Bookmark and Share Scholarships

Physicians and Surgeons - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Some physicians and surgeons advance by gaining expertise in specialties and subspecialties and by developing a reputation for excellence among their peers and patients. Physicians and surgeons may also start their own practice or join a group practice. Others teach residents and other new doctors, and some advance to supervisory and managerial roles in hospitals, clinics, and other settings.

Employment
Physicians and surgeons held about 661,400 jobs in 2008; approximately 12 percent were self-employed. About 53 percent of wage–and-salary physicians and surgeons worked in offices of physicians, and 19 percent were employed by hospitals. Others practiced in Federal, State, and local governments, educational services, and outpatient care centers.

According to 2007 data from the American Medical Association (AMA), 32 percent of physicians in patient care were in primary care, but not in a subspecialty of primary care.

A growing number of physicians are partners or wage-and-salary employees of group practices. Organized as clinics or as associations of physicians, medical groups can more easily afford expensive medical equipment, share support staff, and benefit from other business advantages.

According to the AMA, the New England and Middle Atlantic States have the highest ratios of physicians to population; the South Central and Mountain States have the lowest. Physicians tend to locate in urban areas, close to hospitals and education centers. AMA data showed that in 2007, about 75 percent of physicians in patient care were located in metropolitan areas while the remaining 25 percent were located in rural areas.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be very good, particularly in rural and low-income areas.

Job Growth
Employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur because of continued expansion of healthcare-related industries. The growing and aging population will drive overall growth in the demand for physician services, as consumers continue to demand high levels of care using the latest technologies, diagnostic tests, and therapies. Many medical schools are increasing their enrollments based on perceived new demand for physicians.

Despite growing demand for physicians and surgeons, some factors will temper growth. For example, new technologies allow physicians to be more productive. This means physicians can diagnose and treat more patients in the same amount of time. The rising cost of healthcare can dramatically affect demand for physicians’ services. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who can perform many of the routine duties of physicians at a fraction of the cost, may be increasingly used. Furthermore, demand for physicians' services is highly sensitive to changes in healthcare reimbursement policies. If changes to health coverage result in higher out-of-pocket costs for consumers, they may demand fewer physician services.

Opportunities for individuals interested in becoming physicians and surgeons are expected to be very good. In addition to job openings from employment growth, openings will result from the need to replace the relatively high number of physicians and surgeons expected to retire over the 2008-18 decade.

Job prospects should be particularly good for physicians willing to practice in rural and low-income areas because these medically underserved areas typically have difficulty attracting these workers. Job prospects will also be especially good for physicians in specialties that afflict the rapidly growing elderly population. Examples of such specialties are cardiology and radiology because the risks for heart disease and cancer increase as people age.

Earnings
Earnings of physicians and surgeons are among the highest of any occupation. According to the Medical Group Management Association's Physician Compensation and Production Survey, median total compensation for physicians varied by their type of practice. In 2008, physicians practicing primary care had total median annual compensation of $186,044, and physicians practicing in medical specialties earned total median annual compensation of $339,738.

Self-employed physicians—those who own or are part owners of their medical practice—generally have higher median incomes than salaried physicians. Earnings vary according to number of years in practice, geographic region, hours worked, skill, personality, and professional reputation. Self-employed physicians and surgeons must provide for their own health insurance and retirement.

Back to Page 1

Academic Programs of Interest

Genetics
Genetics is the science of heredity and variation in living organisms. The modern science of genetics, which seeks to understand the mechanisms of inheritance, only began with the work of Gregor Mendel in the mid-1800s. A geneticist is a scientist who studies genetics, the science of heredity and ...more
Pathology
Pathology is the study and diagnosis of disease through examination of organs, tissues, cells and bodily fluids. The term encompasses both the medical specialty which uses tissues and body fluids to obtain clinically useful information, as well as the related scientific study of disease processes. One ...more
Pre-Medicine
Pre-Medicine is a term used to describe a track an undergraduate student pursues prior to becoming a medical student. It refers to the activities that prepare an undergraduate student for medical school, such as pre-med coursework, volunteer activities, clinical experience, research, and the application ...more
Public Health
Public health is concerned with threats to the overall health of a community based on population health analysis. Health is defined and promoted differently by many organizations. The World Health Organization, the United Nations body that sets standards and provides global surveillance of disease, defines ...more