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Physician (Specialist) Career Guide

If you are organized, committed and want to dedicate your life to helping others, then we think you may love a career as a specialist physician.

A specialist physicians is a doctor who has completed advanced education and training in a specific field of medicine. They may be anaesthetists, emergency medicine doctors, gynaecologist, obstetrician, cardiologists, dermatologists, oncologists or neurologists. To become a specialist physician, you will need to complete an undergraduate degree. This is then followed by medical school and a enter a residency program that focuses on a specific specialization.

My decision to become a doctor was driven largely by values instilled in me by my faith and my family. The idea of being a part of a profession focused on helping others regardless of circumstance, focused on facilitating people leading healthier and therefore happier lives … I can’t imagine a more fulfilling job.

Erica Marsh M.D

Physician (Specialist) Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Physician (Specialist) 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 (Specialist) field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33328 Resident Physician Female 29 $45,000 Rochester, MN 01/01/2010
33205 Physician, Medical Director Female 28 $99,785 san bruno, CA 01/01/2010
32993 Physician Female 60 $95,000 Santa Ana, CA 01/01/2010
32936 Medical Dosimetrist Female 26 None Set Catonsville, MD 01/01/2010

Overview

What a specialist physician does

A specialist physicians is a doctor who has completed advanced education and training in a specific field of medicine. Specialized physician have taken one step further than a general physician by completing a fellowship in a specific medical field. Ambitious doctors may complete multiple fellowships over the course of their careers. Some may also complete fellowships related to subspecialties, which allows them to work with smaller populations within a certain medical field. There are many different areas in which a physician can specialize. Some of the types of specialist physicians include:

  • Anaesthetists, who provide anaesthetics to patients before, during and after surgery
  • Emergency medicine doctors, who assess, treat, admit or discharge patients that seek urgent medical attention at any time of day or night
  • Gynaecologist, who is a specialist in the care of female reproductive systems
  • Obstetrician, who is a specialist in pregnancy and childbirth
  • Cardiologists, who are specialists in heart disease
  • Dermatologists, who are specialists in skin diseases
  • Oncologists, who are specialists in cancer
  • Neurologists, who diagnose and treat patients with disorders of the nervous system

Regardless of what area a physician specializes in, their typical duties and responsibilities are likely to include:

  • Checking their patient’s medical history before beginning the consultation
  • Updating the patients information to show the current treatment they are receiving
  • Undertaking physical examinations
  • Ordering tests for other healthcare professional, such as nurses, to perform
  • Reviewing the patients test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommending and designing a plan of treatment
  • Addressing the patients concerns and answering any questions that the patients have about their health and well-being
  • 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, complications with childbirth, skin diseases or cancer. Specialist physicians are needed as they have the skills to treat and diagnose complexed problems. Without physicians, who have chosen to specialize in a specific area, we would not survive things such as cancer, heart attacks, childbirth or car accidents.

The pros and cons of a career as a specialist physician

Pros:

  • All physicians often start on an excellent salary, which 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
  • There is high levels of personal satisfaction as each day specialist physicians will help improve the lives of many
  • No two days are the same and there is rarely a boring day as a physician
  • Specialist physicians get to interact with lots of different people
  • There is lots of variety and lots of professional development opportunities

Cons:

  • The education required to become a specialist physician is lengthy and expensive
  • It can be very stressful and highly pressured, especially when there is an emergency
  • Specialist 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 all 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 all types of 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 physicians is lengthy, with most spending eight years or more in school!

The career path to any speciality 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! This can be in any area, but it is advisable to look in the area you are thinking of specializing in.

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 the area they wish to specialize in. This can last anywhere from 3 to 7 years, depending on the speciality. It isn’t until after your residency (and obtaining the relevant licensure in your speciality… more on this below) are you a fully qualified physician.

Example Job Titles for Physician (Specialist)

Below is a list of common job titles in the Physician (Specialist) 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 all physicians was equal to or greater than $208,000 in 2019. The top paying speciality physician was anaesthesiologists, who received a median annual salary of $261,730 per year. Obstetricians and gynaecologists were the second highest paid specialists, who received a median annual salary of $233,610 per year.

Autonomy and flexibility

Like any career, physicians, regardless of their speciality, will not have too much flexibility at the start as they are supervised by more experienced physicians in order to gain experience. However, once fully qualified, most physicians will have a huge amount of autonomy. Physicians have control over the decisions they make regarding diagnosis, medications and treatment. Highly experienced physicians have a lot of responsibility and their work is 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.

It is important to note that different specialities may have different amounts of flexibility. Emergency doctors, for example, will be faced with unforeseen circumstance daily and won’t be able to control the environment. Whereas, gynaecologists who work in local practices will have more flexibility over their hours and the situations they face.

Locations and commute

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

  1. West Virginia, where the average annual salary is $133,300
  2. North Carolina, where the average annual salary is $127,743
  3. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $120,361
  4. Illinois, where the average annual salary is $134,233
  5. Indiana, where the average annual salary is $125,486

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas, Nebraska and Hawaii.

Work environment

Physicians held about 752,400 jobs  in 2019. Most physicians will 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 coordinate better care for their patient. Typically, physicians will work in clean and sanitary environments.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

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

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 physician. However, one study found that the ISTJ was most common personality type of physicians. 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, 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: essential qualities of a physician!

Accomplishment and mastery

As all 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 qualify. 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! In these areas, they could work to treat malaria, assist with child birth or conduct mass imunization programs.

Life fit

Most physicians will work full time, but there are opportunities for part time work. The hours worked will depend on the specialization. Some physicians may work long and irregular hours. Some specialized physicians 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 a physician, regardless of your speciality, if you have qualities such as:

  • The willingness to commit to the educational process
  • A genuine passion and excitement for helping others
  • The ability to be completely non judgemental
  • You must also have a good memory, excellent attention to details, exceptional investigative skills, and outstanding listening skills
  • Communication skills and compassion are also important to thrive
  • 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?

You are likely to struggle as a specialized physician if you aren’t physically fit enough to meet the requirements of lifting disabled patients or spending periods of time bent down/bent over. If you prefer to work alone, rather than as part of a team, you 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 may arise in any physician speciality.

Requirements

Skills and talents

  • Communication skills, as physicians will need to communicate effectively with patients and with other healthcare staff
  • Empathy and compassion, as physicians must be able to relate to and understand their patients worries and concerns
  • Detail-orientation, as it is crucial that the patient receives the appropriate treatment and medication. To do so,  physicians, of all specialities, must be able to accurately monitor and record various piece of information
  • Organizational skills, as physicians must be able to keep records neat and up to date and manage their time so that they stick to their schedule
  • Leadership skills, as specialized physicians may be responsible for supervising junior doctors and instructing other staff (such as nurses)
  • Problem-solving skills, as physicians must evaluate a  wide range of  symptoms or look at charts and x-rays and establish what is wrong
  • 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, all aspiring physicians will need an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After, all 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 the area they wish to specialize in.

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).

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 and then 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 specialist physicians is a doctor who has completed advanced education and training in a specific field of medicine. They may be anaesthetists, emergency medicine doctors, gynaecologist, obstetrician, cardiologists, dermatologists, oncologists or neurologists.

Those who tend to have successful and fulfilling careers in any physician speciality tend to have a genuine interest in helping others, will work well under pressure, will have excellent communication skills and they are organized and detail-oriented.

Immediate action

The main thing that aspiring 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

Physicians will need to complete an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After this, 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,  graduates will enter a residency program that focuses on their desired specialization. They may also progress their skills further by becoming certified.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Physician (Specialist) 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
33328 Resident Physician Female 29 $45,000 Rochester, MN 01/01/2010
33205 Physician, Medical Director Female 28 $99,785 san bruno, CA 01/01/2010
32993 Physician Female 60 $95,000 Santa Ana, CA 01/01/2010
32936 Medical Dosimetrist Female 26 None Set Catonsville, MD 01/01/2010

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