When it comes to choosing a career path as a doctor, there are many different areas you can choose to practice in. Depending on which type of doctor you choose to become, your residency training may last longer.
The education for a medical doctor goes like this: After completing college, aspiring doctors attend four years of medical school and then complete three to seven years of residency training.
You can also choose to attend medical school outside of the United States at an institution such as the Saint James School of Medicine. According to the school’s website, students can “receive the same high-quality medical education and opportunities as from US and Canadian medical schools, at 1/3 the cost.”
Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, here’s a look at some of the different types of physicians that are practicing today.
A family doctor focuses on the overall health and wellness of patients, and their focus is on outpatient care. This type of doctor is often the first to encounter a major health issue with a patient and often refers patients to a specialist if their symptoms warrant it.
A general internist focuses on the health and wellness of adult patients through diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment. Internists sometime have a subspecialization in other areas, such as gastroenterology, allergy and immunology or medical oncology. They often work with patients who are hospitalized for one reason or another.
Surgeons can be general surgeons or specialized surgeons in areas, such as neurosurgery, vascular surgery or orthopedic surgery. Their main focus is on pre-operative planning of the surgical procedure, the actual operation and postoperative procedures.
A psychiatrist is tasked with diagnosing and treating behavioral and emotional issues. These doctors prescribe psychotherapy, medication and even hospitalization in extreme cases. Psychiatrists can work in an office-based environment or a hospital and can choose to be a general psychiatrist or one who specializes in an area, such as addiction.
An OB/GYN specializes in women’s reproductive health and wellness. Care can include preventive care; diagnosing and treating reproductive health issues; and managing pregnancy, labor and delivery. OB/GYN doctors can also specialize in areas such as infertility, hormone management and menopause.
A pediatrician specializes in the care of infants, children and adolescents. In some cases, a pediatrician may care for a patient through age 21. Well-checks, immunizations, physicals, and treatment of illnesses are all in a pediatrician’s wheelhouse. Patients presenting with serious illnesses or complicated symptoms are often referred to specialists.
A dermatologist focuses on skin care and diagnosing and treating skin disorders. Some of a dermatologist’s work can be in the area of aesthetic — also known as non-medical — procedures, such as laser treatments, fillers and skin resurfacing treatments.
Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor
An ENT sees patients for a variety of issues, including allergies, sinus complications, cancers or growths. They often combine an office-based practice with surgical duties.
Cardiology is considered a subspecialty of internal medicine, which focuses on the treatment of the heart. To become a cardiologist, you must complete medical school, three years of internal medicine residency and an additional three or so years of specialized training.
Gastroenterology is another subspecialty of internal medicine, which deals with the gastrointestinal or digestive system. These specialists have an office-based practice, but they also perform endoscopic procedures to diagnose problems in the GI tract. They do not perform surgery, however.
Opthalmologists treat diseases and other complications that deal with the eyes, such as glaucoma or ptosis. They are trained to perform eye surgery and often receive patient referrals from optometrists.
An oncologist is another subspecialist of internal medicine. They care for patients who have cancer. They treat both cancer and the symptoms that result from the disease. Oncologists often use new and experimental treatments to try to defeat cancers that are considered incurable with current methods.
Radiologists are trained to read and interpret diagnostic tests to offer information and advice to the treating physician.
Endocrinology is another subspecialty of internal medicine. Endocrinologists deal with the treatment of the endocrine system, which houses the glands that produce and release the hormones that are responsible for regulating the body’s functions.
Pulmonologists specialize in the cardiopulmonary system, which includes the lungs and heart. They treat breathing disorders, lung issues and other diseases. They work in office settings, as well as in hospitals, where they care for patients in ICU.