What is a Medical Doctor

A medical doctor, also known as an MD, or a physician or surgeon, is someone who has earned a doctorate in medicine and has been licensed by an appropriate authority to practice. Generally speaking, medical doctors can be divided in to two groups: general practitioners (or “family doctors”), and specialists. Those who are specialists are trained in depth in a particular medical field such as oncology or cardiology, while general practitioners have a broader base of knowledge.

Work Environment

The work environment for a medical doctor is highly variable, depending on the type of doctor they are and the manner in which they choose to work. As a more general rule, though, they will often work in a hospital, clinic, or private office, though may also spend time in other milieus such as retirement homes or laboratories.

Because of the nature of medical work, their environments are almost uniformly clean, with a particular amount of sterility required in all work they perform. Bright lighting is often very important as well, though for some this can vary; optometrists, for example, often need to change the lighting during an exam in order to better diagnose eyesight.

Work Schedule

Medical doctors’ schedules are also highly variable depending on the specialty and practice. Most doctors do work more than fifty hours per week, which includes six to eight hours seeing patients, as well as an hour or two of rounds with patients in hospital. Surgeons will have a more packed schedule, and may require more time on call or overtime. Those in private offices or clinics will also need to spend time performing administrative duties.

Medical Doctor Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for medical doctors is expected to be very promising, with a projected 18 percent job growth in the coming years. This is due mainly to the ongoing expansion of health care industries in part caused by a growing population, and in part by recent changes in health insurance policy at the Federal level.

Medical Doctor Salary: Factors and Influences

Medical doctors have one of the highest salary rates of all professions. Compensation varies widely among practices, dependent primarily on the specialty of medicine chosen, as well as the experience of the doctor, their geographic location, and the industry in which they work. For those practicing primary care, the average wage is $220,940, while for those practicing in a specialty the average is closer to $396,200.

Education and Specialization 

Education for medical doctors has a common theme, though the details are area-specific. All medical doctors require a bachelor’s degree followed by a medical degree, and every field requires some amount of residency. The residencies are where the differences lie; for some, this can be as little as three years, while for others it can mean eight or more years of residency and fellowships.

The highest wages are found in those more specialized services. A neurosurgeon will earn significantly more than a general practitioner, due to a greater demand than supply, as well as the longer training requirements. They are highly educated in regards to the nervous system, and receive referrals for cases a general practitioner cannot treat.

Specialization, as mentioned, is the main focus for salary gains among medical doctors. Focusing on plastic surgery, cardiology, or orthopedic surgery can bring significant improvements to a medical doctor’s salary.

Experience and Position 

Experience has a significant impact on the salaries of medical doctors as well; those who are just starting can receive wages between $50,000 to $150,000 per year, while those who have practiced for many years can receive more than $400,000.

Position is also a matter for consideration; the more experienced and well-known doctors will be offered supervisory or departmental head positions, and receive pay increases commensurate to this.


Industry has a strong affect on medical doctors’ salary, though much less than the doctor’s specialty. In general, working in a general or surgical hospital can see wages around $145,000, while working in a private office can bring $218,860. The office of dentists are, on average, the best paying, with a wage of $237,500, however a cardiologist will have a difficult time finding work there.


The location of the medical doctor’s practice will greatly influence their salary as well, and this, when coupled with their specialty, is the main means of wage increase. Different areas have different rates of pay depending on the specialty, but in general there is a great demand in more rural or less populous areas. The average wage in Mississippi is the highest, at $240,500, with South Dakota following at $233,100. However, and anesthesiologist in Kansas can earn $250,270, so it’s important to compare the specialty alongside the location.