnostic tests. I f the physician is a general practitioner, he or she may refer a patient to a specialist to diagnose or treat specific conditions. Specialists have more specific duties depending on their line of work.
After a patient’s illness has been diagnosed, the physician must prescribe a course of treatment. This may include medication, surgery, or various therapies.
Physicians often help patients stay in good health with preventive medicine. This can include examinations, immunizations, or advice on exercise and diet.
As part of their job, physicians answer patients’ questions regarding their health or a medical procedure. Medical Doctors are also expected to answer questions of patients’ family members when necessary.
Medical Doctors usually work long hours. They may be on call for a variety of emergencies and are often involved in life-and-death situations.
While this type of work can be stressful, the ability to help others is very rewarding and fulfilling to most individuals in this profession.
Medical Doctors can earn $75,000 to $400,000 or more. Earnings vary greatly depending on a number of variables. These include the specific type of work setting and its geographic location. Other factors include the specialty, experience, responsibilities, and professional reputation of the individual.
Employment prospects for Medical Doctors are excellent. A doctor can start his or her own practice, become a partner, or be an employee in a hospital, health care facility, nursing home, prison, school, college, medical group, HMO, urgi-center, surgi-center, clinic or public health center. (See glossary for definitions of urgi-center and surgi-center.)
Advancement prospects for Medical Doctors are based on the paths they take. Some physicians climb the career ladder by obtaining additional education and specializing. Others go into private practice. Some individuals build up their professional reputation and obtain a large roster of patients. This results in increased earnings.
Still others go into research or teaching as a method of advancing their careers. Physicians working in hospitals can also become medical directors.
Education and Training
It takes a great deal of education and time to become a Medical Doctor. Individuals must complete at least three years of college before entering medical school. The medical programs are four years long. There are schools throughout the country offering a combined medical school program that lasts only six years.
Competition for admittance into medical school is fierce. Individuals must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Selection criteria include exam scores, college grades, letters of recommendation, interviews, and participation in extracurricular activities.
Individuals must also take and pass an exam offered by the National Board of Medical Examiners while still in school.
Even more training is required for those who want to specialize or be board certified in a specialty. This training can take up to five years in a residency program. T hose aspiring to be board certified must also take and pass another exam.
M.D.’s must be licensed in states in which they practice. To become licensed, physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school and pass a licensing examination. Some states have reciprocity, allowing physicians licensed in one state to practice in another state without having to pass additional exams. Other states limit reciprocity.
Medical Doctors may obtain voluntary board certification in one or more specialties. I n order to become board certified, individuals must generally go through additional training in the form of a residency in their specialty and take and pass a number of exams given by the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS). The A BMS represents 24 specialty boards. Some physicians also become certified in sub specialties that require further training.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
M.D.’s must be very compassionate, caring people. Successful doctors have a good bedside manner. A s they will often be dealing with life-and-death situations, individuals should have excellent judgment and the ability to work under stress and pressure. Emotional stability is essential. Stamina is mandatory when working long hours.
Physicians must have good diagnostic skills. Scientific aptitude is necessary. Individuals should be organized and detail oriented. Communications skills are also needed.
Unions and Associations
Aspiring physicians can obtain additional career information by contacting the American Medical Association (AMA) or the American Medical College (AMC).
Tips for Entry
1. If you are beginning to build a practice, consider participating at local health fairs. This is a good way for people in the community to get to know you.
2. Offer to speak to local civic groups and nonprofit organizations. This is another way people in the area can get to know you.
3. Many schools contract out for physicians.
4. Rural areas needing doctors will often help pay for medical school if you make a contract to return to the area and work for a certain number of years.
5. It is easier to build a practice in less populated areas that do not have a great many physicians.