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Working as an Internist

What Does an Internist Do

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

There are two types of physicians, with corresponding degrees: M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both use the same methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole-person) patient care. D.O.s are most likely to be primary care physicians, although they can be found in all specialties.

Duties

Physicians and surgeons typically do the following:

  • Take a patient’s medical history
  • Update charts and patient information to show current findings and treatments
  • Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
  • Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommend and design a plan of treatment
  • Address concerns or answer questions that patients have about their health and well-being
  • Help patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene

Physicians and surgeons work in one or more specialties. The following are examples of types of physicians and surgeons:

Anesthesiologists focus on the care of surgical patients and on pain relief. They administer drugs (anesthetics) that reduce or eliminate the sensation of pain during an operation or another medical procedure. During surgery, they are responsible for adjusting the amount of anesthetic as needed and monitoring the patient's heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing. They also work outside of the operating room, providing pain relief in the intensive care unit, during labor and delivery of babies, and for patients who suffer from chronic pain. Anesthesiologists work with other physicians and surgeons to decide on treatments and procedures before, during, and after surgery. 

Family and general physicians assess and treat a range of conditions that occur in everyday life. These conditions include anything from sinus and respiratory infections to broken bones. Family and general physicians typically have regular, long-term patients.

General internists diagnose and provide nonsurgical treatment for a range of problems that affect internal organ systems such as the stomach, kidneys, liver, and digestive tract. Internists use a variety of diagnostic techniques to treat patients through medication or hospitalization. They work mostly with adult patients.

General pediatricians provide care for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults. They specialize in diagnosing and treating problems specific to younger people. Most pediatricians treat common illnesses, minor injuries, and infectious diseases, and administer vaccinations. Some pediatricians specialize in pediatric surgery or serious medical conditions that commonly affect younger patients, such as autoimmune disorders or chronic ailments.

Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs) provide care related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the female reproductive system. They treat and counsel women throughout their pregnancy and deliver babies. They also diagnose and treat health issues specific to women, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, hormonal disorders, and symptoms related to menopause.

Psychiatrists are primary mental health physicians. They diagnose and treat mental illnesses through a combination of personal counseling (psychotherapy), psychoanalysis, hospitalization, and medication. Psychotherapy involves regular discussions with patients about their problems. The psychiatrist helps them find solutions through changes in their behavioral patterns, explorations of their past experiences, or group and family therapy sessions. Psychoanalysis involves long-term psychotherapy and counseling for patients. Psychiatrists may prescribe medications to correct chemical imbalances that cause some mental illnesses.

Surgeons treat injuries, diseases, and deformities through operations. Using a variety of instruments, a surgeon corrects physical deformities, repairs bone and tissue after injuries, or performs preventive or elective surgeries on patients. Although a large number perform general surgery, many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area. Specialties include orthopedic surgery (the treatment of the musculoskeletal system), neurological surgery (treatment of the brain and nervous system), cardiovascular surgery, and plastic or reconstructive surgery. Like other physicians, surgeons examine patients, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventive healthcare. Some specialist physicians also perform surgery.

Physicians and surgeons may work in a number of other medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties. The following specialists are some of the most common examples:

  • Allergists (specialists in diagnosing and treating hay fever or other allergies)
  • Cardiologists (heart specialists)
  • Dermatologists (skin specialists)
  • Gastroenterologists (digestive system specialists)
  • Ophthalmologists (eye specialists)
  • Pathologists (specialists who study body tissue to see if it is normal or abnormal)
  • Radiologists (specialists who review and interpret x rays and other images and deliver radiation treatments for cancer and other illnesses)

Physicians work daily with other healthcare staff, such as registered nurses, other physicians, medical assistants, and medical records and health information technicians.

How To Become an Internist

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).

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Average Salary$193,413
Job Growth Rate7%

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Internist Career Paths

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Average Salary for an Internist

Internists in America make an average salary of $193,413 per year or $93 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $265,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $140,000 per year.
Average Salary
$193,413

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range165k - 299k$223k$222,941
Salary Range150k - 292k$210k$209,885
Salary Range152k - 284k$208k$208,021
Salary Range140k - 304k$207k$207,217
Salary Range154k - 263k$202k$201,784
Salary Range144k - 265k$195k$195,417
$109k
$304k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Internist (Outpatient)
Internist (Outpatient)
Spot On Recruiting, Inc.
Spot On Recruiting, Inc.
10/14/2020
10/14/2020
$190,00010/14/2020
$190,000
Internist (Outpatient)
Internist (Outpatient)
Spot On Recruiting, Inc.
Spot On Recruiting, Inc.
07/14/2020
07/14/2020
$190,00007/14/2020
$190,000
Internist Outpatient Opportunity In Kansas
Internist Outpatient Opportunity In Kansas
Compahealth
Compahealth
06/26/2020
06/26/2020
$240,00006/26/2020
$240,000
Internist Needed In Coastal Maine Location With Over of PTO
Internist Needed In Coastal Maine Location With Over of PTO
Compahealth
Compahealth
06/26/2020
06/26/2020
$200,00006/26/2020
$200,000
Outpatient Internist Opportunity In Coastal NC
Outpatient Internist Opportunity In Coastal NC
Compahealth
Compahealth
06/26/2020
06/26/2020
$200,00006/26/2020
$200,000
See More Recent Salaries

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Internist Demographics

Gender

female

55.5%

male

37.3%

unknown

7.2%

Ethnicity

White

67.6%

Asian

12.7%

Black or African American

9.4%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

38.0%

French

12.0%

Arabic

8.0%
See More Demographics

Internist Education

Majors

Degrees

Bachelors

28.4%

Doctorate

22.6%

Masters

16.5%

Top Colleges for Internists

1. University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

Tuition and fees
$17,653
Enrollment
16,405

2. University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT

Tuition and fees
$15,730
Enrollment
18,830

3. Duke University

Durham, NC

Tuition and fees
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

4. New York University

New York, NY

Tuition and fees
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

5. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Tuition and fees
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

6. Howard University

Washington, DC

Tuition and fees
$26,756
Enrollment
6,166

7. Ohio State University

Columbus, OH

Tuition and fees
$10,726
Enrollment
45,769

8. Yale University

New Haven, CT

Tuition and fees
$53,430
Enrollment
5,963

9. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

Tuition and fees
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

10. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Brunswick, NJ

Tuition and fees
$14,974
Enrollment
35,656
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming An Internist

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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
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Top Skills For an Internist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.2% of internists listed health care on their resume, but soft skills such as dexterity and physical stamina are important as well.

  • Health Care, 17.2%
  • Acute Care, 12.2%
  • Private Practice, 8.5%
  • Family Practice, 6.7%
  • MRI, 6.0%
  • Other Skills, 49.4%
  • See All Internist Skills

Best States For an Internist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an internist. The best states for people in this position are Vermont, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Maine. Internists make the most in Vermont with an average salary of $193,962. Whereas in New Hampshire and Oregon, they would average $188,998 and $187,290, respectively. While internists would only make an average of $183,739 in Maine, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Vermont

Total Internist Jobs:
12
Highest 10% Earn:
$270,000
Location Quotient:
2.33
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Oregon

Total Internist Jobs:
59
Highest 10% Earn:
$269,000
Location Quotient:
2.13
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Maine

Total Internist Jobs:
25
Highest 10% Earn:
$255,000
Location Quotient:
2.93
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Internist Employers

1. Apogee Physicians
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$215,536
Internists Hired: 
43+
2. Cleveland Clinic
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$51,775
Internists Hired: 
28+
3. Marshfield Clinic
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$84,382
Internists Hired: 
26+
4. Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$68,278
Internists Hired: 
16+
5. Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center
3.7
Avg. Salary: 
$117,308
Internists Hired: 
14+
6. The Family Health Centers of Asheville
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$78,264
Internists Hired: 
14+

Recently Added Internist Jobs