Career Development

Physician Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Physicians are medical experts who diagnose and treat disease. They have extensive formal training in human anatomy, physiology, and pathology—the study of disease processes. Combined with the clinical experience they gain from working directly with patients, this means that physicians have a deep understanding of how the human body works and what goes wrong when it doesn’t work correctly.

Physicians are medical experts who diagnose and treat disease. They have extensive formal training in human anatomy, physiology, and pathology—the study of disease processes. Combined with the clinical experience they gain from working directly with patients, this means that physicians have a deep understanding of how the human body works and what goes wrong when it doesn’t work correctly.

In addition to diagnosing and treating disease, physicians may also be involved in the research or development of new approaches to prevention, treatment, or cure for a particular disease or condition. In most cases, physicians provide their services directly to patients as part of a practice group known as a hospital or medical group.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a physician and what it takes to become one yourself.

Physician Job Duties

Physician duties and responsibilities can include the following:

  • Performing physical examinations and diagnostic tests to diagnose a medical condition or determine the patient’s overall health status
  • Diagnosing a medical condition based on a patient’s symptoms, physical examination results, test results, and past medical history
  • Providing information about a patient’s diagnosis and treatment options to patients and their families
  • Ordering diagnostic imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans to help further evaluate a patient’s current medical condition or rule out any other underlying conditions
  • Prescribing medications for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension who cannot manage their disease with lifestyle changes alone
  • Initiating surgical procedures including routine operations such as appendectomies or emergency surgeries in traumatic injury cases
  • Conducting research on new treatments for diseases and disorders using computer modeling methods to predict possible outcomes of different courses of action
  • Communicating with other physicians involved in a patient’s care or referring patients to specialized physicians when necessary
  • Undertaking continuing medical education to maintain certification and licensure, as well as staying up to date on new treatments and technologies in their field

Physician Salary & Outlook

 The median annual wage for physicians is $217,343. The highest earners make over $369,000 per year.

Physician jobs are expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the increasing demand for healthcare services as the population ages and a growing emphasis on preventative care instead of treating illness after it occurs.

Physician Job Requirements

Physicians must possess the following requirements:

Education: Healthcare professionals should first earn a bachelor’s degree. They may major in topics like biology, chemistry and physics. Once they obtain an undergraduate degree, physicians must attend medical school. Medical school is a four-year program that consists of classroom and laboratory work. During this time, students learn the basic science and clinical skills they need to begin working as a physician. They also take courses on ethics and professional development.

Training: After graduating from medical school, future physicians complete a residency program. The length of this training varies depending on which area of medicine they wish to practice. In these programs, physicians learn how to use their medical knowledge to treat patients. During their training, physicians can specialize in one or more medical areas.

Certifications: Physicians are required to hold a medical license. Regulations for becoming a physician vary widely by state. However, most states require a candidate to complete a residency program and to pass a series of exams, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination.

Physician Skills

This job generally requires the following skills:

Critical thinking and problem solving: Physicians must make critical decisions based on their analysis of a patient’s condition.

Interpersonal skills: Physicians must be able to work well with patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team.

Intellectual curiosity: Physicians must be curious about their profession and keep up with new developments in the field.

Observation skills: Physicians must observe patients’ physical conditions as well as their mental and emotional states.

Patience: This is a highly-skilled position that takes years to master. Therefore, patience is required for physicians to learn and perform their jobs effectively.

Scientific knowledge: In addition to basic anatomy and physiology, physicians must have a working knowledge of a variety of medical sciences including pathology, pharmacology, microbiology, and cardiology. 

Physician Work Environment

Physicians perform most of their work in an office or clinic. Because they are responsible for the health of their patients, they must be able to handle stress well. Most physicians spend more than 50 hours a week on their jobs. They often have to stay late or come in early to see their patients. Sometimes, they are called upon to make urgent house calls or perform surgery at night or on weekends.

Physician Career Path

Getting Started

The first several years in the medical profession are the most difficult. Their schedules are rigid, and the work is demanding, involving long hours in the operating room, emergency room, or clinic. Starting physicians spend fifty to seventy-five hours a week on duty. Expectations of perfection are high.

Five Years On The Job

The 5-year point marks a significant transition in most physicians’ careers. At this point, they are able to make independent decisions regarding their choice of practice and specialty. Some experienced doctors choose to pursue higher degrees for more prestige and money; others simply put in long hours practicing medicine. Satisfaction improves for many physicians at this point; the work is less intense, and specialists have more control over patient schedules.

Ten Years On The Job

As ten-year veterans of medicine, physicians have gained significant experience in diagnosing and treating patients, as well as managing an office staff and overseeing hospital personnel. They will be sought out by other professionals for advice on difficult cases because of their reputation as experts in their field. Physicians who want to increase their income may specialize further or begin teaching at local universities or medical schools. The hours can still be long, making it difficult for physicians to spend sufficient time with family members.

Physician Trends

Here are three trends influencing how physicians work. Physicians will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Electronic Medical Records

While electronic medical records have been widely adopted by healthcare providers over the past decade, their use has also become more complex.

For example, EMRs are now being used to collect data on patient outcomes in addition to traditional patient data and doctors must develop an understanding of information management systems and how to extract relevant information from these databases.


With the emergence of telemedicine, a trend in healthcare is beginning to emerge that has a tremendous impact on the physician profession.

Telemedicine uses communication technology and data collection methods to improve health care for patients. By using technology, telemedicine allows doctors to monitor patients who live in remote areas, monitor conditions that require constant monitoring (such as diabetes), provide diagnostic support services, and offer support to other medical professionals who may be under-resourced.

Stress Reduction

Increased pressure from a changing healthcare industry has led to a shift in the work environment for physicians, with an increased focus on creating a less stressful work environment.

Physicians have been adopting new techniques that reduce stress and increase overall wellbeing, such as meditation and mindfulness practices that help combat the negative effects of burnout.

How to Become a Physician

1. Planning Your Career Path

When considering a career as a physician, it is important to think about what kind of medical field you want to work in. Most physicians choose their specialties based on personal interests and strengths; however, some opt for more lucrative fields such as plastic surgery or dermatology.

Physicians need to be detail-oriented and well-organized. Because you will be managing patients’ health, it is important to understand how various conditions affect the body.

The role of a physician often requires interaction with patients, so friendly and outgoing personalities will fare well in this position. 

2. Writing a Resume

The best physician resumes should emphasize a number of skills including medical knowledge, communication skills, and an ability to work with others. 

To highlight your medical knowledge, you can describe the procedures you’ve performed or any extensive medical training courses that you’ve completed. You should include measurable results from past work experience, such as patient satisfaction scores or reduction in hospital stay time. If you’ve worked in different settings such as clinics or hospitals, be sure to mention this in your resume. This will show that you’re able to adapt to different environments and are able to handle the pressures of multiple responsibilities at once.

3. Applying for Jobs

The best way to find a job as a physician is to network with physicians in your area. Many medical schools hold annual networking events, so check these out and get to know people in your field. Additionally, publish research papers and articles; this will allow you to network with other faculty members who might be able to help you find work. You can also search online for local hospitals and other companies that hire doctors. If you have any personal connections to people who work in the industry, see if they can help you.

4. Ace the Interview

During your interview for a medical career, you can expect to answer questions about your educational history and clinical experience. Be sure to include the length of your training, any relevant coursework that you have completed, and how it applies to the position.

Next, you’ll want to prepare for the behavioral portion of the interview. As with most positions today, this will be just as important as the standard questions about your background. Think about how your past experiences demonstrate your ability to work in a team environment or lead others through difficult situations. You’ll also want to prepare yourself for questions about how you handle stress, handle patients with challenging conditions, handle difficult colleagues or staff members, etc., so be ready with specific stories from your past experiences that prove you are an asset in these situations.

Think about what made you decide to become a doctor and what aspirations you had. Prepare yourself mentally for the types of questions you will be asked during the interview. Practice by talking with your peers or family members about your experiences.


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