#7 in Best Paying Jobs

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Physician Overview

#7 in Best Paying JobsOverall Score 7.5 / 10

What is a Physician?

Physicians: They’re the people we call when the contractions come every five minutes. We rush to them for broken arms, and we make appointments when we find irregular freckles. We come to them with coughs and colds and when we suspect that mom might be losing her memory or that dad’s heart is working too hard. They’re obstetricians and gynecologists, ER doctors, dermatologists, primary care providers, neurologists and cardiologists.

There are two main types of physicians: Medical Doctors (M.D.s) and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.s). Both diagnose and treat patients for a range of medical issues, although a D.O. might also specialize in preventive medicine and holistic patient care. Within these categories, there are a host of specialties, from radiology to allergy and immunology, plastic surgery to urology, pediatric to geriatric.

Over the last couple decades, there have been huge advancements in the field of medicine making patient care better, says Robert M. Wah, president of the American Medical Association who teaches in the District of Columbia metro area and is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. But he also says that physicians today face challenges too. “There are a lot of nonmedical people intruding into [a physician’s] exam room,” he says, citing legislators who make laws about what can be said and done and lawyers who threaten medical liability.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14.6 percent employment growth for physicians between 2016 and 2026. In that period, an estimated 7,300 jobs should open up.


Physicians rank # 7 in Best Paying Jobs. Jobs are ranked according to their ability to offer an elusive mix of factors. Read more about how we rank the best jobs.

How Much Does a Physician Make?

Physicians made a median salary of $192,930 in 2017. The best-paid 25 percent made $208,000 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $109,280.

What Type of Education Do Physicians Need?

Geoffrey Chaucer’s, “The life so short, the craft so long to learn,” could definitely apply to a physician’s long road of learning. The beginning of their education starts at the undergraduate level. Although no specific major is required, most pre-med students will major in biology, chemistry, mathematics or a similar area of study, in which they’ll need to get outstanding grades. Upon graduating, students will have to take and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Getting into medical school is largely dependent on good grades in undergrad and a good score on the MCAT. Once students are in medical school, they will spend the first two years in the classroom taking courses in anatomy, biochemistry, medical ethics and a host of others. The last two years will be spent applying their book knowledge to use in the field, under the supervision of experienced doctors.

Physicians will specialize, and each of these specialties has its own requirements for internship and residency programs, which will require an additional three to eight years of training. Lindsey Beffa is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Columbia, Missouri, and says that the long hours as a resident are tough. Still, she says the chance to get to serve patients makes it all worth it. “These patients are trusting you with their most intimate secrets. They’re telling you things they’ve never told their families. They are somehow trusting you to bring their child into the world,” Beffa says. “It’s really rewarding.”

Should physicians want to specialize further, they will have to apply for very competitive fellowships, which can take anywhere from a year to several years to complete. But, Wah says, “You’re never really finished in medicine. We teach our residents to be lifelong learners. You’re always working to learn more and stay abreast of the science.”

Job Satisfaction

Average Americans work well into their 60s, so workers might as well have a job that’s enjoyable and a career that’s fulfilling. A job with a low stress level, good work-life balance and solid prospects to improve, get promoted and earn a higher salary would make many employees happy. Here’s how Physicians job satisfaction is rated in terms of upward mobility, stress level and flexibility.


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