Nature of Work

Physicians and surgeons specialize in diagnosing, treating injuries and illnesses towards patients. A physician’s role is to examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications and perform diagnostic testing. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries such as broken bone, diseases, and/or deformities.

Training, Qualifications and Advancement

To become a physician and/or surgeon, many years of education and strict training is required. Physicians and surgeons are demanded to complete at least 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and at least 3-5 years of residency programs and internships. All states require physicians and surgeons to be licensed; requirements vary by state. To qualify for a license, candidates must graduate from an accredited medical school and complete residency training in their specialty. All physicians and surgeons also must pass a standardized national licensure exam. M.D.s take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). D.O.s take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA.) Certification is not required for physicians and surgeons; however, it may increase their employment opportunities. M.D.s and D.O.s seeking board certification in a specialty may spend up to 7 years in residency training; the length of time varies with the specialty. To become board certified, candidates must complete a residency program and pass a specialty certification exam from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS). ((


In 2014, 708,300 jobs were held by physicians and surgeons. Private offices, clinics accompanied by a small staff of nurses is usually the work environment for physicians. There are some that practice independently or with a group of doctors. However, physicians working in group practices, healthcare organizations, and/or hospital where they share a large number of patients with other doctors have been increasing rapidly.

Job Outlook

Employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 14% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. The growing and aging population is expected to drive overall growth in the demand for physician services as consumers continue to seek high levels of care that uses the latest technologies, diagnostic tests, and therapies.

Projections Data

For physicians and surgeons, the projected employment from 2014-24 will be increased by 14% making the year projected employment in 2024 to be 807,600.


The median wage as of 2015 for physicians and surgeons is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year.

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