General Physician: Employment Info & Requirements

Mar 24, 2019

Explore the education and licensure requirements for general physicians. Learn about their job duties and career outlook, and review salary information. See information on other career paths as well.

Job Description for a General Physician

General physicians diagnose, treat and manage a wide range of conditions, including sprains, infections and the flu, and determine if the condition warrants a specialist or more intensive care. General physicians today seek to promote both emotional and physical well-being by educating patients on healthy lifestyles, encouraging good habits and helping end bad ones such as smoking and overeating, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

Required Education Bachelor's degree, Doctor of Medicine degree
Necessary Skills Ability to work well under pressure, compassion, stamina, ethics
Mean Salary (2017)* $208,560 (for all family and general practitioners)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 14% (for all family and general practitioners)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Education and training requirements for physicians are among the most demanding of any occupation. Those wishing to become a general physician first must complete a bachelor's degree program then begin the application process for medical school. Acceptance is highly competitive and requires applicants to have outstanding undergraduate grades and high scores on the Medical College Admission Test.

Students receive their Doctor of Medicine degree after successful completion of the 4-year medical school program. General physicians then begin a 3-year residency that provides training specific to the field. Only after they have completed this entire process and obtained a state license can a general physician practice unsupervised.

Job Skills

Those aspiring to become physicians must work well under pressure, possess compassion and be willing to accept long hours and the responsibility for the life of another human being. As in all medical careers, general physicians must adhere to a strict set of professional ethics.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for general physicians were expected to be very good. The BLS estimated that physicians would have a 14% rise in jobs from 2016 to 2026. Additionally, the AMA reports that the number of medical school graduates choosing primary care specialties has been decreasing due to low reimbursement. However, impending health care reforms seek to even the disparities between general medicine and various specialties. The average salary of a family or general practitioner was reported as $208,560 in May 2017 by the BLS.

Alternative Career Options

Some skills necessary to become a physician will help prepare you for careers in other areas.

Physician Assistant

Unlike physicians, physician assistants don't need to attend medical school, but they must graduate from an accredited physician assistant program. A master's degree is often required. From 2016 to 2026, the BLS reported that faster-than-average job growth of 37% was estimated for these workers. The mean annual income for physician assistants was $104,760 in 2017, per the BLS.


To become a chiropractor, a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and state licensure is required. These medical professionals treat and diagnose problems in the musculoskeletal system. A 12% job growth was projected for chiropractors from 2016 to 2026. The BLS stated that, as of May 2017, chiropractors had an average annual salary of $83,350.

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