General Practitioner: Job Description, Duties, Salary, and Other Requirements

FT Contributor
A general practitioner standing with a colleague.
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As a health professional that provides routine care, a general practitioner plays an important role in the healthcare industry. With an advanced degree in medicine, a general practitioner must be ready to diagnose and treat any type of medical or health ailment patients are dealing with on a daily basis.

This makes for an exciting and ever-changing career in medicine focused on helping people better their health. It also doesn’t hurt that a general practitioner is one of the highest-paying jobs due to its demanding nature.

What Is a General Practitioner?

A general practitioner is also commonly referred to as a general physician or GP. By not focusing on one specific area of medicine, a GP can diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions and ailments. No two workdays look the same for a GP, since they may encounter several different patients with various complaints or conditions.

A GP may treat one patient for a sports injury, another for a common cold, and yet another patient for a digestive issue, all in one day. If a patient visits a GP with a complicated health problem they can’t solve, the GP may refer the patient to a specialist in that area of medicine.

GPs may work in physician offices or emergency treatment centers. Since the job can be stressful, your personality must be calm and caring. A GP must possess good interpersonal, analytical, and decision-making skills.

Average General Practitioner Salary

The median annual salary for a general practitioner is $211,780, which averages out to an hourly wage of around $101.82. While this salary is average in the industry, the exact salary a GP earns depends on a variety of factors, including where they live, where they practice, their education, experience, and the organization they’re associated with.

GPs earn high salaries because they must attend medical school and earn an advanced degree, which is expensive and time-consuming. Most medical students must take out student loans and may find themselves in debt after graduation.

Since the job may put you in stressful emergency medical situations, it can be intense and requires consistent focus and concentration. GPs often work long or overnight hours depending on their work environment, which is another reason this demanding job pays so well.

General Practitioner Education, Licenses, Certifications, and Training

To become a GP, you must complete extensive education and training. Before you can enter the medical field, you must complete a:

  • Four-year undergraduate degree;
  • Four-year medical program;
  • One-to-two-year medical residency.

Your education focuses on anatomy, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics. Social sciences, humanities, and psychology are also important components to your education in the medical field. This extensive education requirement is the reason many medical school graduates are left with student loan debt after graduation.

After completing a residency and passing a licensure exam, some GPs may move on to become board certified. To qualify for certification with the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) or the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), GPs must complete an additional three years of training and pass a written exam. To keep their certification active, they’re required to participate in about 50 hours of continuing medical education programs per year and pass a written exam in their specialty.

General Practitioner Job Outlook

Most general practitioners work in physician offices, while some work in medical or surgical hospitals. You can also find GPs in outpatient care centers, universities, or working for state governments.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for physicians and GPs is expected to grow at 7% from 2018 to 2028. This is a bit faster than average when compared to other occupational fields. As the population ages, it begins to see more disease and other age-related ailments. Preventative medical treatments also become more important for the older population. This aging population begins to seek more medical treatment and health prevention screenings, which explains why the demand for employment in the medical industry is expected to increase.

Technological advancements in the medical field don’t seem to threaten the job outlook for GPs. However, medical professionals are expected to continue advancing their education so they can learn how to use this new equipment. Health insurance costs and responsibilities can affect when and how people seek medical treatment. Changes to the health insurance market and coverage costs in the future is an important factor in the job outlook and demand for GPs.

Should I Become a General Practitioner?

Becoming a GP is a great career option for those dedicated to the field of medicine. It’s a high-paying career that can help you pay off student loan debt if you didn’t qualify for federal financial aid. However, it’s important to focus on other characteristics of the career besides the salary when deciding if it’s the right job for you.

To become a general practitioner, you must have the time and dedication to complete medical school. It’s also important to feel a passion and commitment to learning about advancements in the medical industry and improving your skills. Learning from others in the profession is paramount to being a good GP.

Excellent social skills are also crucial in this role, not only because you’re responsible for interacting with patients but also because you’ll be dealing with other doctors and medical facility staff members. You must work together with a medical professional team to efficiently and effectively treat patients and grow your practice.

A job as a general practitioner is rewarding since you’re helping people stay healthy and vibrant. While it’s a high-paying job, it’s important to review the demanding educational requirements, potentially grueling work schedule, and important skills needed to succeed in this position before you choose it as your career path.

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