What is an Internist

Internists are physicians who diagnose and treat diseases and illnesses of the internal organs using non-surgical means. They work almost exclusively with adults, who have a significantly higher preponderance of internal diseases requiring such treatment. They often have subspecialties in diseases affecting particular organs or organ systems, such as cardiologists. For more information on job duties and how to become an internist, please visit our internist job description page.

Work Environment

Many internists work in hospitals or clinics. Others have private offices, however they will often work in a combination of these settings. While they may work as an independent practitioner, they often partner with other physicians in order to aid and improve in the treatment of a particular disease, or they may form a group practice with other specialists.

Work Schedule

Many internists attempt to work a regular forty-hour workweek, often working from around 8am to 5pm, five days a week. Often, however, hospital rounds or on-call time will extend their hours. Generally they will see twenty or more patients each day, with varying complaints and in various stages of treatment. On top of the extra work of on-call time or hospital rounds, internists with private practices may have to spend additional time performing administrative tasks, in order to continue running their business. 

Mean Annual Internist Salary

The mean annual internist salary is $191,520. 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 $66,790 and the top 10% makes well over $260,000.

Internist Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$191,520 per year
$92.08 per hour
Top 10% Salary$260,000 per year
$125.00 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$66,790 per year
$32.11 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201245,210

Internist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for internists is expected to be quite healthy in the coming years, with an anticipated 18 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022. This is faster than the average for all occupations, and is due in part to the continued expansion of all healthcare-related industries, as well as to an aging population. As internists deal mainly with adult diseases, and as the average age of the population increases, particularly due to the aging boomer generation, internists’ skills will be in increasing demand. Added to this is the increased availability of affordable health care expected to coming with recent national legislation.

What Affects Internist Salary

Internist salary is affected by many factors; most especially, however, are experience and geographic location, which can lead to differences of more than $60,000. The mean annual wage for internists is $191,520, however this can range from as low as $66,790 for the lowest paid, to more than $260,000 for the upper level. Other factors affecting this are specialization, of which there are many options for internists; industry worked; and the position of the internist in his or her place of employment.

Education and Specialization 

After completing a four-year undergraduate degree and a four-year medical degree, internists must engage in a residency that can last as little as three years, or as many as eight years. A residency can then be followed by a fellowship in a particular area of specialty. The choice of where to receive a degree, where to engage in a residency, and how long that residency lasts, can all affect internist salary; a more prestigious university or hospital, and a longer residency, can all lead to higher salaries.

There are many areas of specialty for internists, as well; one can focus on a particular organ (cardiologists focus on the heart, for example, while nephrologists study the kidneys), or on a group of organs (gastroenterologists are concerned with the colon and intestinal tract). Specialties will bring wage gains, though which one will reap the highest benefits has not been studied.

Experience and Position 

Experience is one of the main factors affecting internist salary, with a starting internist often earning less than $100,000, while those who have worked for more than 10 years earn close to the average of $191,520.

Position is a definite means of salary improvement; teaching in a medical school along with one’s medical practice, or heading a team in a hospital, will bring higher salaries than being a standard practitioner.


The industry worked will bring internist salary improvements of up to $20,000; working in an outpatient care center has a wage close to the average, at $192,200. Internists with their own private practice, however, tend to earn around $206,590. Specialty hospitals have the greatest salaries, at $210,450.


The location worked is one of the most important factors in internist salary consideration. It can lead to salaries from $115,560 (Puerto Rico) to $249,480 (the highest state-level average, in South Dakota). Alaska offers the second highest salaries, at $239,720, while Montana is in third position with $237,100. Kansas and District of Columbia round out the top five, at $236,290 and $234,340, respectively.

On the metropolitan level, Sioux Falls, SD has an average salary of $252,780, while Amarillo, TX wages average $249,780. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists Wilmington, NC as the highest-paying metropolitan area, though does not state what those salaries are.

Internist Salary State By State