What Do Physicians Do?
Physicians diagnose and treat diseases, illnesses, injuries, and physical and psychological problems. They examine and treat patients; obtain medical histories; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They may also counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care.
There are two types of physicians, the Medical Doctor (MD), or allopathic physician, and the Doctor of Osteopathy (DO). Both types of physicians may use all accepted treatment methods including drugs and surgery, but DOs generally place special emphasis on the body’s musculoskeletal system, incorporate more preventive medicine, and utilize holistic health care practices. DOs are most likely to be primary care specialists although they can be found in all specialties.
Physicians may work in one or more specialties that generally fit into four general categories: primary care, surgical, medical, and other. The category of “other” includes specialties such as radiology, dermatology, forensic pathology, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, public health, anesthesiology, and many more.
For more information about physicians, go to: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm.
For more information on specialties, go to the Council of Medical Specialty Societies website: http://www.cmss.org.
Where Do Physicians Work?
Many physicians work in private offices or clinics. Increasingly, physicians are practicing in groups or health care organizations that provide backup coverage and allow for more time off. Surgeons and anesthesiologists usually work in hospitals or surgical outpatient centers.
Some physicians work in research laboratories, medical schools, Veterans Administration hospitals, or Indian Health Service clinics.
Although their work can be exceptionally rewarding, many physicians and surgeons work long, irregular hours. While on call, a physician will deal with many patients’ concerns over the phone and make emergency visits to hospitals or nursing homes.
What Do Physicians Earn?
Earnings of physicians and surgeons are among the highest of any occupation. Total compensation for physicians and surgeons tends to vary by type of practice, years in practice, geographic region of practice, hours worked, skill, and professional reputation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 in the U.S., physicians and surgeons had an annual median income of over $208,000. In New York, median annual income for physicians and surgeons was $188,397, depending on specialty. Pediatricians tend to have the lowest median salaries and anesthesiologists and surgeons have the highest, which can reach over $250,000 per year.
Self-employed physicians—those who own or are part owners of their medical practice—generally have higher median incomes than salaried physicians. However, self-employed physicians and surgeons must provide for their own practice insurance, health insurance, and retirement.
Supply and Demand
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of physicians and surgeons nationwide will grow 14.0% between 2014 and 2024. During the same period, average growth rates in New York for physician and surgeon position will rise by 13.2%, however this figure varies by individual specialty.
It is expected that there will continue to be a growing need for physicians influenced by the aging of the population, emerging technologies, and overall increased access to and demand for health care services. Many medical schools are increasing their enrollments based on perceived new demand for physicians.
The need for physicians differs by location, with greater need in rural and inner-city areas, and by specialty. For example, there is a larger need for more primary care physicians than many specialties.
For more information on physician and surgeon supply and demand, see the BLS job outlook page for this profession.
For more information on projections of physicians by New York State labor regions, click here.
Educational Program Requirements
Becoming a physician requires completing medical school. Entry into medical school usually requires a bachelor’s degree or some other advanced degree. As a bachelor’s degree is typical of students before entering medical school, those students planning to attend medical school are often called “pre-med”. A pre-med undergraduate education focuses heavily on science, with courses in physics, biology, mathematics, English, and inorganic and organic chemistry. Many pre-med students also take courses in the humanities and the social sciences.
Formal education and training requirements for physicians are among the most demanding of any occupation. After completing four years of undergraduate education and receiving a degree, medical school applicants must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Acceptance to medical school is highly competitive. Once in medical school, students will complete four years of graduate medical education, which includes classroom, laboratory, and supervised clinical training; followed by three to eight years of internship and residency, depending on the specialty selected. A few medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last six or seven years rather than the customary eight years.
New York Licensure Requirements
To practice medicine as a physician, all states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories require licensing. All physicians and surgeons practicing in the U.S. must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). To be eligible to take the USMLE in its entirety, physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school.
To be licensed as a physician in New York, an individual must graduate from an accredited medical school, complete an accredited residency program, and pass medical licensing examinations. For more information on New York licensure requirements, go to http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/med/medlic.htm.
While board certification is not required for licensure in New York, most physicians are board certified by the board of their specialty. Board certification usually includes written and oral tests that evaluate both the knowledge and experience of the physician. For more information about board certification or links to specific specialty boards, go to the American Board of Medical Specialties website: http://www.abms.org.
Most medical schools offer need-based and merit-based scholarships, based on the availability of the school’s funds. The medical school’s financial aid office is the primary point of contact for all financial aid matters and is a valuable resource for detailed information about grant and loan programs in New York and from the federal government. Once admitted to a medical school, explore the options at the school’s financial aid office and be sure to discuss the many good alternatives to borrowing and loans. Financial aid and other options may also be available for the pre-med period.
The federal government provides National Health Service Corps scholarships and loan repayment to physicians in exchange for a service commitment in a health professional shortage area (HPSA). It also offers loans for disadvantaged students and health professions student loans based on need. For more information, go to: http://www.hrsa.gov/loanscholarships/index.html.
The American Medical Association also offers grants, awards, and scholarships to medical students. For more information, go to the AMA Web site page.
A variety of other scholarships, fellowships, and funding opportunities for medical school and other health professions are listed here.
Medical Schools in New York (subject to change)
|Albany Medical College
43 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
|Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Bronx, NY 10461
|Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
630 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032
|Weill Cornell Medical College
1300 York Avenue
New York, NY 10065
|Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029-6574
(212) 241-6696 or
(212) 241-6500 or (800) 637-4624
|New York College of Osteopathic Medicine
of New York Institute of Technology
P.O. Box 8000
Old Westbury, NY 11568
|New York Medical College
40 Sunshine Cottage Road
Valhalla, New York 10595
|New York University School of Medicine
Langone Medical Center
550 First Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 263-7300 or (212) 263-5290
|SUNY Downstate Medical Center
College of Medicine
450 Clarkson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11203
(718) 270-2446 or (718) 270-1000
|Upstate Medical University
State University of New York
750 East Adams Street
Syracuse, NY 13210-2375
(315) 464-4570 or (315) 464-5540 or
|Stony Brook University Medical Center
School of Medicine
Health Sciences Center, Level 4
Stony Brook, NY 11794-8430
(631) 444-1030, (631) 444-2084
|University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
State University of New York
131 Biomedical Education Bldg.
Buffalo, NY 14214
(716) 829-3466, (716) 829-2802
|University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
601 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY 14642
|Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
230 West 125th St.
New York, NY 10027
(646) 981-4500Harlem Campus
|Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University
500 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
(516) 463-7516 or (516)463-7527
Additional Web Links
For more information about a career as a physician go to:
American Medical Association: http://www.ama-assn.org
American Osteopathic Association: www.osteopathic.org/
Medical Society of the State of New York: http://www.mssny.org
Association of American Medical Colleges: http://www.aamc.org
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine: http://www.aacom.org