The general practitioner is often on the front lines of medical care. A general practitioner may diagnose and treat disease, broken bones, and other common health problems. When expertise beyond the general practitioner's training is needed, the physician may refers patients to specialists for more intensive care.
Both medical doctors (M.D.) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) can serve as general and family practitioners. General practitioners are found primarily in offices that serve patients on a long-term basis. Some M.D.s and D.O.s serve in hospital emergency rooms and government health care systems. Others become specialists in more narrowly focused practices or may pursue training to become a surgeon, gynecologist or anesthesiologist.
General practitioner schools and educational requirements
Every state and the District of Columbia license general practitioners and all medical physicians. Candidates for licensure can expect may spend as little as eight years of college and from three to eight additional years of residency and internship before starting to practice medicine.
Medical colleges can be among the most demanding of any college or university educations. Four years of undergraduate work may typically set the foundation and this can be followed by another another four years of medical school. General practitioner schools do not distinguish between the general practitioner and the medical specialist at this level. Coursework in a medical degree may incorporate several subjects that include the following:
- Humanities and the social sciences
Admittance to general practitioner schools can be highly competitive. Applicants typically submit scores from the Medical College Admission Test, educational transcripts, and letters of recommendation from prior instructors and those verifying personal characteristics. Additional factors can be taken into consideration by entrance boards that include personality, demonstrable leadership, character, and extracurricular activities. Applicants can expect to interview with the admissions committee at most medical colleges.
Physicians can seek licensure after successfully completing medical school and passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). General practitioners and other physicians licensed in one state can generally be licensed in other states without further testing. To become board certified as a specialist an additional residency and examination is required as determined by the specialty.
Medical schools are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medial Education (LCME) for M.D. programs and by the American Osteopathic Association for D.O. programs.
General practitioner salary considerations
The general practitioner salary can be a good one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2011 general practitioners in New Mexico earned an annual mean wage of $215,500. Other states having mean annual mean wages, according to the BLS, included:
- Iowa: $213,460
- Nevada: $204,990
- Wisconsin: $202,810
- Rhode Island: $199,240
Overall, there were an estimated 100,000-plus general practitioners in the U.S. as of May 2011 earning a mean annual wage of $177,300. However, general practitioners can work long hours in office settings and see patients in hospitals or clinics during nonbusiness hours. Many physicians form teams to share the multitude of responsibilities.
As the population of the U.S. ages it is expected that the demand for general and family practitioners will continue to grow throughout the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2010 to 2020 employment growth nationwide of physicians and surgeons is expected to be 24 percent.
Bureau of Labor Statistics • Physicians and Surgeons • Dec 17, 2009 • http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos074.htm • Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11
Bureau of Labor Statistics • 29-1062 Family and General Practitioners • May 14, 2010 • http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291062.htm • Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009
American Medical Association • Requirements for Becoming a Physician • http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/education-careers/becoming-physician.shtml
American Medical Association • Continuing Medical Education (CME) • http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/education-careers/graduate-medical-education.shtml
American Medical Association • Continuing Medical Education (CME) • http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/education-careers/continuing-medical-education.shtml
Bureau of Labor Statistics • Table 3. The 10 industries with the largest wage and salary employment growth, 2008-18 (1) • Dec 11, 2009 • http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t03.htm