What Skills Are Needed to Be a Doctor?

Learn about the specific skills needed to be a doctor. These include skills learned during schooling and natural skill sets. Also, get an overview of this career field. View article »

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  • 0:01 Skills Needed to be a Doctor
  • 0:22 Scientific Skills
  • 1:03 Communication Skills
  • 1:29 Patient Care Skills
  • 1:51 Career Overview

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Video Transcript

Skills to Become a Doctor - At a Glance

Degree Level Bachelor's degree followed by completion of an M.D. or D.O.
Degree Field(s) Pre-med, biological sciences, or related field for bachelors; medicine
Possible Specialties Pediatrics, gynecology, psychiatry, surgery, anesthesiology, surgery and general medicine
Licensure/Certification Licensure required in all states; optional board certification
Experience 3-8 year residency after completion of medical school
Key Skills Communication and patient care skills; attention to detail; confidence, empathy, being humane, respectfulness, and thoroughness
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $184,390 (for physicians in primary care)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Scientific Skills

Doctors are healthcare workers who treat and assist patients with a variety of problems. The skills needed to work as a doctor are reflected through the amount of time doctors spend in school learning about the human body. However, there are other skills important to doctors that allow them to excel in their specialty.

Doctor's must be skilled in science, diagnosis and treatment. During medical school and the doctor's undergraduate career, he or she should focus on the human sciences, such as biology, human anatomy and biochemistry, all of which are necessary to understand the job requirements of being a doctor. The skills learned in these sciences are the core to understanding diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing a patient involves understanding the symptoms exhibited and putting them together to understand what is wrong with the patient internally. The doctor may then treat the patient. Treatment involves providing the correct recommendations to a patient, including medicine, referral to another doctor, and surgery.

Communication Skills

Other than the doctor's scientific specialty, communication may be the most important skill for a doctor. Doctor's work all day with patients from all walks of life and ages, asking them questions about their health and then explaining their diagnoses and treatment plans in terms the patients can understand. Doctors in the U.S. may need to be able to communicate with patients whose first language is not English, as well as children and the elderly.

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Patient Care Skills

According to a Mayo Clinic study, patients have different ideas of skills that make a good doctor. They include confidence, empathy, being humane, respectfulness and thoroughness. While it's important that the doctor understands how to treat his or her patient, patients also want a doctor who couples this medical knowledge with the aforementioned personality traits.

Doctors: A Career Overview

Doctors help the sick by examining, prescribing prescription drugs and administering treatment to their patients. They also examine patients, interpret tests and counsel patients on rehabilitative, preventative and dietary care. Doctors may work in one of many specialties within the profession. These include pediatrics, gynecology, psychiatry, surgery, anesthesiology, surgery and general medicine.

Work Environment

Doctors work in many healthcare settings, such as hospitals, private offices, clinics or community healthcare facilities. Within these settings, the doctor can expect to work long, often irregular hours. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some physicians enter into private practice.

Education and Salary Information

Becoming a doctor requires a minimum of four years of medical schooling beyond completion of a bachelor's degree program. Upon graduation, the doctor may spend 3-8 years interning and in residency choosing his or her specialty. The BLS reports that in 2015, physicians working in primary care earned a median annual salary of $184,390. Those working in the podiatry specialty, as an example, earned a median income of $119,340 per year at that same time.

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