What is a Family Physician

Primary-care physicians who provide ongoing health care for their patients, treating a wide range of medical conditions, are called family physicians (also known as Family Practitioners, Family Doctors, General Practitioners, or simply GP).

Family physicians counsel people about preventive health care, treat chronic and acute ailments, perform checkups and other outpatient services, prescribe medications and therapy, and refer patients to other medical specialists. They see their patients repeatedly over long periods, gaining an intimate knowledge of families’ medical histories and conditions.

Work Environment

The medical and health-care facilities where most family physicians work are typically sanitary, safe, and well-lighted, with few hazards. However, these doctors come into close contact with patients carrying contagious diseases and viruses. In some cases, house calls are necessary. This requires travel, as does going to hospitals and nursing homes to visit patients.

Work Schedule

This profession entails irregular and long working hours, as doctors must be available for medical emergencies. Family physicians hold regular office or clinic hours, in addition to seeing patients in other places at different times. A recent survey indicated that the average practitioner works 50-55 hours per week.

Mean Annual Family Physician Salary

The average annual family physician salary is $183,940. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $76,560 and the top 10% makes well over $260,000.

Family Physician Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$183,940 per year
$88.43 per hour
Top 10% Salary$260,000 per year
$125.00 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$76,560 per year
$36.81 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013120,860

Family Physicians Job Outlook and Prospects

The job-growth rate for family physicians far exceeds that of the average profession. It is also greater than the projected increase in positions for other medical specialists. U.S. government analysts expect a 18 percent rise in the number of family practitioner jobs from 2012 to 2022. That compares with 14 percent for the typical occupation.

As is the case in most health-care fields, job growth is being fueled by the expanding population, particularly the growing number of senior citizens. More people are seeking the services of family practitioners, due to government subsidies for health insurance and increased interest in preventive care.

Technological advances are creating new diagnostics tests, as well as treatments and therapies. More family physicians will be needed to provide these services. However, technology is a double-edged sword, in terms of jobs. Some advanced equipment reduces the time it takes to complete tasks, which could have a negative effect on the demand for doctors. Also, some of their responsibilities are being shifted to physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

What Affects The Salary of a Family Physician

As of 2013, the mean annual wage for family physicians is $183,940, spanning from $76,560 for the lowest paid to more than $260,000 for the highest paid. These wages are affected by the industry in which the physician works, with those working in a private office earning close to the average, while other industries offer significantly more. Geographic location is also a dominant factor, along with experience.

Education and Specialization

A prospective family physician, after graduating from high school with good grades in science, needs to obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree in a major science from an accredited college or university. The next step is medical school, which usually takes four years of instruction in classrooms and laboratories. Internships and residencies also are required.

Family and general physicians need state-issued licenses, as well, before they can begin practicing. This involves passing written and oral exams. While many employers do not call for professional certification, it may improve a job applicant’s prospects.


About 75 percent of family and general physicians work in solo practice, partnerships, or group clinics. General-medical and surgical hospitals are the next-largest employers. Other practitioners work for colleges, universities, and local governments.

The top-paying employers in the profession (with an average of $238,270 a year at last report) were medical and diagnostic laboratories. However, there were only 230 such jobs nationwide. Just 340 practitioners had corporate management positions, which paid an average of $213,320. Industries ranking next on the list were employment services, 1,470 jobs with a mean salary of $200,550; home health-care services, 670 positions at $188,030; and nursing-care facilities, 90 jobs at $187,680.


The greatest need for these doctors is in rural and low-income areas, where salaries are generally competitive with those in larger cities. About 25 percent of family physicians work in small towns. Many of them historically have provided care for uninsured patients, but the growing availability of health insurance is changing that reality.

The states providing the most jobs for family and general physicians, according to a recent government report, were California (13,130), Florida (8,750), Pennsylvania (6,190), Texas (5,860); and Illinois (4,380). The average salaries in these states ranged from $173,150 in Pennsylvania to $190,840 in Florida. Metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels in the profession were Los Angeles (3,260 positions), Chicago (2,910), Philadelphia (2,750), and Washington, D.C. (2,620).

The state featuring the highest average salary ($214,080) was Arkansas, where 1,360 positions were available. Iowa’s 2,050 jobs for physicians averaged $213,600. Rhode Island offered 190 positions at $205,280; Hawaii, 660 jobs at $205,000; and New Hampshire, 590 at $202,860.