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Internist Career Guide

Are you passionate about helping others? Do you like to solve problems? Are you willing to commit to a long educational process?

If the answer is yes, then you should check out this ‘internist’ career guide!

An internist is a physician who has chosen to specialize in internal medicine and disease. They diagnose and provide non-surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems. To become an internist, you will need a bachelors degree, to complete medical school and to complete a residency program.

I cannot imagine doing anything else. I cannot imagine a profession or a job that would challenge me intellectually and provides me the emotional satisfaction of knowing that I am trying to help.

Robert M Centor

Internist Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Overview

What an internist does

An internist is a medical professional who specialises in internal medicine and disease. They diagnose and provide non-surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems. Internists can diagnose and treat acute illnesses, such as bacterial and viral infections, as well as chronic diseases and conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes. They are specialists, and their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • Consulting with patients to understand their symptoms and health concerns
  • Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses and diseases
  • Prescribing and administering medication, therapy, and other specialized medical care to treat or prevent illness, disease, or injury
  • Explaining procedures and discussing test results with patients
  • Monitoring patients’ conditions and progress, and re-evaluating treatments if necessary
  • Providing health and wellness advice to patients
  • Immunizing patients against preventable diseases
  • Referring patients to other medical specialists, when necessary
  • Preparing official health documents or records, when necessary

Why they are needed

Internists are key medical professionals as they aid recovery from, and assist in the prevention of, potentially life-threatening internal conditions. They are needed because issues with organs such as our kidneys, lungs or liver can’t always be seen, but internists can help detect them early and save lives.

The pros and cons of a career as an internist

Pros:

  • Like all physicians, internists often start on an excellent salary, which quickly increases with experience and time
  • It is a well regarded and respected career
  • Internists have excellent career outlook and high job security
  • Internists get to help other people, making it very rewarding
  • No two days are the same and there is rarely a boring day a
  • There is lots of variety and lots of professional development opportunities

Cons:

  • The education required is lengthy and expensive
  • It can be very stressful and highly pressured,
  • Internists acquire a lot of responsibility, even when they have just graduated, which can place a huge amount of pressure on them
  • They may have to work long hours, which includes weekends and evenings
  • Not all patients have a happy ending, which can be emotionally taxing

Employability

Job Market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of internist is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is expected because the aging population will continue to need internists to help diagnose and treat internal diseases and illnesses.

However, the employment growth is slightly stunted because the advancement of new technologies means that internists can treat more patients in the same amount of time, lessening the demand. Similarly nurses and physician assistants are becoming more and more qualified and can do many of the routine tasks of physicians and internists, which will further slow the demand of internists.

Career paths

The career path to becoming an internist is lengthy, with most spending eight years or more in school!

Typically, the career path to becoming an internist begins with an undergraduate degree that has work in biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. Whilst doing this, it is advisable to volunteer in a local hospital to gather some relevant work experience!

After completing your undergraduate degree, you will then need to apply to medical school. Warning: these are highly competitive!

To apply, you must submit your transcript and a letter of recommendation. You must also pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and attach your score to your application. To have the absolute best chances of getting accepted into medical school, you should have extracurricular activities, work experience and be able to show leadership qualities.

Whilst at medical school, you will spend the first 2 years in laboratories and classrooms where you will learn about anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics and the laws the govern medicine. In the last two years, the fun really begins as you will work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians! You will work in a number of different areas (e.g., family practice, obstetrics and gynaecology) to gain experience in diagnosing and treating a wide range of illnesses.

Note: an alternative career path is to find a medical school that combines undergraduate degrees with medical school programs. These last 6 to 8 years, but very few schools offer this!

After medical school, all graduates will enter a residency program that focuses on internal medicine. This can last anywhere from 3 to 7 years.

Example Job Titles for Internist

Below is a list of common job titles in the Internist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for internists in the United States was $194,500 in 2019. The lowest 10% earned less than $57,420 per year, whereas the highest 10% earned more than $208,000 per year.

The top paying industry was medical and diagnostic laboratories, where the median annual salary was $251,190. This was followed by the local government ($238,240), outpatient care centers ($236,140), home health care services ($224,530) and finally Offices of other healthcare practitioners ($223,110).

Autonomy and flexibility

Like any medical career, internist will not have a great deal of flexibility or autonomy at the beginning of their career because they are supervised by more experienced physicians in order to gain experience and knowledge.

However, once fully qualified, most internists have a huge amount of autonomy and responsibility. Qualified internist often don’t have to answer to anyone. Typically, they have control over hundreds of decisions each day, whether it’s about diagnosis, medications or treatment.

All physicians are likely to feel less flexibility. Often, they will work in busy laboratories or hospitals and will therefore not be able to pick their own hours or schedule.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an Internist, based on average annual salary and number of job opportunities available, are:

  1. North Dakota, where the average annual salary is $203,864
  2. South Dakota, where the average annual salary is $190,119
  3. Wisconsin, where the average annual salary is $184,984
  4. Alaska, where the average annual salary is $181,996
  5. Michigan, where the average annual salary is $188,910

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Georgia, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland and Texas.

Work environment

Most internist will work in physicians’ offices, but they may also work in hospitals, in academia or for the government. Like all physicians, internists tend to work in clean and sanitary environments and in environments where teamwork and cohesion is at the forefront.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Internist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Internist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Internist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

There is little empirical exploration as to the personality types of successful physicians. However, one study found that the ISTJ was most common personality type of physicians. ISTJs, or otherwise known as the ‘inspector’ , are responsible. They typically have a strong focus on detail and doing things correctly, which allows internists to spot, diagnose and treat medical conditions with the utmost accuracy. Finally, ISTJs like to follow regulations and stick to schedules, this makes them reliable, predictable and dutiful!

Accomplishment and mastery

As all internists train for such a long in order to become qualified and licensed (4 years of an undergraduate degree, 4 years of medical school and then a residency program), accomplishment is often VERY high once they eventually qualify. What is more, is that throughout their career, internists will continue to feel accomplished when they help others to feel better and have an improved quality of life.

Meaning and contribution

It goes without saying that the work of an internist has high meaning and contribution. They treat internal diseases and illnesses, which saves the lives of many people and makes a huge contribution to society. To further increase the sense of meaning and contribution, internists may decide to conduct voluntary work in deprived parts of the world and help those who are truly in need!

Life fit

Most internists will work full time, but there are opportunities for part time work. The hours worked will depends one where they work. Some internists may work long and irregular hours, whereas others may be on call and may have to work overnight hours. Overall, it can be a difficult career to fit into the busy family lives that many of us are faced with!

Who will thrive?

You will thrive as an internist if you have qualities such as:

  • You enjoy researching topic and have exceptional attention to detail
  • A genuine passion and excitement for helping others
  • You must also have a good memory, excellent attention to details, exceptional investigative skills, and outstanding listening skills
  • Excellent communication and teamwork skills
  • Compassion and empathy

Who will struggle?

You are likely to struggle as an internist if you aren’t physically fit enough to meet the requirements of lifting patients or spending periods of time bent down/bent over. If you prefer to work alone, rather than as part of a team or in a job that require constant communication, then you may struggle with the teamwork and communication required of internist. Finally, those who cannot remain calm in unforeseen circumstances will struggle with the emergency situations that may arise in any medical environment.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as the relevant education and experience, internists will need skills such as:

  • Communication skills, as internists will need to communicate effectively with patients their patients and with the medical team
  • Empathy and compassion, as internists must be able to related to their patients and understand them
  • Detail-orientation, as internists must be able to look at the internal organs and spot problems
  • Leadership skills, as internists may have to lead other physicians and a nursing team
  • Problem-solving skills, as internists must be able to diagnose diseases and illnesses and devise effective treatment plans
  • The ability to work well under pressure, as internist may have to work, and remain calm, during medical emergencies or work to deadlines

Education

Firstly, all aspiring internists will need an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After, all internists will then attend medical school. To get accepted into medical school, aspiring internists must then submit a transcript, a letter of recommendation and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). After medical school, almost all graduates will enter a residency program that focuses on internal medicine!

Certificates

In every state, all physicians must be licensed but requirements will vary by state. Generally speaking, to qualify for a license, candidates must graduate from an accredited medical school and complete residency training in their specialty.

All physicians and surgeons also must pass a standardized national licensure exam. M.D.s take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). D.O.s take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA).

It will increase a specialized physicians employment opportunities if they chose to become certified. To become board certified, candidates must complete a residency program in their chosen speciality (i.e., internal medicine) and then pass a specialty certification exam from a certifying board.

How to Become

An internist is a physician who has chosen to specialize in internal medicine and disease. They diagnose and provide non-surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems. Internists can diagnose and treat acute illnesses, such as bacterial and viral infections, as well as chronic diseases and conditions.

Those who tend to have successful and fulfilling careers as an internist tend to have a genuine interest in helping others, can work well under pressure,  have excellent communication skills and are organized and detail-oriented.

Immediate action

Whilst studying for an undergraduate degree, all aspiring internists should consider volunteering at a local hospital in order to gather valuable work experience. Similarly, in order to have the best chances of getting into medical school it is advisable to have as many extra curricular activities as possible. So, aspiring internist should aim to do as much as possible outside of school (e.g., sports, teaching, quizzes, drama etc).

Education and learning

Internist will need to complete an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After this, internists will then attend medical school. To get accepted into medical school, internists must submit a transcript, a letter of recommendation and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). After medical school, graduates will enter a residency program that focuses on internal medicine and disease.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Internist careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

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