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Physician (General) Career Guide

Are you looking for a career that is highly respected? Do you want to spend the rest of your working life helping others? Are you intelligent, responsible and dutiful?

If the answers yes, then you may thrive as a general physician. A general physicians is a doctor who provides general and comprehensive care to patients. When someone has a health concern, the general physician evaluates them and provides the correct treatment. They may refer them onto specialists if necessary.

To become a general physician, you will need to complete an undergraduate degree that has a focus on biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. Afterwards, you will  general attend medical school. After medical school, you are expected to complete a 3 to 7 year residency program that focuses on general care.

 

Just because you are a doctor does not mean you have to see patients all day every day. There are numerous opportunities available for MD’s and DO’s: clinical research, basic science research, journalism, consulting, business ventures, hospital administration, public health, and public policy.

Edward Chang

Physician (General) Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Physician (General) Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Physician (General) field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33653 Physician Female 35 $75,000 cary, NC 01/01/2010
33367 Medical Resident Male 31 $55,000 Southfield, MI 01/01/2010
33207 Family Practice Attending Male 30 $107,000 merrick, NY 01/01/2010
33174 Physician Male 35 $50,000 woodside, NY 01/01/2010
32721 Physician Male 26 $52,000 New York, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What a physician does

A general physicians is a doctor who provides general and comprehensive care to patients. The may also be called a family physician or a general practitioner. When someone is sick, needs a physical or has a health concern, the general physician evaluates the person and refers them onto specialists if necessary. The job duties of general physician will vary considerably depending on their experience and where they work. However, all general physicians can expect to conduct tasks such as:

  • Checking their patient’s medical history before beginning the consultation
  • Updating the patients information to show current treatments
  • Undertaking patient consultations and physical examinations
  • Ordering tests for nurses to perform
  • Reviewing the patients test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommending and designing a plan of treatment. Physicians will also monitor the plans effectiveness
  • Addressing the patients concerns and answering any questions that the patients have about their health and well-being
  • Helping patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene
  • Administering medication and monitoring its progress

Why they are needed

The answer to this is pretty self explanatory. Humans get sick – whether it’s the flu, appendicitis, ear infections or cancer. Generally, the first step to any diagnosis and treatment is to see a general physician, who will have the skills and knowledge to make the initial observation and refer to specialists where necessary. We have needed medicine and doctors for as long as the human race has been alive. Without general physicians, lots of human illness would go untreated, and we would not thrive.

The pros and cons of a career as a physician

Pros:

  • Physicians often start on an excellent salary, which quite quickly increases with experience and time
  • Physicians are highly respected and regarded members of the community
  • Physicians have an excellent career outlook and high job security as physicians are in heavy demand and there is no sign of this slowing down anytime soon
  • There is high levels of personal satisfaction as each day physicians will help improve the lives of many
  • As general physicians work in small teams, they often find the career quite sociable and will get to interact with other like-minded people every day
  • No two days are the same and there is rarely a boring day as a physician
  • There is lots of variety and lots of professional development opportunities

Cons:

  • The education required to become a physician is lengthy and typically very expensive, which even with a high income, can take years to pay off.
  • Being a general physician can be very stressful and highly pressured, especially when there is an emergency
  • Physicians often acquire a lot of responsibility, even when they have just graduated, which can place a huge amount of pressure on them
  • Physicians sometimes have to work long hours, which includes weekends and evenings
  • Not all patients have a happy ending, which can be emotionally taxing
  • Physicians often face lawsuits

Employability

Job Market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of physicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is not particularly surprising, as the growing and aging population will continue to need general physicians to help diagnose and treat a huge range of illnesses.

However, new technologies may slightly hinder the growth of physicians as these new technologies are expected to allow physicians to treat more patients in the same amount of time. Similarly, as nurses and physician assistants become more and more qualified, they will be expected to do many of the routine tasks of physicians, which will further slow the demand of them.

Career paths

The career path to becoming a general physicians is lengthy, with most spending eight years or more in school!

The career path 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 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, almost all graduates will enter a residency program that focuses on general care. This can last anywhere from 3 to 7 years, depending on whether you want to specialize more in a particular area. It isn’t until after your residency (and obtaining the relevant licensure… more on this below) are you a fully qualified general physician.

Example Job Titles for Physician (General)

Below is a list of common job titles in the Physician (General) 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

It is no secret the physicians are normally offered great salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for all physicians was equal to or greater than $208,000 in 2019. Specifically, family and general physicians received a median annual salary of $213,270.

Autonomy and flexibility

Like any career, physicians will not see too much flexibility to begin with as they are supervised by more experienced physicians in order to gain experience. However, once fully qualified physicians will have a huge amount of autonomy. Physicians have control over the decisions they make regarding referrals, medications and treatment. Experienced physicians have a lot of responsibility and are self-directed. Flexibility is perhaps lower, as physicians are busy and will have little control over the hours they work. Even physicians who own their own practice will find the hours choosing them.

Locations and commute

General physicians are needed wherever there are communities of people. Based on this, physicians shouldn’t struggle too much to find work in most locations. According to Zippia, the best states to be a medical doctor (which is a general physician), based on average annual salary and number of job opportunities available, are:

  1. Vermont, where the average annual salary is $162,820
  2. West Virginia, where the average annual salary is $147,020
  3. Oregon, where the average annual salary is $169,725
  4. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $157,006
  5. Arizona where the average annual salary is $153,450

The worst states, according to Zippia, are the District of Columbia, Iowa, Missouri, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

Work environment

General/family physicians held about 119,300 jobs in 2019. Most general physicians will work in physicians’ offices, but they may also work in hospitals, in academia or for the government. Physicians tend to work in group practices, where they share a large number of patience with other doctors – this is becoming increasingly popular, as it allows general physicians to share the caseload and take more time off that solo practitioners.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Physician (General) careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Physician (General) 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 Physician (General).

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

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

Accomplishment and mastery

As general physicians 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 3 to 7 year residency), accomplishment is often VERY high once they land that first job and continue to progress through their career. What is more, is that throughout their career, physicians 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 a physician has high meaning and contribution. Their work saves the lives of many and makes a huge contribution to society. To further increase the sense of meaning and contribution, physicians may decide to conduct voluntary work in deprived parts of the world and help those who are truly in need!

Life fit

Most general physicians will work full time. Many physicians may work long and irregular hours. If on call or working in an emergency facility, general physicians may have to work overnight hours. While on call, a physician may need to address a patient’s concerns over the phone or make an emergency visit to a hospital or nursing home. Overall, it can be a difficult career to fit into the busy family lives that many of us are faced with!

Who will thrive?

There are many qualities that a general physician needs to thrive. For example, to thrive as a physician you must be willing to commit to the educational process. With this dedication to education comes the genuine passion and excitement for helping others and the ability to be completely non judgemental.

A thriving general care physician must also have a good memory, excellent attention to details, exceptional investigative skills, and outstanding listening skills. This is because physicians are responsible for gathering as much information as possible to make a timely and accurate diagnosis or recommendation. Communication skills and compassion are also important to thrive. On top of all this, due to the likelihood that medical emergencies will occur, individuals who remain calm, composed and work well under pressure are likely to thrive in a medical environment.

Who will struggle?

Individuals are likely to struggle as a general physician if they aren’t physically fit enough to meet the requirements of lifting disabled patients or spending periods of time bent down/bent over. Individuals will also struggle if they are not willing to commit to the educational commitments needed to become a physician, or to the long hours that accompany being a physician.

Individuals who prefer to work alone, rather than as part of a team, may struggle with the teamwork and communication aspect of modern day physician work. Finally, those who cannot remain calm in unforeseen circumstances will struggle with the emergency situations that arise in a medical practice.

Requirements

Skills and talents

  • Communication skills, as general physicians will need to communicate effectively with patients and with other healthcare staff
  • Empathy, as physicians must be able to related to and understand their patients worries and concerns
  • Organizational skills, as physicians must be able to keep records up to date and neat and manage their time so that they stick to their schedule
  • Detail-orientation, as it is crucial that the patient receive the appropriate treatment and medication. To do so,  physicians must be able to accurately monitor and record various piece of information
  • Dexterity, as physicians may have to use sharp tools or look at areas that are painful and therefore must be able to carefully use their hands
  • Leadership skills, as physicians may decide to open their own practice and/or might be responsible for supervising junior doctors
  • Problem-solving skills, as physicians must evaluate a patients’ symptoms, establish what is wrong and then choose the appropriate treatment plan for them
  • Compassion, as patients may come to physicians in extreme pain or distress and physicians must be understanding and compassionate
  • The ability to work well under pressure, as physicians will be faced with medical emergencies and must be able to work efficiently to treat the patient, and support their family, in this time

Education

Firstly, general physicians will need an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After, general physicians will then attend medical school. To get accepted into medical school, aspiring physicians must 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 general care.

Certificates

In every state, physicians and surgeons 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).

Although general physicians aren’t specialized in a specific area, it may increase their employment opportunities if they chose to become certified. To become board certified, candidates must complete a residency program and pass a specialty certification exam from a certifying board including the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).

How to Become

A general physicians is a doctor who provides general and comprehensive care to patients. The may also be called a family physician or a general practitioner. When someone is sick, needs a physical or has a health concern, the general physician evaluates the person and refers them onto specialists if necessary.

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

Immediate action

The main thing that aspiring general physicians can do is to obtain relevant work experience. As mentioned early, whilst studying your undergraduate degree, you should volunteer in a local hospital. 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, you should aim to do as much as possible outside of school (e.g., sports, teaching, quizzes, drama etc).

Education and learning

General physicians will need to complete an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After, general physicians will then attend medical school. To get accepted into medical school, aspiring physicians must 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 general care.

 

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Physician (General) 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.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33653 Physician Female 35 $75,000 cary, NC 01/01/2010
33367 Medical Resident Male 31 $55,000 Southfield, MI 01/01/2010
33207 Family Practice Attending Male 30 $107,000 merrick, NY 01/01/2010
33174 Physician Male 35 $50,000 woodside, NY 01/01/2010
32721 Physician Male 26 $52,000 New York, NY 01/01/2010

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