General Practitioners


Education and Training Requirements

High School

High school students who plan to become physicians should take a college preparatory curriculum that includes history, social studies, math, and foreign languages. Specific high school classes that will be helpful to prospective physicians include health, biology, chemistry, physics, and physiology. English and speech classes are also useful because doctors need to develop good communication skills, both written and oral.

Postsecondary Training

After receiving the doctor of medicine, M.D., or the doctor of osteopathic medicine, D.O. degree, you must fulfill a one- to three-year hospital residency requirement where you are actively involved in patient treatment as part of a hospital medical team. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) offers a residency program search engine athttp://www.aafp.org/medical-school-residency/residency/find-programs.html. At the end of an accredited residency program, physicians must pass certification examinations. Some choose to complete a one-year fellowship program. "Many people choose a fellowship as a post-residency option because it offers more concentrated training in fields such as faculty development, geriatrics, obstetrics, preventive medicine, research, rural medicine, and sports medicine," according to the AAFP.

The AAFP provides comprehensive information about getting into and being successful in medical school at http://www.aafp.org/medical-school-residency.html.

Other Education or Training

Keeping up with treatment developments and other cutting-edge medical research is key to success as a general practitioner. Professional associations often provide continuing education (CE) opportunities. For example, the American Academy of Family Physicians offers live courses in more than 10 states, workshops, and seminars on topics such as pain management, emergency and urgent care, infectious diseases, and women's health. The American Medical Association and the American Osteopathic Association also provide CE opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Board certification is granted by the American Board of Family Medicine. This credential, though voluntary, signifies that the physician is highly qualified in family practice. To be eligible to take the credentialing exam, applicants must have satisfactorily completed three years of residency training accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education after receiving their medical degree from an accredited institution.

All states and the District of Columbia require physicians to be licensed. General practitioners seeking licensure must graduate from an accredited medical school, complete residency postgraduate training, and pass a licensing examination administered by their state's board of medical examiners. Some states have reciprocity agreements so that a physician licensed to practice in one state may be automatically licensed in another state without having to pass another examination.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

There is no way to obtain direct experience in high school, but it's a good idea to take as many health and science classes as possible and participate in science clubs. During your medical training, you will gain experience by completing a one- to three-year residency in internal medicine.

To be a successful general practitioner, you should be committed to helping people, and be compassionate and understanding. You should have good communication skills to communicate with other staff members, patients, and their families, and be able to inspire their confidence and trust. In addition, a GP should have the stamina to work long and irregular hours.