Inside Physician Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Non Emergent Patients Seek Emergency Care...
I was surprised to learn how many persons reach out to the Emergency Department for issues that are in no way an emergency." (Physician Assistant - Medicine; 2014)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Physician Assistant Studies at Touro College in New York; completed Professional degree in 2006

"Manageable Workload...
I was surprised at how manageable the workload is" (Osteopathy Physician; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Osteopathic Medicine at Touro University California in California; completed Doctorate degree in 2012

"Learning Is Constant...
I was surprised that knowing you're providing good care to patients is excellent motivation to continue learning and that wanting to learn was not a chore but a drive I had simply to provide good care. I was also surprised at how helpful senior physicians and nurses were at helping to train me and making sure I was a part of the team." (Physician; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Physician at University Of Southern California in California; completed Professional degree in 2012

"Surprisingly Little Drudgery...
Being a medical resident is pretty much 100% fun all the time! I expected lots of drudgery and painful learning, and lots of ungrateful patients, but in fact it has been 100% awesome teaching, understanding patients, and constant excitement!" (Physician; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Washington, male
School: Studied Medicine at University Of Washington School Of Medicine in Washington; completed Professional degree in 2012

"Common Sense Is The Key...
When I was studying the material there was so much thing I needed to learn. In the end it turned out that I didn't really need much of it. Working in this field was much more of common sense than applying what you have learned." (Respiratory Therapist; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied I'm Majoring In The Medical Field. at I Attended A Community College, NECC. in Massachusetts; completed Associate degree in 2010

"Don't Do It For The Money...
Being a doctor has to be about helping people and personal satisfaction. Becoming a doctor only to make money will not lead to a happy life, its too much work to not want to do it." (Physician; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, male
School: Studied Medicine at NEOUCOM in Ohio; completed Professional degree in 2011

"Medicine Is Basically Paperwork...
I was surprised by the amount of paperwork I would have to do. I was surprised how quickly it adds up and distracts from patient care." (Physician; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied Medical School at Wake Forest in North Carolina; completed Professional degree in 2011

"Be Prepared For Everything, Not Just Emergencies...
Many people will be surprised at how many non-emergencies come into the emergency department. A lot of people treat it as their primary care clinic and do not follow up properly. This can be frustrating at time." (Physician Assistant; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, male
School: Studied Emergency Medicine at Augsberg Physician Assistant Program in Minnesota; completed Master degree in 2012

"Job Satisfaction As A Surgical Resident...
This is a profession in which you are always meeting new people and always learning something new. You work hands on and you are given responsibilities from the start that you find end up changing people's lives." (Medical Doctor (Surgical Resident); 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Medical School at Wayne State University School Of Medicine in Michigan; completed Professional degree in 2012

"You Do Have Free Time...
I was surprised how much more free time you have than they would have you believe. Of course, it is no walk in the park, but you are able to have at least some free time if you want it." (Physician; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Maryland, male
School: Studied Medicine at University Of Maryland Medical School in Maryland; completed Professional degree in 2011

"Emotionally Draining...
I am surprised at how emotionally draining my profession is." (Physician; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Alabama, male
School: Studied Medicine at University Of Alabama At Birmingham in Alabama; completed Professional degree in 2012

"I Was Surprised To Find Out How Much Teamwork Is Required To Be A Successful Doctor...
The teamwork required to succeed." (Resident; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Medicine at University Of Texas in Texas; completed Doctorate degree in 2012

"Administrative Skills And Paperwork Takes More Time Than Expected...
I was surprised about how much of my time is spent on administrative tasks instead of direct patient care. This can become very frustrating when you expected to take care of patients, not do paperwork." (Physician; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, male
School: Studied Medicine at University Of Missouri School Of Medicine in Missouri; completed Professional degree in 2010

"Pediatrics Involves Working With Parents...
I was surprised to find that pediatrics involves working with parents as much as working with children. I was surprised that dealing with allergies is so common." (Pediatrician; 2013)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College Of Medicine in New York; completed Professional degree in 2000

"It's A Business...
How much business is actually involved. It's not just seeing patients. You have to figure out billing and how to make this profitable or you can't keep on seeing patients." (Physician; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York; completed Professional degree in 2012

"Constant Change...
I am constantly surprised how much medicine changes every year. Things I learned in medical school may not apply today because new medications and forms of treatment emerge daily." (Physician; 2012)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Texas, female
School: Studied Medicine at University Of Texas-Houston Health Science Center in Texas; completed Professional degree in 2000

"I was surprised that there is a large amount of paperwork involved with being a physician. In addition to licensure and studying, everything on a patient must be documented, sometimes in several areas. The ability to work quickly and efficiently is very useful." (Physician; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, male
School: Studied Medicine at University Of Virginia in Virginia; completed Professional degree in 2011

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Physician, Specializing In Physical Medicine And Rehabilitation: "It can be very rewarding to share in people's recovery and improvement as they regain their function and are able to return home. I enjoy the fact that we see our inpatients for 1-2 weeks, allowing us to get to know them - more so than in an acute hospital. We often have long-standing relationships with our patients, and may follow them for years. I is also rewarding to have them feel better, with less pain after something I have done (a procedure or injection). There has been a definite increase in the amount of paperwork involved with everything, and that is a distraction, as well as takes up too much time. There are also times when an insurance company or administrator will make determinations about care for patients, even though they are not actually seeing the patient." (2011)

Doctor: "Although my job may not be as dramatic as that of a surgeon, it is, however, way more versatile and multifaceted than any other specialization. It gives you an all around experience and exposure to different patient cases, diseases, and conditions. It doesn't restrict or limit you to one single area as most specializations do. Internist are also able to sub-specialize later on in their area of choice, for instance gastroenterology, endocrinology, nephrology, etc. One drawback about being an internist is that one has to be on their toes all the time. It is rather challenging as there is a lot to know and remember because you're dealing with all organs. This may not be such a bad thing. It depends on the person, I'd say." (2011)

Physician: "It's always fun and rewarding to take care of a sick kid and get them better - and most of the time, that's exactly what happens. Sometimes, of course, we can't make an individual kid better, and sometimes those kids will die. That's the difficult part, although I do find some reward in working with their families, explaining what is happening and making sure that they understand and are feeling adequately supported. Other good parts - teaching/learning with our students and residents; feeling that you are doing useful work. Other bad parts - being up all night (some nights), not being able to make an individual child get better." (2011)

Physician: "The best part of my career is to see the bright young faces of children and to try to makes all of their illnesses and pain go away. Making them feel better is definitely the best part of my job. There is no real "worst part" of my job. However, the parts I "dislike" are probably being on call and having to wake up in the middle of the night for emergencies at the hospital or with one of my patients." (2011)

Physician: "Best: -working with people -constant intellectual stimulation -good salary -work with a lot of caring people Worst -lots of paperwork -can require a lot of time -there can be a lot of administrative work which limits time with patients" (2011)

Physician: "The worst part of my job is the endless insurance forms and paperwork that can become drudgery. I also have nights with little to no sleep taking care of emergencies but must work a full day the next day. I also feel tremendous pressure not to be careless and limit mistakes since people can be harmed. I also know despite my best efforts that I am human and I make mistakes that cause harm. The best part of my job is that I actually help people in a tangible way. I even cure patients of cancer and can improve the quality of their lives. Some people even overtly express their gratitude to me and this occurs on a daily basis." (2011)

Physician: "The best part of being a cancer doctor is the gratitude of the patients. Cancer patients are extremely compliant and tough, and you really feel like you are in a partnership with a willing participant, no matter how grueling the treatment is. The downside to the job is that one does witness a great deal of terrible suffering, which can wear a person down with time. Although some may find the work depressing, for a select few the rewards far outweigh this downside." (2011)

Physician: "The best parts of the job: 1) the time spent in the room with patients. You really do make a difference in a lot of people's lives. Patients have shared with me some amazing problems and stories. It's a privilege to be let into those parts of people's lives; 2) I really enjoy the variety that comes with family practice. We see both genders, all ages, and all types of problems. I do minor surgeries, joint injections, used to deliver babies. The worst parts of the job: 1) the documentation requirements are crushing; 2) third party payers (insurers) dictating care and finances to us; 3) the sense of entitlement that some patients have -- they want it fast and now, like it's a convenience store instead of a doctor's office." (2011)

Pediatrician: "The interaction with our patients, children and parents are a privilege and the best thing about this job. Also, being able to help people, even if it just listening is great. Staying up at night, often is the worst. Also, with the uncertainty of health care our future is unclear at this time. Sometimes this can be a little unsettling and I am sure for the future of medicine this can affect how we approach this job financially." (2011)

Plastic Surgeon: "The best part of my job has not faded with time. It is forever changing someone's life for the better. It's using the medical arts to make someone whole. I was never in this for the cash. I would never have stayed in an academic institution if I was. The worst part is when God reminds you that you are not God and things go wrong despite your best intentions. Having the strength to admit that you are wrong or work with angry patient, to not walk away is a humbling lesson. It will happen to all physicians. Lastly, I hate the paperwork and the malpractice threat. I hate that some patients can be demanding, feel entitled, manipulative of our mandate to serve. But if I look at all the professions out there, I see that all of them have their drawbacks." (2010)

Medical Doctor: "The best part of my job is to see a patient recover from illness. Sometimes this requires a very sophisticated work-up and the coordination of care between a number of specialists. Most of the time patients do not realize how many people are involved in their care. The worst part of the job is to see people dying. It happens to every one and it does not matter if we want it or not." (2010)

Physician: "The best part of my job is helping people who are ill to recover and those who are not to maintain their good health. The best reward of my job is to see my patients recovered and regain their normal function status. In general, as a physician, I am well-respected by my patients. The worst part of my job is that some patients are not compliant with the treatment, or do not follow up as schedule." (2010)

Physician: "The best parts of my job are helping patients improve their health and their lives, and getting to know them well over the course of the years. The worse parts are filling out a myriad of forms - disability forms, absence from work forms, insurance forms, authorization forms for the insurance companies, medication approval forms and the like. A good but sad part is helping them say goodbye at the end of life, and helping their families say goodbye." (2010)

Physician: "The best part of my work is seeing a sick person getting better or someone who came in in an ambulance leaving the hospital on their own two feet. The very best is seeing a patient whom I diagnosed with cancer finishing treatment and getting a clean bill of health. The worst is seeing young people dying with untreatable diseases and people suffering from pain. The dark side of my job is the mounting paper work which takes a good part of my day." (2010)

Physician: "The best part of the job is taking care of people and knowing that I've truly made a difference in their lives, and even saved lives. This happens every day. I also like the variety in my specialty. I get to do surgery, deliver babies, and see different people every day. The worst part of the job is the paperwork and the way we get paid. Doctors get paid through insurance companies and the forms that they demand have not been standardized. Every insurance company wants something different. Sometimes you feel like its not worth it. The long hours and interrupted sleep are also difficult." (2010)

Physician: "The best part of the job is seeing a baby recover, especially one who's been sick and in the NICU for a long, long time. I also like having relationships with families and teaching students and residents. The worst parts are the hours: we work 24-hour shifts and a lot of nights and weekends. The paperwork is also very time-consuming and becoming more and more cumbersome to the point I sometimes could spend more time doing paperwork than I do actually taking care of patients." (2010)

Career Background


  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Long Term Thinking In The Career Field Is Best...
think long term - like 30 or 40 years down the line have a plan" (Physician Assistant - Medicine; 2014)

"Study Hard In Order To Get Good Placement...
Study hard early in school and thereby do well on the USMLE Step 1, as that will allow you to get into the residency of your choice. And then make sure that that choice involves a program that prioritizing your day-to-day work experience (these tend to be the best programs)." (Physician; 2014)

"How To Become Well Prepared For A Surgical Residency...
If you want to be successful as a medical resident, learn all you can as a medical student and do not be shy. Try to be as hands on as you can and volunteer to see patients and perform procedures when offered, it will make you much more successful as a resident." (Medical Doctor (Surgical Resident); 2014)

"Dedication And Sacrifice Will Help You Become A Great Physician...
If you want to be a successful physician, you will need to spend a great deal of time reading and studying. You will also need hands-on experience with patients. This will lead to sacrificing time with friends and family to reach your goal." (Physician; 2014)

"Time Management...
Develop EXCELLENT time management skills to avoid falling behind in school" (Osteopathy Physician; 2013)

"The Loans To Pay For School Are Negligible In The Long Run...
Don't worry about the debt. Even though you're taking out $350,000+ in loans just to finance your education, you'll easily pay it off once you start working so focus on your education and become a good physician." (Physician; 2013)

"Develop Your Interpersonal Skills Not Just Your Technical Ones...
Studies are good but you must take time to develop your interpersonal skills. It will help your teamwork and ability to explain." (Resident; 2013)

"Distance Your Emotion...
you have to remove you emotion to a degree to keep from being depressed but not to the point that you forget that patients are people" (Physician; 2013)

"Make Sure You Want It...
Decide carefully whether medicine is right for you, its a tough field and not for those who aren't sure. The field is progressively harder as the amount of loans go up while monetary compensation stays the same." (Physician; 2013)

"Stay Focused...
Even though you don't need to make sure much of the stuff you learned will stay in your head, it is important to stay focused. One of the worst things is to see people slack off with their degree and seem unenthusiastic. When you learn material in the respiratory field there is a great chance that it will open up interest in many other medical fields." (Respiratory Therapist; 2013)

"Every Class Matters...
Do not take any class lightly, try your hardest in every one and it will pay off." (Physician; 2013)

"Communicate Effectively With Parents...
Make sure you like working with both children and parents. You will need to communicate effectively with both." (Pediatrician; 2013)

"Learn A Second Language...
Learning Spanish really has helped in my career. I recommend learning whatever language is most commonly used after English in the area you plan to practice." (Physician; 2013)

"Keeping An Open Mind...
If you want to be a successful ER provider, you must have an open mind to everything you do. You will see people from all backgrounds and although it may be hard to relate to them at times, you must understand your role as a healer and not as someone who judges others." (Physician Assistant; 2013)

"Consider Other Healthcare Professions...
The field of medicine is vast - with many different careers that involve helping people. Being 'the doctor' has more responsibility, and much more time training - but the stress and added pressure (not to mention expenses of training and running a practice) may not be for everyone. It can be just as rewarding to be nurse, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, physical or occupational therapist. Explore as many of the options as you can by volunteering. Call local hospitals or medical schools and ask about opportunities to shadow people doing what might sound interesting. Also use the web for information - check the national and local organizations for the filed of interest (e.g. American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, or other sports medicine groups)." (Physician, Specializing In Physical Medicine And Rehabilitation; 2011)

"Don't Do It For The Money...
If anyone desires to be a doctor, do it for anything but the money! It is by far the worst motive anyone could ever have to pursue a career in medicine! If your heart is not in it, I mean truly not in it, then forget it, just pursue something else. I don't mean one has to be a saint to take up a career in medicine. Just that you have to really want it because life as a doctor isn't easy. There are loads of perks and it is the most rewarding career ever, but it does come with its fair share of challenges!" (Doctor; 2011)

"Don't Ignore The Humanities...
I'd go for good preparation in basic sciences, but also in humanities - much of medicine is science, but there is still a large portion of "art" and of human interaction. Be sure that you enjoy working with people, and that you are comfortable working quite hard without necessarily seeing an immediate reward. Spend some time "shadowing" someone in the health care profession that you are most interested in." (Physician; 2011)

"Get Some Experience In Medicine...
You have to start building a strong science background in high school and take as many advanced classes you can. This will make the transition to college easier as well. In college you can major in anything, however you should take all the required "pre-med" courses and try to be involved with clubs and other extracurricular activities. Also it is important that you obtain experience in the field of medicine, including shadowing physicians and volunteering at the hospital. Grades are extremely important and it is imperative that you maintain a high GPA and score well on the MCAT." (Physician; 2011)

"Love Your Work...
Have passion for whatever you choose to do. Work hard and you can accomplish whatever you want to. Be able to work well with others." (Physician; 2011)

"Strong Work Ethic Essential...
If you want to be a physician you must learn from your mistakes and not stay discouraged by set backs. The training is a long and arduous process. You must learn good study habits, the earlier the better, and also enjoy learning. You must be able to read large amounts of material quickly and absorb complex concepts and facts as a force of habit. If you do not have an excellent work ethic and are not at least a little obsessive compulsive you will probably not thrive or survive as a physician." (Physician; 2011)

"Substantial Commitment...
The first and most obvious piece of advice would be to firmly establish whether or not this career is for you, as there is quite a sizable time commitment. One can do this by spending time around physicians, in particular cancer doctors, to see if the job is one that you are willing to devote over 10 years of your life to. If this is the case, I would advise one to study hard, but to make sure to set aside time to have a personal life to avoid possible burnout." (Physician; 2011)

"Take Non-Science Electives...
1. Undergrad, take as many non-science classes as your major will allow. You will be getting science crammed down your throat for the rest of your life. Have some fun, and pursue some areas you enjoy. 2. Go into medicine for the "right" reasons, which I think I elaborated on above (under best parts of job). If you're doing this for the "prestige" or the money, you're not going to be happy. 3. Realize that there is life outside of medicine. You HAVE to spend time with your family, or you will be sorry. A career in medicine can be all-consuming, and will eat you alive if you let it. My biggest accomplishment as a doctor has been being able to be there for my family, and be a good dad and husband. This is critically important!" (Physician; 2011)

"Take Some Time Of Between College And Med School...
Time goes by much faster than you think and the length of study ought not to deter any way from trying a medical career. When starting a career in medicine you do not necessarily have to be pre-med in college but it is good to get some basic science classes in. It is better to get some time off between college and med school, get some life experiences. This will make you a much better, common sense physician" (Pediatrician; 2011)

"Be Prepared To Sacrifice 10-15 Years...
1. As in many high-intensity professions, you must be a master time manager. 2. You must have a desire to serve. 3. You must be willing to sacrifice your twenties and maybe early thirties to residency training. 4. Even if you are not an artist, you should have an innate sense of three-dimensional form. 5. Right now this is one of the most competitive medical fields to enter, so you must be self-motivated and unwavering." (Plastic Surgeon; 2010)

"Be Understanding And Don't Judge...
It is very important for the good physician to be sensitive to his patient's problems and to try to understand circumstances and not judge. You have to be a good listener and pay attention to the details. Any misunderstanding leads to unnecessary tests and/or treatment. You should be compassionate, have good bedside manner and technical skills. I don't even mention good memory and imagination because these are a must. You also have to be prepared to put aside family activities due to job responsibilities." (Medical Doctor; 2010)

"Encourage Patient Participation...
1. Listen to your patients and make an effort to understand them well. 2. Communicate with patients and make sure they understand what's going on. Encourage them to be actively involved in their medical care. 3. The most important thing to remember in medical practice is "Do no harm." Before you start any treatment, always weigh the benefits against the potential dangers." (Physician; 2010)

"Long Work Hours Eventually Reduce...
You must be willing to spend many hours of each day in school and in training devoted to your career, including many hours of your nights. As you establish your career, the hours becomes less onerous, but the profession does not usually have a 9 to 5 type of work schedule. Entering the medical field does, however, give you a lot of flexibility in terms of what you do, due to the breadth of the training." (Physician; 2010)

"Lots Of Options...
Medicine has a lot of possibilities and everybody can find a place for himself, from major surgery to small procedures like dermatology or even non-procedural fields like internal medicine, neurology and psychiatry. There are endless possibilities. If you want to be a neurosurgeon find an expensive medical school, but if you are interested in non-procedural fields of medicine do not spend that much money. You can get an excellent education in smaller and less expensive schools and it's simply not worth it to start your professional life with a huge debt." (Physician; 2010)

"Shadow A Physician...
Dedication, dedication, dedication and persistence: you don't have to love science or math but it does help. You are required to take a core group of classes in science. Don't feel like you need to take more, though. Try to get exposure to medical physicians. Shadow them and work in a hospital, even as a volunteer. Spend some time with a doctor and follow him around so you know what the life might be like." (Physician; 2010)

"Take The Time To Shadow Various Specialists...
I think it is difficult for someone to realize that he or she wants to be a doctor by the age of 18 when entering college and choosing a major. Even after that, there are so many types of medicine it is difficult to decide which specialty to choose because, even as a medical student, you don't get exposed to many of the sub-specialties. So my biggest tip would be to spend time shadowing different kinds of doctors in high school and college if you are thinking about going to medical school so that you have a good idea of what you are getting into. And do not just do this during the day. Stay after hours so you can observe phone calls and paperwork. Observe in the ER or surgery, so you can be sure you can tolerate the acuity and pace. Work nights and weekends with a physician so you can appreciate the commitment." (Physician; 2010)