The Scoop on General Internists

General Internists have a job that is not as "general" as you might think and it certainly isn't the job of your typical "intern".

Because General Internists tend to be a conduit through which medical care flows their job is very important when patients are trying to get to the right Doctor for the right care at the right time. This is the kind of job that requires you to be a "social type" who doesn't mind schmoozing other Doctors so that referrals flow freely through Doctors to patients. Also, because the job is not "general" it requires a great deal of organizational skill and base knowledge. If you're the kind of person who likes to know a little about everything then this is the job for you. Basically, you'd be the "Jeopardy" M.D. who knows just enough about everything to get all your patients to the right place.

What in the World Does a General Internist Do?

General Internists treat and diagnose patient's diseases and disorders that affect all the internal organs of the body. This can range anywhere from the brain, to the stomach and liver to the lungs. Because this is a "primary care" sort of job you would be dealing with every patient with every kind of problem. Typically, in a hospital that means you're working in an emergency clinic or a free clinic seeing everyone who has needs.

When you diagnose and prescribe treatment that may all that the patient needs if you are capable of dealing with their situation. Sometimes the patient needs a specialist and you are responsible for referring them to the right specialist for their condition. In this way you are the "conduit" for referrals because many medical professionals will send patients to you so you can determine how to treat them OR determine which specialist they need to see. Either way, it's almost as if everyone is coming through your office on the way to getting better.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

The training you need to become a General Internist is no different than it is for any other Doctor. First, you need to go to college and get a degree in some kind of science (Biology, Chemistry, you get the drift) and graduate well. Most Medical Schools are looking for applicants who have Bachelor's Degrees in a science. When you apply to Medical School you will need to be very "on point" because admission to Medical Schools across the U.S. is VERY competitive. Once in Medical School it is a 4 year program that teaches you everything you need to know. At the end you will either be a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) This degree allows you to go out and get a license to practice medicine.

Getting a license requires you to go through your state medical board and pass a written exam and "skills" test. Once you are awarded a Medical License you have to remember that is take continuing education to renew and in some states you have to retake the tests every few years.

Now you can go out looking for work.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

General Internists tend to work in Hospitals and emergency health clinics helping walk-ins and people who need immediate care. A hospital is the best place to look for work because most hospitals are constantly busy and always need General Internists to lighten the workloads of the specialists (and make sure patients are going to the right specialists.)

Outside of a Hospital a large medical practice may want to employ you to see all their patients and refer to the specialists within the practice. At a nursing home or convalescent home you may be the "Doctor" on staff who makes sure the patients are well and refers them for further medical care if they need it.

Advancement in the profession usually means being promoted into a supervisory role at your place of work. You might end up running the Emergency Room or handling ALL referrals to specialists or even managing all the other internists in the hospital. Either way, you don't have to sit in the ER your whole life hearing about Mr. Ferdinand's lumbago every couple months.

Career Spotlight Articles

Great Pay / Minimal School

Find medical jobs with great pay & minimal schooling:

Physically Active Careers

Find physically active health carecareers:

Internists, General Overview

Internists, General Salary:$161,518
Job Prospects:A+
Education after high school:11 years
# Employed in US:46,980
% Who work Part Time:8%
Physical Difficulty:+ +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a General Internist

  • The job allows you to work with everyone and get to know many different doctors
  • You can learn a little of everything and be the "Jeopardy" Doctor
  • You may not need to intern in a specialty

The Cons of being a General Internist

  • The job keeps you on your feet all day seeing EVERYBODY
  • The training is lengthy and difficult
  • It may be stressful to help people when you may not know exactly what is wrong with them