Physicians use their medical expertise to monitor the health of their patients and diagnose illnesses. They train for at least ten years, including obtaining a bachelor’s degree, attending medical school and then working as a resident physician.

Future physicians must first earn a bachelor’s degree, studying courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and English. Additionally, they generally take courses in the humanities and social sciences and may opt to volunteer at a hospital or clinic.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, prospective physicians must attend medical school. In the first two years of med school, students spend their time in the classroom studying a wide array of subjects. The last two years are spent working in clinics under direct supervision of practicing doctors, learning to diagnose patients in a variety of medical areas. After completion of medical school, they hold either a degree as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), depending on which path they chose.

After finishing medical school, physicians may opt to intern for a year before beginning a required residency at a hospital. Resident physicians specialize in a particular medical field, receiving paid on-the-job training. Residencies may last anywhere from 2-6 years, depending on the nature of the training area.

In order to practice, physicians must obtain a license from the licensing board in the state in which they wish to work. Physicians can also seek certification in their specialty through board examinations approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Both a license and certification requires continuing medical education in order to maintain these credentials.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists all types of physicians separately. For the purpose of this article, the information given is based on family and general practitioners. As reported by the BLS, the job outlook for family and general practitioners will increase by 10% from 2014 to 2024 with a median annual salary of $184,390 in May 2015.