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Physicians and surgeons have demanding education and training requirements. Almost all physicians complete at least 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and, depending on their specialty, 3 to 7 years in internship and residency programs.Education
Most applicants to medical school have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required, all students must complete undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. Students also take courses in the humanities and social sciences. In addition, some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain experience in a healthcare setting.
Medical schools are highly competitive. Most applicants must submit transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and letters of recommendation. Schools also consider an applicant’s personality, leadership qualities, and participation in extracurricular activities. Most schools require applicants to interview with members of the admissions committee.
A few medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last 6 or 7 years.
Students spend most of the first 2 years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics, and the laws governing medicine. They also gain practical skills, learning to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.
During their last 2 years, medical students work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals and clinics. Through rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery, they gain experience in diagnosing and treating illnesses in a variety of areas.Important Qualities
Communication skills. Physicians and surgeons need to be excellent communicators. They must be able to communicate effectively with their patients and other healthcare support staff.
Compassion. Physicians and surgeons deal with patients who are sick or injured and may be in extreme pain or distress. Physicians and surgeons must be able to treat patients and their families with compassion and understanding.
Detail oriented. Physicians and surgeons must ensure that patients are receiving appropriate treatment and medications. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.
Dexterity. Physicians and surgeons must be good at working with their hands. They may work with very precise and sometimes sharp tools, and mistakes can have serious consequences.
Leadership skills. Physicians who work in their own practice need to be effective leaders. They must be able to manage a staff of other professionals to run their practice.
Organizational skills. Some physicians own their own practice. Strong organizational skills, including good recordkeeping, are critical in both medical and business settings.
Patience. Physicians and surgeons may work for long periods with patients who need special attention. Persons who fear medical treatment may require more patience.
Physical stamina. Physicians and surgeons should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as lifting or turning disabled patients. Surgeons may spend a great deal of time bending over patients during surgery.
Problem-solving skills. Physicians and surgeons need to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments. They need to do this quickly if a patient’s life is threatened.Training
After medical school, almost all graduates enter a residency program in their specialty of interest. A residency usually takes place in a hospital and varies in duration, generally lasting from 3 to 7 years, depending on the specialty.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states require physicians and surgeons to be licensed; requirements vary by state. 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). For specific state information about licensing, contact your state’s medical board.
Certification is not required for physicians and surgeons; however, it may increase their employment opportunities. M.D.s and D.O.s seeking board certification in a specialty may spend up to 7 years in residency training; the length of time varies with the specialty. To become board certified, candidates must complete a residency program and pass a specialty certification exam from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before General Surgeon
Top Careers After General Surgeon
Hispanic or Latino13.1%
Black or African American0.8%
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University of Phoenix13.0%
Michigan State University6.5%
University of Florida4.3%
University of South Florida4.3%
University of Washington4.3%
University of West Florida4.3%
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor4.3%
Coppin State University4.3%
Saint Louis University-4.3%
Johns Hopkins University4.3%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Trauma & General Surgeon||McAllen Hospitalist Group, PLLC||McAllen, TX||Jul 12, 2015||$535,000|
|General Surgeon||SOMC Medical Care Foundation, Inc.||Portsmouth, OH||May 21, 2015||$486,220|
|Bariatric/General Surgeon||Midsussex Medical Center, Inc.||Seaford, DE||May 01, 2015||$475,000|
|Bariatric/General Surgeon||Mid-Sussex Medical Center, Inc.||Seaford, DE||Feb 05, 2016||$475,000|
|Bariatric/General Surgeon||Mid Sussex Medical Center||Seaford, DE||May 27, 2016||$475,000|
|Bariatric/General Surgeon||Mid-Sussex Medical Center, Inc.||Seaford, DE||Jun 22, 2016||$475,000|
|General Surgeon||Maverick County Hospital District||Eagle Pass, TX||Jan 10, 2016||$475,000|
|General Surgeon||Sanford Clinic||Aberdeen, SD||Feb 01, 2015||$450,000|
|General Surgeon||Sanford Clinic||Aberdeen, SD||Dec 15, 2015||$450,000|
|Trauma & General Surgeon||McAllen Medical Physicians||Edinburg, TX||Jul 02, 2015||$440,000|
|General Surgeon||Blessing Corporate Services, Inc.||Quincy, IL||Dec 29, 2016||$425,000|
|General Surgeon||Blessing Corporate Services, Inc.||Quincy, IL||Jan 07, 2016||$425,000|
|General Surgeon||Blessing Corporate Services, Inc. (Parent of Blessing Hospital)||Quincy, IL||Jan 11, 2016||$425,000|
|General Surgeon||Sangre de Cristo Surgical Associates, PC||Pueblo, CO||Jan 09, 2016||$365,532|
|Physician-General Surgeon||Geary Community Hospital||Junction City, KS||Dec 08, 2016||$365,449|
|General Surgeon||Alice Hyde Medical Center||Malone, NY||Sep 01, 2015||$365,300|
|General Surgeon||Mercy Clinic Oklahoma Communities, Inc.||Ada, OK||Jul 25, 2016||$365,000|
|General Surgeon||Charles Cole Memorial Hospital||Coudersport, PA||Aug 17, 2015||$361,000|
|General Surgeon||Charles Cole Memorial Hospital||Coudersport, PA||Aug 08, 2016||$361,000|
|General Surgeon||Charles Cole Memorial Hospital||Coudersport, PA||Aug 28, 2015||$361,000|
|General & Bariatric Surgeon||Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group, Inc.||Bristol, CT||Dec 28, 2016||$360,000|
|General Surgeon||Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc.||Hazard, KY||Jul 01, 2015||$304,831|
|General Surgeon||Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc.||South Williamson, KY||Jul 01, 2015||$304,831|
|General Surgeon||Douglas, Grant, Lincoln, Okanogan Counties PHD #6||Grand Coulee, WA||Aug 01, 2015||$300,528|
|General Surgeon||Pines Health Services||Caribou, ME||Aug 01, 2015||$300,000 -
|General Surgeon||McDonough District Hospital||Macomb, IL||Jul 02, 2015||$300,000|
|General Surgeon||Allied Physicians of Michiana, LLC||Elkhart, IN||Aug 28, 2015||$300,000|
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