How to Become a General Practitioner

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A family practice physician -- sometimes called a general practitioner or GP -- has an opportunity to treat a cross-section of humanity. In one day, she might deliver a baby, talk to a teenager about healthy eating, prescribe high blood pressure medication for a middle-aged man and treat an elderly woman for pneumonia. Although the educational process to become a GP is long and difficult, GPs are in very high demand in the United States, as of 2014.

Get a Jump on It

  • If you want to become a doctor, start preparing in high school. Competition for medical school openings is very strong. Good grades in all subjects, extra-curricular leadership activities and volunteer service in a healthcare setting will all help you get on your chosen path. High school subjects such as chemistry, biology, algebra and computer science will lay the groundwork for more intense education in college and medical school.

The Undergraduate Level

  • You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to apply to medical school. Although many students choose to focus on a science, other degrees are also acceptable -- as long as you meet the prerequisites. Prerequisites typically include biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and English, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At this point in your education, you must make a choice between becoming a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathy. Although much of the education is the same for both, the focus in an osteopathic school is on primary care and osteopathic principles, which includes spinal manipulation.

The Medical School Experience

  • Near the end of your undergraduate experience, you must take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, and begin to submit transcripts and letters of recommendation to medical schools. You’ll also complete an interview with members of the schools’ admissions committees. Once admitted, you will spend the first two years in courses such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and psychology. You will also study medical ethics and laws governing the practice of medicine; learn how to take a patient history; and perform a physical examination. In the second two years, students begin clinical rotations under the supervision of a licensed physician to learn how to diagnose, manage and treat illness.

Residency and Beyond

  • After medical school, you must apply for a physician’s license and enter a residency program, which typically lasts three or four years. This is when your training narrows to the practice of general or family medicine. The training is very broad, as you must be able to treat patients of all age groups and both genders. Some GPs choose to complete a fellowship and extended period of training in the specialty. Most GPs also choose to become board-certified. GPs earned an average annual salary of $183,940 in 2013, according to the BLS.

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