How to become a Doctor / Physician

Doctor (physician)

Physicians are medical doctors who focus on the non-surgical treatment of patients. Physicians tend to focus on one specific element of medicine, such as paediatrics, oncology, or cardiology, making them distinct from general practitioners, as well as surgeons.

Physicians are doctors involved in non-surgical medical care, who specialise in one area of medicine. They are therefore distinct from both general practitioners (GPs) and surgeons.

Broadly speaking, patients are referred to hospital-based specialist physicians after an initial consultation with a GP at a local/family clinic. Patients who come through urgent or emergency care will also be referred to a relevant physician once their problem or condition has been diagnosed.

Physicians tend to be highly specialised, building up expertise in one specific area over the course of their career. With advances in medicine being made all the time, continuing professional development is essential for physicians.

Examples of specialisms that might be pursued by a physician include (but are no means limited to):

  • Paediatrics – the medical care of children
  • Cardiology – treating disorders of the circulatory system
  • Neurology – treating disorders of the nervous systems
  • Oncology – the study and treatment of cancer
  • Obstetrics and gynaecology – a specialism in pregnancy, childbirth, and the health of the female reproductive system

What degree is most commonly held by a Doctor (physician)?


  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

Career Transportability across Countries


Human bodies are the same wherever you go – as are many of the conditions from which they suffer. The international mobility of doctors, however, is controlled and limited by different national regulations. How mobile any given physician will be will vary, depending on where they qualified and where they intend to work, as well as their level of experience. Some countries will recognise medical qualifications from others, while others will require doctors to gain specific certification to practice within their borders. This must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Doctors from highly-developed nations who wish to practice in developing regions or countries may find it easier to move, particularly those specialising in tropical medicine. Physicians who want to focus on research rather than clinical practice will also enjoy greater levels of mobility.

What is the Salary of a Doctor (physician)?

ExperienceEducationAverage salary | year
AU$UK£US$
Resident Medical Officer1-2 years€145,000£51,902$95,000
Medical Officer3-5 Years€350,000£95,609$175,000
Physician / Surgeon / head of Department5 + years€550,000£322,339$590,000

What skills are needed to become a Doctor (physician)?


  • Healthcare
  • Medicine
  • Clinical Research
  • Medical Education
  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare Management
  • Public Health
  • Internal Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Treatment
  • Patient Safety
  • Research
  • Surgery
  • Public Speaking
  • Pediatrics
  • Healthcare Information Technology
  • Family Medicine
  • Clinical Trials
  • Leadership
  • Medical Research
  • Wellness
  • Critical Care
  • Pain Management
  • Nutrition
  • Microsoft Office

Relevant Doctor / Physician Courses

FutureLearn hosts close to 200 medical and healthcare courses that might be relevant to current and prospective physicians. These might be of particular utility to medical students looking to gain insight into a particular area.
These courses can also contribute to the continuing professional development of physicians, or offer insight into relevant non-clinical areas, such as big data or student supervision.
  • Clinical Supervision with Confidence

    Supervise undergraduate and postgraduate learners effectively with this online course for clinical and educational supervisors

  • Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

    Learn more about how your heart works the causes of heart disease and how to keep your heart healthy

  • The Genomics Era: the Future of Genetics in Medicine

    Get an introduction to the growing role of genomics in healthcare for patient diagnoses treatment and disease prevention

  • Airway Matters

    Explore key concepts underlying safe multidisciplinary airway management

  • Ethical Decision-Making in Care

    Raise your awareness of everyday ethical issues in care and learn techniques to make ethical decisions

Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?

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