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At a Glance

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

Career summary

Internists treat a wide range of conditions. Their patients are mostly adults.

Many internists are primary care physicians and often the first point of contact for people seeking health care. They see the same patients on a regular basis. When needed, they send patients to health care specialists for testing or treatment.

Internists treat common illnesses like infections and the flu. They also treat conditions and problems that affect internal organs, such as the:

Internists ask patients questions to learn about their medical history. They examine patients and, if necessary, order lab tests. Internists 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. Internists watch a patient's condition and make changes in the treatment plan if needed.

They talk to patients about good health practices, such as diet and exercise. They also talk to patients about managing their lifestyle, especially smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

Internists share similar tasks with other types of physicians, they:

Some internists 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 internists.

Common work activities

Internists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, internists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Internists frequently:

It is important for internists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for internists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Internists 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 an internist, 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 or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DOM) 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 usually 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 internal medicine. Residency usually lasts three 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 internists. However, it does not provide the 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 internists begin work in a group practice or clinic. Some internists go to work for the hospital where they complete their residency.

Costs to workers

Internists must pay licensing costs to the State of Washington as either medical or osteopathic physicians. Internist 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, physicians must invest in equipment, office space, and staffing costs. Estimated costs range from $75,000 to $100,000 or more.

#Updated to mean 2013 graduate debt info from https://www.aamc.org/download/152968/data/debtfactcard.pdf (external link) (PDF file) 2/4/14 cj. updated from 10/14 debtfactcard 1/28/15 lh. Updated from aamc.org/FIRST debtfactcard for Oct. 2015 on 5/2/16 cj. Updated link for source of debt data & updated info 1/31/18, cj. https://members.aamc.org/iweb/upload/2017%20Debt%20Fact%20Card.pdf, same but 2018 data 1/30/19 lh



Internists must be licensed by the State of Washington as either medical or osteopathic doctors. 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

# No changes to licensing info 5/2/16, 4/12/18 cj. 2019 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).


Internists, general (SOC 29-1063)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $28.35 $78.82 (1) (1) (1)
Monthly $4,913 $13,660 (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $58,960 $163,940 (1) (1) (1)
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $74.80 $85.53 $100.21 (2) (2)
Monthly $12,963 $14,822 $17,366 (2) (2)
Yearly $155,577 $177,904 $208,442 (2) (2)
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $27.42 $35.74 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $4,752 $6,194 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $57,028 $74,345 (2) (2) (2)
    Vancouver Hourly $75.85 $91.08 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $13,145 $15,784 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $157,758 $189,448 (2) (2) (2)
    Yakima Hourly $83.41 $91.29 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $14,455 $15,821 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $173,477 $189,883 (2) (2) (2)
United States Hourly $27.61 $42.61 $93.51 (1) (1)
Monthly $4,785 $7,384 $16,205 (1) (1)
Yearly $57,420 $88,630 $194,500 (1) (1)

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

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

Internists 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.

Internists, General (SOC 29-1063)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 280 21.8% 16.1% 20
    Benton and Franklin Counties 14 21.4% 15.0% 1
    King County 164 21.3% 19.6% 11
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 40 27.5% 13.8% 3
    Spokane County 10 30.0% 13.9% 1
United States 42,800 3.7% 5.2% 1,400

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be driven by the increase in population and especially due to the increase in elderly patients. 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.

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

Other resources

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (external link)
5550 Friendship Boulevard, Suite 310
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
American Board of Internal Medicine (external link)
510 Walnut Street, Suite 1700
Philadelphia, PA 19106
American College of Physicians (external link)
190 North Independence Mall West
Philadelphia, PA 19106
American Medical Association (external link)
American Medical Association - Medical Student Section (external link)
American Osteopathic Association (external link)
142 East Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Aspiring Docs Website from the American Association of Medical Colleges (external link)
The Student Doctor Network (external link)
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


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster