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.
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.
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.
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, and become board certified in their specialty.
From 2014 to 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected job opportunities for physicians and surgeons to increase by 14%, 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.
Income for medical doctors varies significantly based on their amount of experience and area of specialty. For example, the BLS reported, as of May 2015, family and general practice doctors earned an average annual salary of $192,120; meanwhile, anesthesiologists averaged $258,100 per year.
A medical doctor treats and cares for patient's health. The job requires a medical degree and a state license to practice medicine.