Medical Doctor: Job Description & Career Info

Medical doctors require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Medical doctors examine, diagnose and treat patients. They can specialize in a number of medical areas, such as pediatrics, anesthesiology or cardiology, or they can work as general practice physicians. Becoming a medical doctor requires earning a doctoral degree in medicine and participating in clinical rotations. It's also common for medical school graduates to enroll in a residency program to study a specialty. Medical doctors need state licensure, and certification may also be required for some specialists.

Required Education Medical doctor degree; residency program
Other Requirements State licensure; specialty certification
Projected Job Growth18% for all physicians and surgeons from 2012-2022*
Average Salary (2013) $183,940 for family and general practice doctors; $235,070 for anesthesiologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Medical doctors (M.D.s) diagnose patient conditions using examinations and tests. Based on their findings, they prescribe treatment and medications to attempt to heal any illnesses or injuries. General practitioners and pediatricians have a wide range of medical knowledge, and they are often the first types of doctors who patients visit. Most doctors routinely work in teams, with nurses and aides assisting them in well-lit work locations.


Doctors may work long and unpredictable hours dictated by the needs of their patients. Additionally, doctors may need to travel amongst various locations, such as offices, hospitals and clinics, in order to provide patient care. Doctors who practice in healthcare organizations or groups have less work independence but may obtain more time off as a result of patient coverage.

Job Options

M.D.s are sometimes referred to as allopathic physicians. As needed, medical doctors might refer patients to specialists who focus on specific medical areas, such as anesthesiology, cardiology, psychology and internal medicine. Specialists are experts in their field and complete additional residency training, in addition to becoming board certified in their specialty.

Career Information

From 2012 to 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected job opportunities for physicians and surgeons to increase by 18%, much faster than that of most other occupations, as existing doctors retire and a growing population demands more medical services. Low-income and rural areas were projected to have an especially high demand for doctors. Cardiologists and radiologists might find particularly strong career opportunities due to a rising elderly population and increase in the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Salary Information

Income for medical doctors varies significantly based on their amount of experience and area of specialty. For example, the BLS reported, as of May 2013, family and general practice doctors earned an average annual salary of $183,940; meanwhile, anesthesiologists averaged $235,070 per year.

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