Medicine offers many careers. New opportunities emerge with each advance in medical knowledge and with development in the organization of medical services. The physician's responsibilities cover a wide range of functions in health maintenance, including both acute care and preventive care approaches involving substantial patient education. These responsibilities include diagnosing disease, supervising care of patients, prescribing treatment, and participating in improved delivery of health care. Although most physicians provide direct patient care, some concentrate on basic or applied research, some become teachers or administrators, and others combine various elements of these activities.
Graduating students select an area of medicine for further training and eventual practice. Some physicians practice in one of the generalist specialties (general internal medicine, general pediatrics or family medicine). Others choose from among the following specialties: allergy and immunology, anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, psychiatry, radiology, physical medicine (rehabilitation), and surgery (general, neurology, orthopedic, plastic, urology, vascular).
New patterns of practice are emerging. Physicians may be salaried, in partnership, or self-employed. A physician may choose from such varied settings as a managed care system, a group practice that participates in a regional Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), clinic, hospital, laboratory, industry, military, university, government, or various combinations of these. Many physicians work long, irregular hours. More than 1/3 of all full-time physicians worked 60 hours or more per week in 2006.
Job Market and Salaries
Employment of physicians and surgeons is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur because of the continued expansion of healthcarerelated industries. The growing and aging population is expected to drive overall growth in the demand for physician services as consumers continue to seek high levels of care that uses the latest technologies, diagnostic tests, and therapies. Many medical schools are increasing their enrollments based on perceived higher demand for physicians.
Although the demand for physicians and surgeons should continue, some factors will likely reduce growth. New technologies will allow physicians to treat more patients in the same amount of time, thereby reducing the number of physicians who would be needed to complete the same tasks. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners (a type of registered nurse) can do many of the routine duties of physicians and may increasingly be used to reduce costs at hospitals and outpatient care facilities. For more information, see the profiles on physician assistants and registered nurses.
Furthermore, demand for physicians’ services is sensitive to changes in healthcare reimbursement policies. Consumers may demand fewer physician services if changes to health coverage result in higher out-of-pocket costs for them.
In 2010, physicians practicing primary care received total median annual compensation of $202,392, and physicians practicing in medical specialties received total median annual compensation of $356,885. Median annual compensations for selected specialties in 2010, as reported by the Medical Group Management Association, were as follows: anesthesiology $407,292, general surgery $343,958, OB-GYN $281,190, internal medicine $205,379, psychiatry $200,694, pediatrics $192,148, and family practice $189,402.
There are 131 medical schools in the United States that teach allopathic medicine and award a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). Medical school curricula, although quite varied, have as their goal the preparation of students to enter a three- to eight-year period of graduate medical education. Generally, the first two years of medical school are devoted to the basic sciences with the next two years focusing on clinical skills. Most schools then require students to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to graduate. Following graduation, students enter residency training. Satisfactory completion of three years of training in family medicine, internal medicine, or pediatrics generally qualifies an individual to take the examination administered by the certifying boards of these specialties. Other areas may require additional years of residency.
Chem 220 and Chem 230
Biol 202 and Biol 204
Chem 310/311 and Chem 320/321
Physics 202/204 or Physics 232/242
English 201 (some schools require two semesters)Math
Math 125 or Math 207 (some schools require two semesters)
Some schools also require one semester of Calculus (Math 226). A number of schools also strongly recommend courses in genetics, biochemistry, computer science, cell biology, molecular biology, microbiology, psychology and sociology. *Many schools do not accept AP credit in lieu of required courses.
There is a nearly universal requirement that applicants have some clinical experience, either paid or volunteer, and a history of volunteerism. Applicants must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Most medical schools recommend taking the MCAT in the spring of the year of application. Note that the Biological Sciences portion of the MCAT includes material not covered in Biol 202 or Biol 204.
Assistant Professor of Biology