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Emergency Physician: Job Description and Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an emergency physician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Emergence physicians typically work in hospital emergency rooms or urgent care clinics, serving patients with critical conditions. Their job is to stabilize patients for referral to the appropriate department for further evaluation. Emergency physicians generally have very short-lived relationships with patients and treat conditions that span all areas of medicine. This career field requires a medical degree, a medical residency and successful completion of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Required Education Medical degree
Additional Requirements USMLE licensing
3-4 year residency
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 18% (all physicians and surgeons)
Median Annual Salary (2013)** $200,941

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com

Emergency Physician Job Description

Emergency physicians often treat patients who have life-threatening conditions. Their primary job functions are to resuscitate or stabilize patients and refer them to the appropriate medical departments. For this reason, emergency physicians often work as part of a team, with physicians of other specialties and other members of the emergency room staff. Emergency physicians must evaluate a wide variety of ailments, sometimes with little to no information. They must be able to think and act quickly to make a tentative diagnosis and determine the appropriate course of treatment.

Educational Requirements

The first step that all aspiring physicians must complete in order to get into medical school is to take premedical courses during their undergraduate education. Premedical courses include biology, physics, inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. These courses prepare students for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), which is generally required by all medical schools in the United States. Premedical students should also participate in extracurricular activities, such as volunteering at a hospital or clinic, shadowing a physician and gaining leadership experience. Balancing a challenging schedule can show medical school admissions officers that a student is ready to handle the demands of a career in medicine.

The next step is to graduate from medical school. Medical school generally consists of two years of classroom education in the sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology and pathology, followed by two years of clinical rotations where students learn how to diagnose and treat illness in a number of different specialties. Upon graduation, students should have passed the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to be licensed to practice medicine.

Finally, physicians who would like to specialize in emergency medicine must complete a 3- or 4-year residency training program. Some residency programs can begin immediately after graduation from medical school, and others may begin after the physician completes a 1-year internship. After completing a residency, emergency physicians may take an examination offered by the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) or American Osteopathic Board of Emergency Medicine (AOBEM) in order to become board certified.

Salary and Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect information on emergency physicians, specifically. PayScale.com provided a median annual salary of $200,941 for emergency room physicians as of December 2014. The BLS predicts a job growth of 18% for all surgeons and physicians between 2012 and 2022, largely due to the nation's aging population and an ongoing proliferation of healthcare services.

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