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Physicians and Surgeon: Career, Salary and Education Information

Career Profile: What do Physicians and Surgeons do?
Physicians and surgeons are trusted with the lives and health of their patients. Physicians handle everything from a patient's diet and hygiene to preventative health care and test interpretation, specializing in one area of the body or working as a general medicine or pediatric practitioner.

When a disease or condition grows serious enough for an operation, surgeons step in. Surgeons correct physical deformities, perform preventative surgery, and repair bone and tissue problems in patients under anesthesia.

Regardless of their specialization, physicians and surgeons are highly trained in rigorous educational programs. The demands of the career make it one of the most highly-respected, and both job demand and salary are expected to be high in the coming years.

A Day in the Life of a Physician or Surgeon
Long hours are a typical job requirement for many physicians and surgeons. More than one-third of all full-time physicians worked 60 hours or more a week in 2006. Many choose to work these long hours in small private offices or clinics, assisted by a staff of nurses and administrative personnel.

The work environment for surgeons also involves long or irregular hours, combined with long periods of standing while performing surgeries. Both physicians and surgeons may be required to attend to patients on-call, with physicians traveling to hospitals and nursing homes to deal with emergencies.

Physician or Surgeon Training and Education
Eight years of education and three to eight years of residency are the typical requirement for practicing physicians. After students complete their undergraduate education, they must compete for entry into medical school and then enter into an internship or residency. Specialized surgical residency is a two to eight year process, with ER doctors and neurosurgeons experiencing the shortest residency times.

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Physicians & Surgeons Employment & Outlook
About 15 percent of physicians and surgeons were self-employed in 2006. Most worked in physicians' offices and 18 percent were employed by hospitals. An aging population and continuing expansion of health care services is expected to increase employment for physicians and surgeons faster than the average for all occupations. By 2016, about 90,000 jobs are projected to be added to the field. Job opportunities are expected to be best in rural and low-income areas.

Typical Salary for Physicians & Surgeons
For all the training and hardship required, physicians and surgeons enjoy some of the highest salaries of any occupation. A report by the Medical Group Management Association found that surgeons in general practice with over one year in specialty saw median earnings of $282,504 in 2005. A doctor with over a year experience in family practice earns $156,010 on average. Anesthesiologists earn some of the highest salaries in the profession; those with over a year in specialty earn an average $321,686 yearly.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physicians and Surgeons

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