Physicians and Surgeons: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Most applicants to medical school have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required, students usually complete undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. Students also may take courses in the humanities and social sciences. In addition, some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain experience in a healthcare setting.
Training Required
After medical school, almost all graduates enter a residency program in their specialty of interest. A residency usually takes place in a hospital and varies in duration, generally lasting from 3 to 7 years, depending on the specialty.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 15% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Licenses/Certifications
All states require physicians and surgeons to be licensed; requirements vary by state. To qualify for a license, candidates must graduate from an accredited medical school and complete residency training in their specialty.
Median pay: How much do Physicians and Surgeons make?
$208,000 Annual Salary
$100.00 per hour

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

There are two types of physicians, with similar degrees: M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both use the same methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole-person) patient care. D.O.s are most likely to be primary care physicians, although they can be found in all specialties.

What do Physicians and Surgeons do?

Physicians and surgeons typically do the following:

  • Take a patient’s medical history
  • Update charts and patient information to show current findings and treatments
  • Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
  • Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommend and design a plan of treatment
  • Address concerns or answer questions that patients have about their health and well-being
  • Help patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene

Physicians and surgeons work in one or more specialties. The following are examples of types of physicians and surgeons:

Careers for Physicians and Surgeons

  • Addiction psychiatrists
  • Allergists
  • Allopathic physicians and surgeons
  • Anaesthesiologists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Anesthetists
  • Attending anesthesiologists
  • Aviation medicine specialists
  • Board certified family physicians
  • Brain surgeons
  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Cardiologists
  • Cardiovascular surgeons
  • Child psychiatrists
  • Clinical pathologists
  • Clinical psychiatrists
  • Colorectal surgeons
  • Dermatologists
  • Doctors, medical
  • Doctors, osteopathic
  • Emergency medicine specialists
  • Emergency physicians
  • Family and general physicians
  • Family and general practitioners
  • Family medicine physicians
  • Family physicians
  • Family practice medical doctors
  • Family practice physicians
  • Family practitioners
  • Forensic psychiatrists
  • GP doctors
  • Gastroenterologists
  • General internal medicine doctors
  • General internal medicine physicians
  • General internists
  • General pediatricians
  • General practitioners
  • Geriatric psychiatrists
  • Gynecologists
  • Immunologists
  • Internal medicine physicians
  • Internists, OB specialists
  • Internists, general
  • Laryngologists
  • Neonatal doctors
  • Neonatologists
  • Nephrologists
  • Neurological surgeons
  • Neurologists
  • Neuropsychiatrists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • OB/GYN physicians
  • OB/GYNs
  • Obstetrical anesthesiologists
  • Obstetricians
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs)
  • Obstetricians/Gynecologists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Orthopaedic surgeons
  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Osteopathic physicians and surgeons
  • Otolaryngologists
  • Pathologists
  • Pediatric psychiatrists
  • Pediatricians
  • Pediatrists
  • Physiatrists
  • Physicians
  • Plastic surgeons
  • Practitioners, family and general
  • Primary care pediatricians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Pulmonary physicians
  • Radiologists
  • Reconstructive surgeons
  • Rheumatologists
  • Staff anesthetists
  • Staff psychiatrists
  • Surgeons
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Thoracic surgeons
  • Urologists
  • Vascular surgeons

Similar Careers