Doctors are concerned with wellness, healing diseases and injuries, and managing medical conditions that have no cure. There were 661,400 physicians employed in the U.S. in 2008 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment opportunities for doctors are expected to grow at a faster than average rate and be especially good for those willing to practice in rural areas.
Although only three years of college are required for entry into medical school, most students complete a bachelor's degree or even a master's degree before applying, as entry to medical school is highly competitive. An excellent GPA and high test scores are essential. Prospective doctors need above-average study and testing skills. Applicants to medical schools must provide letters of recommendation that attest to good character, participation in college activities and leadership skills. Science classes like biochemistry, pathology and microbiology will be required in medical school, so applicants must demonstrate an aptitude for science.
The final years of medical school include rotations in hospitals and clinics to learn first-hand about treating patients. Prospective doctors require a steady hand and the ability to handle looking at wounds and blood without feeling faint. After completing medical school, graduates must complete a one-year residency, which is a paid training. The schedule requires some stamina, as long hours, holiday work and night work is required. Doctors are required to pass a licensing exam, so good test taking skills are also necessary.
Most doctors interact with patients, so they must have good people skills, often referred to as a bedside manner. Doctors may need to deliver bad news and be prepared to counsel patients about treatment options or the lack thereof. They're often called on to motivate patients to quit smoking or lose weight, so persuasive skills are important. Doctors need teaching skills to help new mothers learn to care for infants, help caregivers provide home nursing for loved ones, and show patients how to manage chronic conditions. When emergency situations occur, doctors must have the ability to think clearly under stress and make decisions quickly.
Many doctors work in a private practice, which requires them to run a business as well as treat patients. Running a practice requires the ability to interview and select good employees, such as nurses, medical assistants and receptionists. Doctors in private practice also need to choose software systems, contract billing services and manage an office. According to the BLS, in 2008 12% of all doctors were self-employed.
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