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Family and General Practitioners

At a Glance

  • Help patients improve or maintain their health
  • Work in offices, clinics, hospitals, or medical schools
  • Constantly interact with patients and other medical workers
  • Usually work more than 40 hours per week
  • Training lasts about ten years after high school
  • Have a state medical license

Career summary

Family and general practitioners treat a wide range of conditions and help people try to stay healthy.

#checked 2/28/19 lh

Most family and general practitioners are primary care physicians and often the first point of contact for people seeking health care. They treat infants, children, and adults. They see the same patients on a regular basis. For serious conditions, they refer patients to health care specialists for testing or treatment.

Family and general practitioners ask patients questions to learn about their medical history. They examine patients and, if necessary, order lab tests. They explain test results and review treatment options with patients and their families. If more than one treatment is available, they help patients decide which option to choose.

Sometimes family and general practitioners perform minor surgery on patients or deliver babies. They monitor a patient's condition and make changes in the treatment plan if needed. They also talk to patients about good health practices, such as diet and exercise.

Family and general practitioners share similar tasks with other types of physicians, they:

Some family and general practitioners teach at medical schools. They may also do research on procedures and treatments for disease. Advances in medicine require doctors to update their skills regularly.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to family and general practitioners.

Common work activities

Family and general practitioners perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, family and general practitioners:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Family and general practitioners frequently:

It is important for family and general practitioners to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for family and general practitioners to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Family and general practitioners need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a family and general practitioner, you typically need to:

Education after high school

To become a doctor, you must complete medical school. Medical schools grant a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. You spend the first two years of medical school in classrooms and labs. You study anatomy, biochemistry, and medicines. You also learn how to take a medical history, examine patients, and make a diagnosis. During the next two years, you work in hospitals and clinics under the supervision of physicians.

You need a bachelor's degree to get into medical school. While you do not need to be a pre-medicine or science major, these programs are good preparation. If you earn a liberal arts degree, be sure to take courses in physics, biology, and chemistry.

On-the-job training

While in medical school, you spend two years working as an intern in a hospital or clinic. As an intern, you rotate through internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, oncology, and other hospital departments.

After medical school, you complete a residency program in family and general medicine. Residency lasts from three to five years. Residents usually work in hospitals. After your residency, you take additional exams to become board certified.

Military training

The military provides advanced training for doctors. However, it does not provide the initial training to become a doctor. Scholarships for advanced medical training are available in return for a required period of military service.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). You need a very strong background in math and science to become a doctor. Take as many math and science courses as you can.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Many family and general practitioners begin work by joining a group practice or clinic. Some go to work for the hospital where they completed their residency.

The hiring process begins with a background check of the applicant. Employers evaluate past work experience and malpractice lawsuit records. The applicants are interviewed by several of the doctors from the facility they are applying to. Employers look for applicants with good communication skills. They look for family and general practitioners who can relate to many different people that come to the practice for care.


Part-time or volunteer work in physicians' offices and in hospitals may provide an opportunity to observe the daily activities of physicians. Academic performance in college is very important.

Costs to workers

Family and general practitioners who have borrowed money to pay school expenses have large debt payments for the first few years after graduation. The average educational debt for medical students who graduated in 2018 was $196,520 with 83% percent owing at least $100,000.  Malpractice insurance is expensive. To enter private practice, family and general practitioners must invest in equipment, office space, and staffing costs. Estimated costs range from $75,000 to $100,000 or more.

#debt data copied from internists 2/28/19 lh



Family and general practitioners must be licensed by the State of Washington as either medical or osteopathic physicians. Licensing requirements include:

For more information on the US Medical Licensing Exam, call 215.590.9500 or go to the National Board of Medical Examiners (external link) website.

Osteopathic doctors must complete 150 hours of continuing education every three years and medical doctors must complete 200 hours of continuing education every four years.

Licensing fees vary ranging from $491 (medical physicians) to $391 (osteopathic physicians) for the application. The annual renewal fee for osteopathic physicians is $441 and the biannual renewal fee for medical physicians is $657. The combined fee for an application and state exam for osteopathic practitioners is $516. The licensing and the renewal fees generally include an access fee for health-related online library journals and publications and a Washington physician health program surcharge.

For more information on medical doctors, contact:

Washington Medical Commission (external link)
PO Box 47866
Olympia, WA 98504-7866

For information on osteopathic doctors, contact:

Washington State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (external link)
PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7865

#Checked licensing information  3/27/18 cj. updated license tag, need to have Scott check and promote 2/28/19 lh

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).




Family and general practitioners (SOC 29-1062)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $65.21 $81.88 (1) (1) (1)
Monthly $11,301 $14,190 (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $135,650 $170,320 (1) (1) (1)
    Bellingham Hourly $31.83 $55.36 $92.95 (2) (2)
Monthly $5,516 $9,594 $16,108 (2) (2)
Yearly $66,225 $115,143 $193,336 (2) (2)
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $43.34 $67.18 $75.73 $91.82 (2)
Monthly $7,511 $11,642 $13,124 $15,912 (2)
Yearly $90,149 $139,726 $157,509 $190,992 (2)
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $58.81 $68.40 $81.05 (2) (2)
Monthly $10,192 $11,854 $14,046 (2) (2)
Yearly $122,311 $142,268 $168,570 (2) (2)
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $73.45 $89.16 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $12,729 $15,451 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $152,775 $185,448 (2) (2) (2)
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $23.18 $31.68 $81.43 (2) (2)
Monthly $4,017 $5,490 $14,112 (2) (2)
Yearly $48,208 $65,898 $169,382 (2) (2)
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $71.35 $86.29 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $12,365 $14,954 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $148,418 $179,467 (2) (2) (2)
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $33.62 $50.61 $79.83 (2) (2)
Monthly $5,826 $8,771 $13,835 (2) (2)
Yearly $69,925 $105,264 $166,035 (2) (2)
    Vancouver Hourly $72.69 $85.97 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $12,597 $14,899 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $151,201 $178,830 (2) (2) (2)
    Wenatchee Hourly $80.71 $90.35 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $13,987 $15,658 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $167,878 $187,915 (2) (2) (2)
    Yakima Hourly $59.13 $84.65 $96.14 (2) (2)
Monthly $10,247 $14,670 $16,661 (2) (2)
Yearly $123,003 $176,069 $199,952 (2) (2)
United States Hourly $38.27 $68.73 $96.68 (1) (1)
Monthly $6,632 $11,911 $16,755 (1) (1)
Yearly $79,600 $142,960 $201,100 (1) (1)

(1) Wages are greater than $90/hour or $187,200/year.
(2) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by employer, years of experience, and hours worked. The doctor's skill, personality, and professional reputation also affect wages. Self-employed doctors generally earn more than those who are not self-employed.

Physicians usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, health insurance, and a retirement plan. 

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Family and General Practitioners (SOC 29-1062)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,146 19.5% 16.1% 76
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 76 -6.6% 13.4% 2
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 34 14.7% 8.6% 1
    Benton and Franklin Counties 36 22.2% 15.0% 3
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 67 22.4% 11.9% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 19 15.8% 15.2% 1
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 34 17.6% 14.1% 2
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 106 14.2% 14.6% 6
    King County 551 21.1% 19.6% 38
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 140 16.4% 13.8% 9
    Pierce County 16 25.0% 15.2% 1
    Spokane County 49 18.4% 13.9% 3
United States 126,600 9.8% 5.2% 5,100

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be strong due to the increase in population and especially due to the increase in elderly patients. New health care laws also mean that more people will see doctors. Factors that will limit growth are advances in technology that allow more patients to be seen each day. Also more people see nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Family and general practitioners who are willing to move to rural and low-income areas should have little trouble finding a job.

Other resources

The Student Doctor Network (external link)
US Small Business Administration (external link)
Seattle District Office
2401 Fourth Avenue, Suite 450
Seattle, WA 98121
Washington Academy of Family Physicians (external link)
1239 - 120th Avenue NE, Suite G
Bellevue, WA 98005
Washington Osteopathic Medical Association (external link)
PO Box 1187
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
Washington State Medical Association (external link)
2001 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2700
Seattle, WA 98121
What is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine? (external link)
What is Osteopathic Medicine? (external link)
(from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster