Quick Facts: Physicians and Surgeons
2012 Median Pay This wage is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year or $90.00 per hour.
Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2012 691,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 18% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 123,300

What Physicians and Surgeons Do

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Work Environment

Physicians and surgeons held about 691,400 jobs in 2012. Many physicians work in private offices or clinics, often with administrative and healthcare personnel.

How to Become a Physician or Surgeon

Physicians and surgeons have demanding education and training requirements. Almost all physicians complete at least 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and, depending on their specialty, 3 to 8 years in internship and residency programs.


Wages for physicians and surgeons are among the highest of all occupations. According to the Medical Group Management Association’s Physician Compensation and Production Survey, median total compensation for physicians varied with their type of practice. In 2012, physicians practicing primary care received total median annual compensation of $220,942 and physicians practicing in medical specialties received total median annual compensation of $396,233.

Job Outlook

Employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 18 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur because of the continued expansion of healthcare-related industries.


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