Becoming A General Internist

Things You Need to Know

Questions that will be addressed:

What are the minimum requirements for the job?

Are there any advantages to having longer on-the-job experiences or higher degrees?

What are the responsibilities of the job (what do you have to do for the job)?

Are there certain personality characteristics that are needed for the job: analytical, quick learner, open to change, etc

What are the pay ranges for the job?

Do you need to obtain a higher education degree to work in that field? Exactly how much schooling will you need?

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Job Description:

An internist, or internal medicine physician, is a primary care doctor who primarily sees patients in an office-based setting, in addition to rounding on patients in the hospital. Internists are typically generalists who cover a broad scope of medicine to include total body wellness, disease prevention, and management of chronic conditions and illnesses. Internists typically treat adults, some adolescents, and elderly as well.


Like all physicians, internists have completed a four-year bachelor’s degree, plus four years of medical school to obtain a medical degree (M.D. or D.O.) from an accredited medical school.In addition to their extensive undergraduate and graduate education, a hospitalist also must complete several years of graduate medical education (GME) to include a one-year internship, plus 3 years of residency training. Furthermore, all internists must pass the necessary medical certification and licensing exams including all three steps of the USMLE, and any state licensing exams. Most internists are also required to be board certified in internal medicine, which is achieved by passing the oral and written board certification exams as well.


According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the average compensation for internists is about $191,000, based on 2006 data, the most recent available released in 2007. The 75th percentile for compensation is nearly $221,000, with the potential to earn up to $277,000 for the highest earners. Internists usually have about four to six weeks of vacation. Keep in mind that the majority of internists earn their money directly as owners or partners of a private practice, as opposed to being a salaried employee of a hospital.

Advantages to having a higher degree:

An internist may decide to complete additional GME (graduate medical education) in the form of a fellowship, which would allow the internist to sub-specialize in other medical disciplines and focus on a certain condition group or system of the body. An internist may choose to specialize in one of the following sub-specialties of internal medicine and become a Cardiologist, Endocrinologist, Gastroenterologist, Nephrologist, Pulmonologist, Oncologist, Rheumatologist, or Allergist /Immunologist.

Characteristics needed for the job:

Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Science - Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.

Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.

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"Internists, General Skills and Knowledge." Internists, General Skills and Knowledge. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

"Internal Medicine Physician Career Profile." Health Careers. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2014.