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Clinician vs. Physician: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Clinicians and physicians are both medical professionals who provide care to patients. Though they share some similarities, there are several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the differences between clinicians and physicians, and we provide additional medical professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Clinician?

A Clinician is a medical professional who works with patients to diagnose and treat health conditions. Clinicians can be doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals. They work with patients to understand their symptoms and develop a treatment plan. Clinicians may also provide preventative care, such as screenings and vaccinations. They may work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, or private practices.

What is a Physician?

Physicians, also called doctors, are medical professionals who diagnose and treat patients’ injuries or illnesses. They examine patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and provide treatments. Physicians also counsel patients and their families on preventive care, discuss plans for managing chronic conditions and provide guidance on end-of-life care. Physicians may specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as pediatrics, cardiology or oncology. They typically work in hospitals, clinics or private practices, and some may also conduct research.

Clinician vs. Physician

Here are the main differences between a clinician and a physician.

Job Duties

Both clinicians and physicians have similar job duties, although the tasks that a physician can perform are more advanced than those of a clinician. For example, both types of healthcare professionals take patient histories, examine patients and run laboratory tests. However, while a clinician may prescribe medications or refer a patient to another doctor for additional care, a physician is the only type of healthcare professional who can legally prescribe medication and perform surgeries.

Another key difference between clinicians and physicians is that clinicians usually work in hospitals or clinics and schedule regular hours. Physicians often work long hours, especially in emergency rooms or on surgical teams where they are available 24 hours a day to respond to medical needs.

Job Requirements

Clinicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or a related field. Some clinicians also pursue a master’s degree or doctorate to qualify for more advanced positions. To become a physician, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine, biology or another relevant field. Then, you must attend medical school and complete a residency program. After completing your training, you must obtain licensure from the state you plan to practice in and pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.

Work Environment

Physicians and clinicians work in different environments. Physicians typically work in hospitals, clinics or private practices. Clinicians may also work in these settings, but they can also work in schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers or other facilities that provide care to patients.

Clinicians often work long hours, including nights, weekends and holidays. They may travel between locations to visit their patients. Physicians usually have more predictable schedules because of the nature of their jobs.


Both clinicians and physicians use critical thinking skills to assess patients’ symptoms and make diagnoses. They also need to be able to effectively communicate with patients and their families to explain diagnoses and treatment plans.

Clinicians typically have a more patient-focused approach, while physicians often take a more disease-focused approach. Clinicians may provide direct care to patients, whereas physicians may provide indirect care by supervising other medical staff. Physicians typically have more training and experience than clinicians and are able to provide more comprehensive care.


The average salary for a clinician is $62,225 per year, while the average salary for a physician is $204,276 per year. The salary for a clinician may vary depending on the type of work they do, their location and their experience level. A physicians salary may vary depending on the type of work they do, their location and their experience level.


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