About the Job Title "Primary Care Physician"

Primary Care Physician Job Description

A primary care physician (PCP) is the first port of call for medical care. They are the person a patient will see for routine checkups, acute care and non-emergency medial care. PCPs must complete a bachelors degree, medical school, a residency and the relevant state licensure exams.

Primary Care Physician Job Profiles: This is a general writeup based on our research into Primary Care Physician positions in the Physician (General) career area. For individual, real-life job profiles of actual people with this type of job, check out our job profiles page.

What's it like to be a Primary Care Physician?

Duties and responsibilities

A primary care physician (PCP) is the first port of call for medical care. They are the person a patient will see for routine checkups, acute care and non-emergency medial care (such as a mild fever, cough, rash or shortness of breath). PCP’s work as part of a medical group or in their own independent practices. Their typical responsibilities and duties include:

  • Assessing patients with acute and non-emergency problems
  • Providing basic health care to their patients
  • Ensuring that patients attend routine checkups and that they get the recommended health screenings and assessments
  • Making referrals to specialists if necessary
  • If specialist referrals are made, PCPs are responsible for managing the overall care of the patient and communicating with the specialist


PCPs must complete a bachelor’s degree program before being admitted to medical school. Medical schools are extremely selective, and prospective students must have excellent collegiate grades, get good scores on the Medical College Admission Test, and possess letters of recommendation from professors or other professionals. Once medical school is completed, PCPs must complete a residency period. After residency, all PCPs must pass the national licensing exam as well as any exams required by their specific state.

Skills and relevant work experience

As well as completing all the relevant medical training, PCPs will need skills such as:

    • Leadership skills, as PCPs may have to lead a team of other healthcare professionals (such as nurses)
    • Written and verbal communication skills, a PCPS will need to communicate with patients, coworkers and with specialists. They will also need to maintain files that document patient treatments and referrals
    • Critical thinking, as PCPs will need to find solutions to a patients problems
    • Attention to detail, as PCPs need to spot issues with patients during checkups or when providing non-emergency care
    • Compassion and empathy, as PCPs must show their patients, who may be sick and distressed, the utmost understanding and compassion
    • Organizational skills, as PCPs will have to work with multiple patients and instruct multiple team members. Therefore, they will need to coordinate numerous treatment plans and instructions 


Most PCPs will work full time and they may have to work long and irregular hours. As PCPs don’t have to give emergency care, they don’t tend to be on call, which means they can avoid working nights, weekends or holidays!


According to salary.com, the average annual salary for a PCP in the United States was $172,005 in 2020. Typically, the salary ranges between $151,819 and $198,364 per year.


Due to the growing and aging population, there will always be a demand for PCPs to treat their non-emergency conditions. PCPs can progress in two ways:

  1. Remain a primary care physician but progress up to owning their own practice or supervising a practice
  2. Taking further qualifications and licensing exams to become a specialized physician

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