Are you fascinated by how different components of a complex biological system work together? Does solving complicated diagnostic challenges sound intriguing to you? Are you seeking a rewarding career with plenty of opportunities to subspecialize in exciting locations across the nation? Internal medicine could be the ideal career for you!
Whether you're a practicing physician, a med student headed into residency, or an undergrad exploring your career options, you may have questions about the exciting and rewarding field of internal medicine.
Here, we’ll answer the most commonly asked questions about internal medicine and cover topics including:
- Internal medicine specialty and subspecialties
- Internal medicine salary
- Internal medicine demand
- Internist job description
- Internist practice setting
- How to become an internal medicine doctor
- Internist education requirements
- Internal medicine doctor jobs
Internal Medicine Doctor Specialty
What is the internal medicine specialty like?
Internal medicine physicians are problem-solvers. These specialists are sometimes considered the "doctor's doctor" since other physicians often seek their help sorting out diagnostic challenges (UIowa). They are interchangeably called “internal medicine physicians,” “internists,” or “doctors of internal medicine.”
Internists specialize in internal organs, including the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs, as well as diseases affecting various systems, from the digestive to the reproductive system. They provide primary care medicine, wellness checkups, chronic disease care, mental health services and more. Because internists have the opportunity to build long-term relationships with their patients, they can vastly improve the health and well-being of individuals throughout their lifespan.
Internal Medicine Subspecialties
Internists can practice as "general internists" and treat various conditions or choose to subspecialize and focus on one of the areas below.
What types of internal medicine subspecialties are there?
Internal medicine subspecialties include (AAMC):
- Adolescent Medicine
- Adult Congenital Heart Disease
- Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
- Critical Care Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes, And Metabolism
- Geriatric Medicine
- Hematology And Medical Oncology
- Infectious Disease
- Interventional Cardiology
- Medical Oncology
- Neurocritical Care
- Pulmonary Disease
- Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine
- Sports Medicine
- Transplant Hepatology
Internal Medicine Salary
How much do internal medicine specialists make?
The mean annual salary of general internists was $225,270 in 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to MedScape, internal medicine physicians earned an average of $273,000 in 2023. Internal medicine subspecialists earned more due to their extensive training. For example, critical care subspecialists earned $406,000 on average and pulmonary disease subspecialists earned $378,000 (MedScape).
Internal Medicine Demand
Are internal medicine doctors in demand?
Yes! Internal medicine doctors are in demand. In fact, they are third on the list of most in-demand types of doctors, just behind family medicine physicians and psychiatrists, according to Doximity's 2023 Physician Compensation Report.
Internist Job Description
What do internists do?
General internists handle a diverse variety of tasks on a daily basis. Here is a list of tasks from the official job description of an internist from the U.S. Department of Labor:
- "Diagnose and provide nonsurgical treatment for a wide range of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems.
- Provide care mainly for adults and adolescents and are based primarily in an outpatient care setting.
- Analyze records, reports, test results or examination information to diagnose medical conditions of patients.
- Treat internal disorders, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, or problems of the lung, brain, kidney, or gastrointestinal tract.
- Prescribe or administer medication, therapy and other specialized medical care to treat or prevent illness, disease or injury.
- Manage and treat common health problems, such as infections, influenza or pneumonia, as well as serious, chronic and complex illnesses, in adolescents, adults and the elderly.
- Provide and manage long-term, comprehensive medical care, including diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of diseases, for adult patients in an office or hospital.
- Explain procedures and discuss test results or prescribed treatments with patients.
- Advise patients and community members concerning diet, activity, hygiene and disease prevention.
- Make diagnoses when different illnesses occur together or in situations where the diagnosis may be obscure.
- Refer patient to medical specialists or other practitioners when necessary.
- Monitor patients' conditions and progress and reevaluate treatments as necessary.
- Collect, record and maintain patient information, such as medical history, reports or examination results.
- Provide consulting services to other doctors caring for patients with special or difficult problems.
- Advise surgeon of a patient's risk status and recommend appropriate intervention to minimize risk.
- Immunize patients to protect them from preventable diseases
- Direct and coordinate activities of nurses, students, assistants, specialists, therapists and other medical staff
- Prepare government or organizational reports on birth, death and disease statistics, workforce evaluations or the medical status of individuals.
- Conduct research to develop or test medications, treatments or procedures to prevent or control disease or injury.
- Operate on patients to remove, repair or improve functioning of diseased or injured body parts and systems.
- Plan, implement or administer health programs in hospitals, businesses, or communities for prevention and treatment of injuries or illnesses."
Internist Practice Settings
Where can internists practice?
Typically, general internists work in private practice settings or hospitals; however, there can be roles for them in nearly any healthcare setting. They may work in ambulatory settings, home health, skilled nursing facilities, telehealth, hybrid settings, government clinics, Indian Health, Veterans Administration, rural health, critical access facilities or academic settings.
How to Become an Internal Medicine Doctor
How many years does it take to become an internal medicine doctor?
Becoming an internal medicine doctor takes approximately 11 years after high school. This includes four years of undergraduate study followed by four years of medical school and three years of internal medicine residency. Internists who subspecialize will need another 1-3 years of fellowship training.
Internist Education Requirements
To become an internist, you will need to:
- Obtain a bachelor's degree in a pre-med track like biology, chemistry, or a related field
- Take the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®)
- Apply to medical school
- Complete your medical degree with a focus on internal medicine
- Apply for a residency in internal medicine
- Complete your residency
- Apply for board certification
- Pursue fellowship training if you choose to subspecialize
Internal Medicine Physician Resources
Here are helpful resources to aid your research on pursuing a career as an internal medicine physician:
- American Board of Internal Medicine
- American College of Physicians IM Physician Toolkits
- Best Apps for Healthcare Providers
- Making the Most of Your Internal Medicine Interest Group - ACP Council of Student Members
- Travel vs. Permanent Healthcare Positions
Internal Medicine Doctor Jobs
Because internal medicine doctors are in such high demand, there are job opportunities in exciting locations nationwide. You can find virtually any position to fit your preferences regarding location, patient population, practice setting, schedule, clinical interests, and more. We're here to help!
Browse internal medicine doctor jobs.