How to Become a Physician

Physician Key Stats
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 7%

A physician applies the scientific study of medicine to diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries, and other threats to people’s health.

They also provide health and medical advice to patients, and seek to educate their patients and community on topics involving health and the body.

If you enjoy health and the sciences, and are interested in medicine, then this may be a good career choice for you.

When you become a physician you will have the opportunity to work with a wide range of people from many different walks of life.

Every day will bring new challenges.

There is much study involved in this occupation, therefore you will need to have aptitude for study and research.

You will also need to have good interpersonal skills as you will be dealing with a wide range of people.

Education Requirements to Become a Physician

You will need to complete a lot of study in order to become a physician, however if you are interested in the human body and health, and you have enjoyed your study so far, then this is a challenge you will enjoy.

It’s important to get good grades in both high school and college, as this will determine whether you can get a place in medical school.

To begin with, you will need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree at college.

Look for a school that offers a pre-medicine course line, with subjects like biology, chemistry, and physics.

After college, you’ll need to spend an additional four years at medical school.

You’ll first need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Your entry into medical school will be determined by your grade point average at college, your test scores, plus any admission interviews or essays you complete.

Your first two years of medical school are spent mainly on classroom work.

In the second two years you will focus on more practical skills, and have the opportunity to work in a hospital before you become a physician.

After medical school you will spend a year as an intern working in a hospital, and a further three to eight years completing your residency, depending on the specialization that you choose.

You must also be licensed to practice in your state before you become a physician.

This usually involves a state exam.

The American Medical Associationt lists state specific information about exams and licensure.

Physician Job Description

A physician usually works with a patient either in a clinic, hospital, or consulting room.

They will obtain a medical history, speak with the clients about their current ailments, and perform a range of tests to make a diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan.

Some of the tasks that a physician performs include:

  • Obtaining a patients history
  • Speaking with a patient about medical problems
  • Checking vital signs
  • Ordering further tests
  • Making a diagnosis
  • Preparing a treatment plan
  • Providing advice on health and nutrition

When you become a physician, you will need to be prepared to work long hours, as well as weekends and holidays.

Those employed in hospitals will be required to respond to emergencies.

Those working out of clinics may work more regular hours.

Physician Salary and Career Path

Once you have become a physician, you will likely start working in a hospital for the first few years of your career.

Once you have gained some experience, you may like to work out of another doctor’s consulting rooms, private practice, or open your own clinic.

Working as a physician, you will enjoy strong employment prospects.

There are predicted shortages within the health sector, due to the aging population.

The median annual salary for a physician is $185,000 a year.

The top 10% of earners make over $330,000 a year.

Many of these top earners work as specialists, and own their own practices.

Many physicians move on to similar roles within the health field during their career.

These include:

  • Pediatrician
  • Surgeon
  • Medical Specialist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Pathologist
  • Obstetrician
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Medical Researcher
  • Professor

If you decide to become a physician, you will be faced with a challenging road of much study and demanding and stressful situations.

However, if you have a real passion for this field, enjoy study, and are willing to work hard, you can make an excellent income and enjoy strong job prospects.

Many physicians find their career very rewarding.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Physicians, OCC Code 29-1228, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a physician do?

Physicians diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries.

There are two main groups of physicians: General Practice Physicians and Specialist Physicians.

The first group contains family physicians; they have a general knowledge of all the fields of medicine because they have to be able to diagnose and treat general illnesses and send patients who need further medical attention to a specialist physician.

As a specialist physician, you will become an expert in one field of medicine, like cardiology, radiology, oncology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, psychiatry, or pediatry, to name just a few.

Physicians review patients’ medical history, diagnose diseases, conduct physical examinations, order and interpret medical tests, prescribe medication, and monitor patients’ progress.

They also discuss with their patients about the potential side effects of medication, provide advice about lifestyle and diet, and maintain patient confidentiality.

Many physicians work in physicians’ offices, hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

How much does a physician make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), physicians and surgeons are among the highest-paid of all occupations, with a median wage equal to or greater than $208,000 per year.

Salaries in this field vary widely, depending on many factors including the physician’s experience and specialty.

For example, pediatricians were paid, on average, around $183,240 a year, while anesthesiologists earned around $267,020 per year, as of May 2018.

How much does it cost to become a physician?

The first step on your path to becoming a physician is to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Many medical schools require applicants to have completed undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math.

Pre-med programs can cost anywhere between $15,000-$60,000, depending on the school you choose.

Medical schools are among the most expensive schools and the cost has consistently increased over the last decade.

At a public school the cost is about $36,700 a year if you are an in-state student, and around $60,000 if you are an out-of-state student.

For a private medical school, the costs can be higher than $60,000 per year.

What is the demand for physicians?

According to BLS, the employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

Job opportunities vary depending on the doctor’s specialty and the region.

Physicians who are willing to relocate to underserved areas will have better job prospects.

How long does it take to become a physician?

Physicians need between 11-15 years of education beyond high school.

First, you need a bachelor’s degree, which usually takes around 4 years to complete.

The next step is to enroll at a medical school.

Competition for medical school is fierce and, in order to have better chances of being accepted, you should earn a high score at the Medical College Admission Test.

After graduating from medical school you will receive your Doctor of Medicine degree and you are ready to start your residency.

Depending on your specialty, you can spend between 3 and 7 years in internship and residency programs.

All states require a license for their physicians and, after finishing your residency you will have to take the licensing exam.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *