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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:
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:
Physicians work daily with other healthcare staff, such as registered nurses, other physicians, medical assistants, and medical records and health information technicians.
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 Physician
Top Careers After Physician
Hispanic or Latino11.7%
Black or African American1.2%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
University of Phoenix14.9%
University of South Florida6.8%
Florida International University6.4%
Johns Hopkins University5.5%
University of Illinois at Chicago4.8%
University of Florida4.6%
George Washington University4.4%
University of Alabama at Birmingham4.4%
Michigan State University4.3%
University of Utah4.1%
University of the Sciences3.9%
Wayne State University3.9%
University of Arizona3.9%
Nova Southeastern University3.7%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Jan 11, 2016||$450,000|
|Physician (Maternal Fetal Medicine)||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2017||$335,000|
|Physician (Neuroradiologist)||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Oct 01, 2014||$315,000|
|Physician||Emergency Care Services of Pennsylvania, PC||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 26, 2013||$313,050|
|Physician||Emergency Care Services of Pennsylvania, PC||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2011||$292,180|
|Physician (Neuroradiologist)||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Oct 01, 2011||$275,000|
|Cardiovascular Physician||Tenet Health System St. Christopher's Hospital FO||Philadelphia, PA||Nov 16, 2010||$263,368|
|Cardiovascular Physician||SCHC Pediatric Assoc LLC||Philadelphia, PA||Nov 16, 2010||$263,368|
|Cardiovascular Physician||St. Christopher's Hospital for Children||Philadelphia, PA||Nov 16, 2010||$263,368|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Emergency Care Services of Pennsylvania, PC||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 20, 2013||$241,920|
|Physician (Critical Care Medicine)||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Nov 29, 2017||$240,000|
|Physician (Critical Care Medicine)||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 01, 2017||$240,000|
|Physician/Cardiologist||Philadelphia Va Medical Center||Philadelphia, PA||Nov 08, 2009||$235,000|
|Physicians & Surgeons, All Other||TPS IV of Pa, LLC DBA Hahnemann Multispeciality||Philadelphia, PA||Mar 23, 2010||$230,000|
|Physician||SCHC Pediatric Assoc LLC||Philadelphia, PA||Apr 01, 2011||$217,443 -
|Physician (Endocrinology)||Mercy Management of Southeastern Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2017||$210,000|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||SCHC Pediatric Associates, LLC||Philadelphia, PA||Feb 24, 2014||$206,506|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Thomas Jefferson University||Philadelphia, PA||Jun 06, 2014||$200,000|
|Physician||SCHC Pediatric Associates, LLC||Philadelphia, PA||Oct 01, 2015||$199,033|
|Physician (Internal Medicine)||Mercy Management of Southeastern Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 29, 2018||$197,000|
|Physician||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2011||$185,000|
|Physician||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2012||$185,000|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Sep 02, 2014||$180,274 -
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Temple University||Philadelphia, PA||Apr 03, 2012||$175,000|
|Physician||SCHC Pediatric Associates, LLC||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2012||$169,000|
|Physician||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 09, 2015||$167,232|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||I. Brodsky Associates||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 13, 2010||$165,000 -
|Faculty Physician (Nephrology)||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Dec 01, 2017||$165,000|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||I. Brodsky Associates||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 02, 2008||$165,000 -
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia||Philadelphia, PA||Oct 16, 2012||$164,000|
|Physician||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 24, 2015||$162,261|
|Physician||Mercy Management of Southeastern Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2010||$160,000|
|Physician (Rheumatology)||Arthritis Group||Philadelphia, PA||Sep 01, 2018||$160,000|
|Physician (Rheumatology)||Arthritis Group||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 25, 2017||$160,000|
|Physician||Einstein Practice Plan, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2014||$160,000|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Thomas Jefferson University||Philadelphia, PA||Nov 15, 2012||$150,240|
|Attedning Physician||Philadelphia Health & Education Corporation||Philadelphia, PA||Jun 20, 2011||$150,000|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Mar 23, 2012||$150,000|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Lyons Chvala Nephrology Associates||Philadelphia, PA||Mar 16, 2010||$140,000|
|Physician||Executive Health Resources Clinical Staffing Solut||Philadelphia, PA||Mar 12, 2009||$136,000|
|Physician||Mercy Management of Southeastern Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 28, 2010||$135,000|
|Physician||Mercy Management of Southeastern Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Oct 01, 2010||$135,000|
|Physician||Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 28, 2010||$135,000|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Thomas Jefferson University||Philadelphia, PA||Jun 09, 2017||$130,000 -
|Physician||SCHC Pediatric Associates LLC||Philadelphia, PA||Oct 01, 2012||$120,000|
|Physician||Albert Einstein Medical Center||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2011||$114,785|
|Physician||Albert Einstein Medical Center||Philadelphia, PA||Jun 09, 2011||$114,785|
|Physician||Quality Community Health Care, Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Feb 13, 2009||$110,000|
|Physician/Cardiologist||Defense Finance & Accounting Services||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 01, 2010||$107,640 -
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Princeton Neuroscience Group||Philadelphia, PA||Mar 30, 2009||$100,000|
|Physician||Temple University--A Commonwealth University||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2015||$90,000|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jan 01, 2017||$73,424|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2018||$73,195|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2015||$69,201|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jan 08, 2016||$68,571 -
|Microvascular Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2015||$68,182|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jan 07, 2017||$66,789|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2013||$65,873|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jun 23, 2014||$65,561|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 10, 2014||$65,561|
|Physician||Tenet Health System St. Christopher's Hospital FO||Philadelphia, PA||Oct 01, 2010||$65,000|
|Physician||Tenet Health System St. Christopher's Hospital FO||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2010||$65,000|
|Physician Fellow||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2013||$63,897|
|Housestaff Physician (Medical Resident)||Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2018||$60,341|
|Physician In A Post Graduate Training||Shriners Hospital for Children||Philadelphia, PA||Jul 01, 2010||$57,783|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||Clinical Care Associates of Univ of Penn HLTH SYST||Philadelphia, PA||Feb 23, 2010||$57,000 -
|Physician||Main Line Medical Group||Philadelphia, PA||Aug 18, 2012||$55,141 -
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Nov 30, 2011||$54,850 -
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