Becoming a Physician: The Great Career Paths

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You love science and are passionate about helping people. Physician seems like a great career choice. There are so many paths that it is hard to know which one fits you. Before you commit to a residency, consider these facts.

Primary Care

Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) are the first point of contact for medical care. They deliver preventive care such as immunizations and screenings. PCPs also treat patients with a wide variety of illnesses in their offices. 

The most successful PCPs build strong relationships with their patients. Therefore, PCPs must have good communication and listening skills. Patients are likely to take your advice when the relationship is strong. 

PCPs complete a residency that last three years. Basic facts and examples of PCPs include:

1. Pediatricians- the facts

  • Diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries in children
  • Perform screenings for developmental conditions
  • Earn a mean wage of $88.66 per hour
  • Achieve top pay in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Mississippi, Nevada, and Montana

2. Family Doctors- the facts

  • Provide diagnostic, treatment, and preventive care to patients of all ages
  • Earn a mean annual income of $213,000
  • Achieve the highest pay in New Hampshire, Alaska, and Wisconsin

3. Internists- the facts

  • Diagnose and treat adults with a wide variety of medical conditions
  • Order screenings such as blood sugar and blood pressure and advise patients to make healthy lifestyle choices
  • Earn a national mean annual income of $198,000
  • Achieve the highest pay in South Dakota, New Hampshire, and North Carolina

Specialty Care

When you have an interest in particular diseases, you become a specialist. Specialists often serve longer residencies than primary care doctors in order to gain the necessary expertise. They earn a board certification and many achieve a certificate in a subspecialty. Here are key points about three specialties.

1. Anesthesiologist- 

  • Diagnoses and treats pain Administers anesthesia to patients in a variety of circumstances (surgery, childbirth, etc.)
  • Undergoes four years of specialty training
  • Subspecialties include critical care, pediatric anesthesiology, and pain medicine
  • Earn a mean income of approximately $262,000 per year. Anesthesiologists who work in outpatient care centers make the most money.

2. Psychiatry

  • Evaluate and treat people with emotional and mental disorders
  • Subspecialties include addiction psychiatry, child psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry
  • Both psychiatrists and neurologists can earn certificates in the subspecialty of sleep medicine
  • Achieve a mean annual income of over $220,000 and earn the most in outpatient care centers and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals

3. Neurologists

  • Diagnose and treat diseases related to the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system
  • Provide care to patients with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke
  • Undergo four years of training for neurology certification; five years of training for child neurology certification
  • Subspecialties include brain injury medicine, epilepsy, and vascular neurology


Surgeons require the most extensive training after medical school. They operate on individuals to treat injury and disease and manage postoperative care. If you’re literally opening up someone’s body to repair it, it takes a high level of commitment.

Types of surgeons include:

1. General Surgeons

  • Treat appendicitis, hernia, breast tumors, bowel obstructions, and other common conditions
  • Must complete five years of specialized training to qualify for board certification
  • Subspecialties include pediatric surgery, surgical critical care, and complex general surgical oncology

2. Orthopedic Surgeons

  • Treat deformities, injuries, and degenerative diseases so that the spine and extremities function properly
  • Perform surgical procedures such as arthroscopy, joint replacement, and soft tissue repair (of torn ligaments and tendons)
  • Can earn subspecialist certification in surgery of the hand to treat hand injuries and conditions
  • Requires five years of training before board certification

3. Plastic Surgeons 

  • Perform reconstructive procedures such as correcting cleft palates and rebuilding women’s breasts after mastectomy
  • Complete surgeries that improve appearance such as liposuction and rhinoplasty
  • Requires dedication; specialty training is at least six years
  • Subspecialist certifications are hand surgery and head and neck plastic surgery


Becoming a physician offers a wide variety of career possibilities. You can build years long relationships with patients as a trusted PCP or family doctor. You can treat injuries or deformities as a surgeon. Physician is a career path that allows for lifelong learning and constant growth.

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