A growing and aging population will contribute to the overall increase in the number of physicians needed, especially in underserved areas, such as inner city and rural areas. Outstanding career opportunities can be found in these locations. Because of efforts nationally to control health care costs and limitations on use of specialty services, a lower number of specialists will be in demand. Therefore, prospects are best for those choosing general or internal medicine, as well as geriatric and pediatric medicine. However, unlike the situation several decades ago, physicians face radically different choices of where and how to practice as new patterns of practice are becoming the norm. Physicians may choose from a variety of settings such as working in a managed care system (HMO, PPO), a clinic, hospital, laboratory, industrial, or military venues, or in a combination of these. Physicians are currently becoming more attuned to health promotion and prevention of disease by providing education and information to help individuals adopt healthier lifestyles.
The minimum educational requirement for entry into most US and Canadian medical schools is a 4-year Bachelor’s degree (any major). Additionally, many applicants have formal education beyond a BA/BS, and may also have had a variety of experiences in the health care field. In medical school, students spend most of the first two years in laboratories and classrooms studying the basic sciences such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, medical ethics and other subjects with some clinical exposure. During the last two years, students proceed through clinical rotations working with patients in hospitals, which consists of on-the-job training in one or more specialties, under the direction of experts in that discipline. Once completed, the physician must pass national board exams before he/she is licensed to practice medicine. Many states also require the passing of state board exams.
Overall, becoming a physician requires physical, emotional and intellectual stamina and lots of perseverance. It takes the desire to work with and for people, and particularly, the ability to use critical thinking to solve problems. Prospective physicians must be prepared to study throughout their careers to keep up with medical advances, and to be flexible enough to respond to changes in the healthcare system.
The national average income for physicians is $180-230K and the average income for California is about the same.
Career information adapted from:
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2013). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh
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