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Career Profile: Physician

Why Is a Physician a Job of Tomorrow?
Physicians will be more in demand than ever as advancements in medical care and technology extend life spans and allow for more conditions to be treated, giving physicians many more patients to handle. The number of employment positions for physicians and surgeons are expected to rise 14 percent, a faster growth rate than the average for all U.S. occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for physicians is about $150,000.

What Does a Physician Do?
Physicians are trained to diagnose illnesses and provide treatment for those suffering from diseases, chronic conditions or injuries. Their primary goal is to better the health and comfort of patients through prescribed treatments, medications, therapies or general advice. There are several specialty fields for physicians to focus on, including family medicine, pediatric care, general internal medicine, gynecology and obstetrics. Family medicine physicians are typically the primary care providers for most patients, as they are experts in the most common illnesses and conditions. They generally provide direct care, and in instances where patients' conditions are beyond their capability, they will refer them to specialists who can provide treatment. Depending on the physician's field of specialty, his or her duties can vary dramatically. For example, an obstetric physician would work with pregnant women, performing tests and checkups to ensure the health of developing babies. On the other hand, a family medicine physician would typically handle patients with the flu, common cold, aches and pains, and other nonemergency conditions.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Physician?
Physicians hold a doctoral degree in medicine, which typically takes eight years to complete, with four of those years being devoted to earning a bachelor's degree and four years spent in medical school. Acceptance into medical school is highly competitive. Undergraduate courses focus on general science and medicine, such as anatomy, biology and chemistry. Medical school courses are more focused on the particular field of specialty the student is pursuing. For example, those interested in practicing family medicine would learn how to diagnose and treat general, as well as some unusual, illnesses. After medical school, prospective physicians must complete a residency program that can last three to eight years.