What is a Physician?
A physician or surgeon is a medical professional whose job it is to diagnose patients of illnesses and prescribe medication or administer treatment for said illnesses. Also known as a doctor, physicians use diagnostic tests and examine medical histories and symptoms to come to a diagnosis. The two types of physicians: M.D. and D.O both use all methods of treatment. An M.D., or Doctor of Medicine, are also known as allopathic physicians. A D.O., or Doctor of Osetopathic Medicine, focuses on the body’s musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic care. Physicians and surgeons primarily work either in group practice or private offices or clinics. Most surgeons work in hospitals or surgical outpatient centers.
Physicians often work long hours, especially those of which work in private practice. In 2006, over 1/3 of full-time physicians and surgeons worked 60 hours or more per week. The percentage of physicians and surgeons that work part-time is nearly half of that of all other occupations. They are also required to travel often between office, home, and hospital.
Different types of Physicians:
There are many different specialties that physicians work in. Some of the largest specialties include family medicine, pediatrics, general internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, anesthesiology, and surgery. Each of these specialties serve a particular medical issue or population. For example:
An anesthesiologist is a physician who specializes in anesthesiology, or the pain relief of surgical patients. The are also responsible, like other physicians, for the care and treatment of their patients. These specialists are responsible for the maintenance of vital life functions, including: heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing during surgery.
Working with anesthesiologists are surgeons. A surgeon, specifically, focuses on operations. They work with patients under anesthesia with a number of surgical instruments. Common responsibilities include correcting deformities, repairing bone or tissue, or performing preventive surgeries on patients. There are many different surgical specializations as well, including neurological, cardiovascular, and plastic surgery.
There are other physicians and surgeons that work as medical specialists, including pathologists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, allergists and many more.
How to become a physician:
Becoming a physician is no easy task. A typical student will have to undergo a minimum of 11 years of education and internships to be licensed. Many specializations require significantly more education than others. A prospective physician will likely undergo 4 years of undergraduate study, 4 years of medical school, and from 3 to 8 years of internship and residency. While some medical schools offer an accelerated program, many prospective doctors will have to study for 11 years.
Typical pre-med classes include physics, biology, English, mathematics, and chemistry. The physician occupation is one of the most complex occupations in the world, as it requires a large amount of knowledge and social skills to become a good physician.
Gaining acceptance to a medical school is a long process and highly competitive. All prospective medical students must take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), as well as gather transcripts and recommendations. An interview with the admissions board is usually required as well.
The curricula in medical schools usually consists of 2 years taking relevant medical courses and 2 years of hands-on experience. Most recently, however, medical schools have taken to changing their curricula to adapt to the changing cultural and professional needs. Now, instead of being forced to cut open a cadaver or take tough anatomy and pharmacology classes in the first year of school, medical students are expected to take courses that focus more on the culture and ethics of medicine. These changes are expected to encourage more of the top tier students to consider a medical career, as well as better preparing prospective physicians to succeed both in medical school and their future careers.
After they graduate from medical school, prospective physicians enter a residency of their choosing. Residency is essentially paid training, often in a hospital. A residency usually last from 2 to 6 years.
All states require a physician to become licensed before they begin practice. A prospective physician is required to graduate from an accredited medical schools, pass an exam, and complete 1 to 7 years of graduation medical education. The length of graduate education is dependent on the specialty. In order to obtain certification by either the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), one must pass another examination.
It should be said that being a physician is more than just having the right education. Physicians deal with real people in tough situations multiple times a day. They must have qualities conducive to being a good physician, including: self-motivation, patience, and quick decision-making. They also must be conscientious learners, as physicians are required to keep up with medical progress with continuing education.
Medical school statistics
- Out of the 146 medical schools in the United States, only 20 teach osteopathic medicine (D.O.). The 126 other schools teach allopathic medicine (M.D.).
- As medical school is very expensive, more than 80 percent of graduates were in debt.
- In 2008, total enrollment stood at 76,070 in all schools across the U.S. 39,608 were males and 36,462 females. The number has been growing, as there were 70,169 total enrolled in 2003.
- In 2008, 16,167 medical students graduated — compared to 15,676 in 2003.
- California had the most matriculants to U.S. medical schools in 2008 with 2,051. Wyoming had the least, with only 22.
- The average age of applicants at anticipated matriculation to U.S. medical schools for both men and women is 24. American Indians or Alaska Natives were the oldest demographic, with an average age of 26. The youngest demographics were Asian men and women and Cuban or Puerto Rican with an average age of 23.
- Asians made up 8,279 out of 42,231 total medical school applicants in 2008. The next highest minority represented was Hispanic or Latino, with 3,086 applicants.
- Out of 42,231 total applicants in 2008, the average MCAT VR score was 9.0; average MCAT PS was 9.3; and average MCAT BS was 9.8. Average total GPA was 3.5 with science GPA at 3.40 and non-science GPA at 3.63.
Physicians and surgeons can either work as self-employed physicians or wage-and-salary physicians. About 15 percent of 633,000 jobs were self-employed physicians. About 18 percent worked in hospitals. Approximately 50 percent of physicians worked in the offices of physicians.
- Approximately 40% of total physicians worked in primary care, with the rest working in specialties. Surgical specialties make up 11% of the total distribution of physician jobs.
- 64% of male physicians worked in specialties; 30% of male physicians worked as primary care. Conversely, only 45% of women work in specialties, with 47% of women working in primary care.
- Whites made up 55.8% of total physicians. Asians were the highest represented minority, making up 12% of physicians. American Native/Alaska Natives were lowest represented, with only .02% of total physicians.
- Asian females made up 16.1% of total female physicians, much higher than the 10.8% represented by total Asian males. Minorities made up 49% of female physicians, male minorities made up only 42.4% of total male physicians.
Physicians are among the highest paid professionals in the United States. Self-employed physicians tend to have higher incomes than salaried physicians.
- The specialty with highest total compensation were anesthesiologists, who made a median $321,686 of total compensation per year for professionals with over one year of experience. Family practice physicians with over one year of experience made a total compensation of $156,010 per year.
Job opportunities for physicians and surgeons look to be very good, especially for those in specialties. The industry is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, at 14 percent from 2006 to 2016. Health care is expected to grow and, therefore, jobs in the industry will continue to grow. In addition, the growing age of the baby boomer generation will lead to more demand for medical services.
Some specialties are experiencing a shortage. A few specialties include family practice, general practice, internal medicine, and OB/GYN, especially in low-income areas.
For further Information on Becoming a Physician please call Physician.com- Student Center at (201) 247-8553