What is a Doctor?

A doctor is a medical professional who has completed the necessary education and training to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses and injuries in individuals. Doctors provide essential medical care, prescribe medication, perform surgeries, and offer preventative measures to help people maintain their health. They also conduct research, educate patients and the public, and work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for their patients.

Doctors are committed to lifelong learning and must stay updated with the latest medical advancements and research. They attend conferences, engage in continuing medical education programs, and read scientific literature to ensure they provide the best possible care to their patients. Without doctors, people would lack access to critical medical care and expertise, leading to potentially devastating consequences for individuals and society as a whole.

What does a Doctor do?

A doctor talking with her patient.

Types of Doctors
Doctors can be broadly categorized into three main categories based on their role in the healthcare system:

  • Primary Care Physicians: These are doctors who provide first-contact care to patients, meaning that they are usually the first point of contact for patients seeking medical care. They are responsible for diagnosing and treating common illnesses and injuries, providing preventive care, and managing chronic conditions. Primary care physicians include family physicians, pediatricians, and general internists.
  • Specialists: These are doctors who have received additional training in a specific area of medicine and focus on treating specific medical conditions. They typically work in referral-based practices and are consulted by primary care physicians when a patient requires specialized care.
  • Surgeons: These are doctors who specialize in performing surgical procedures to treat various medical conditions. They work closely with other physicians and healthcare professionals to plan and perform surgeries and provide post-operative care to patients. Surgeons can specialize in different areas, such as orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, and general surgery.

See our Comprehensive List of Doctor Specializations and Degrees

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a doctor vary depending on their specialty and place of work. However, there are some general responsibilities that apply to most doctors:

  • Patient Examination and Diagnosis: Doctors are responsible for thoroughly examining patients to diagnose their medical conditions. They gather a detailed medical history by asking relevant questions about symptoms, previous illnesses, family medical history, and lifestyle factors. They perform comprehensive physical examinations, assessing vital signs, organ function, and overall health. Doctors may order and interpret various diagnostic tests such as blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and biopsies to aid in the diagnosis process.
  • Treatment Planning and Implementation: Based on the diagnosis, doctors develop personalized treatment plans for their patients. They consider factors such as the patient's condition, medical history, age, and other relevant factors. Treatment plans may involve prescribing medications, recommending lifestyle changes, suggesting surgical interventions, or referring patients to other specialists. Doctors explain the treatment options to patients, discussing potential benefits, risks, and expected outcomes. They monitor patients' responses to treatment, making adjustments as needed to ensure optimal care.
  • Patient Care and Follow-up: Doctors monitor patients' progress, evaluate treatment effectiveness, and address any concerns or complications that may arise. They schedule follow-up appointments to assess patient recovery, provide guidance, and answer questions. Doctors may also collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, therapists, and dietitians, to coordinate comprehensive care for their patients.
  • Communication and Patient Education: Doctors must communicate complex medical concepts in a clear and understandable manner to patients and their families. They explain diagnoses, treatment options, potential risks, and anticipated outcomes. Doctors address patients' questions and concerns, ensuring they have a thorough understanding of their condition and actively involving them in the decision-making process.
  • Medical Record-Keeping: Doctors maintain accurate and detailed medical records for each patient. This includes recording medical history, examination findings, diagnoses, treatment plans, medications prescribed, and test results. Medical records serve as crucial references for future assessments, continuity of care, and legal purposes. Doctors ensure patient confidentiality and comply with relevant privacy regulations when handling medical records.
  • Collaboration and Referrals: Doctors often collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care. They consult with specialists, discuss complex cases, and seek second opinions when necessary. Doctors may refer patients to specialists for further evaluation or specialized treatment. They ensure effective communication and coordination among the healthcare team, promoting seamless care transitions and interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Continuing Education and Research: Doctors are committed to lifelong learning and staying updated with advancements in medical knowledge. They engage in ongoing professional development activities, such as attending conferences, workshops, and seminars, and participating in medical societies. Doctors read medical literature and research studies to incorporate evidence-based practices into their patient care. Some doctors actively engage in medical research, conducting studies to advance medical knowledge and improve patient outcomes.
  • Ethical Considerations: Doctors face ethical dilemmas in their practice and must navigate them with integrity and compassion. They respect patient autonomy, obtaining informed consent for treatments and procedures. Doctors maintain patient confidentiality, adhering to ethical and legal obligations regarding privacy. They make decisions in the best interest of the patient while considering cultural, social, and personal values. Doctors adhere to ethical guidelines and codes of conduct, ensuring the highest standards of professionalism and ethical practice.
  • Administration and Management: In addition to clinical responsibilities, doctors may be involved in administrative and managerial tasks. This includes overseeing medical facilities, managing healthcare teams, and ensuring efficient operations. They may participate in budget planning, resource allocation, and policy development to improve healthcare delivery. Doctors also play a role in quality improvement initiatives, ensuring adherence to healthcare regulations, and promoting patient safety.

Are you suited to be a doctor?

Doctors have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

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What is the workplace of a Doctor like?

The workplace of a doctor can encompass a variety of settings, reflecting the diverse healthcare system and the range of medical specialties and practice models. Hospitals are a prominent workplace for doctors, where they may work in different departments such as emergency rooms, operating rooms, intensive care units, or specialized wards. In these settings, doctors provide acute and critical care to patients with a wide spectrum of medical conditions, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams to diagnose and treat illnesses, perform surgeries, and manage patient care.

Many doctors also work in outpatient settings, including clinics, private practices, community health centers, and specialty medical centers. In these settings, doctors see patients for routine check-ups, preventive care, consultations, and management of chronic conditions. They may provide primary care services as family physicians, internists, or pediatricians, or specialize in specific medical fields such as cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, or surgery. In addition to direct patient care, doctors in outpatient settings may also engage in preventive medicine, health promotion, patient education, and coordination of care with other healthcare providers.

The workplace of a doctor can also extend beyond clinical practice to include academic, research, and administrative roles. Doctors may work in academic medical centers, teaching hospitals, or research institutions, where they contribute to medical education, mentorship of trainees, and advancement of medical knowledge through scholarly research and clinical trials. Additionally, some doctors may pursue leadership roles in healthcare organizations, health systems, or government agencies, where they participate in healthcare policy development, quality improvement initiatives, and strategic planning efforts to improve the delivery and accessibility of healthcare services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Doctor Specializations and Degrees

The following is a comprehensive list of the various specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:

  • Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
  • Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
  • Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
  • Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
  • Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
  • Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
  • Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
  • Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
  • Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
  • Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
  • Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
  • Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
  • Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
  • Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
  • Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
  • Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
  • Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
  • Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
  • Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
  • Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
  • Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
  • Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
  • Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
  • Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
  • Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
  • Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
  • Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
  • Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
  • Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
  • Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
  • Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
  • Telemedicine Physician: A telemedicine physician provides remote healthcare services to patients using telecommunications technology, facilitating virtual consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations.
  • Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
  • Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
  • Veterinary Dentist - A veterinary dentist is a specialized veterinarian who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions in animals. They perform dental procedures such as cleanings, extractions, and oral surgeries to improve the oral health and well-being of pets and other animals.


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See Also
Allergist Anesthesiologist Cardiologist Cardiothoracic Surgeon Chiropractor Colorectal Surgeon Dentist Dermatologist Emergency Medicine Physician Endocrinologist Family Practitioner Forensic Pathologist Gastroenterologist Geriatrician Gynecologist Hematologist Hospitalist Immunologist Infectious Disease Specialist Internist Medical Examiner Naturopathic Physician Nephrologist Neurologist Neurosurgeon Obstetrician Occupational Physician Oncologist Ophthalmologist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Orthopedic Surgeon Orthopedist Orthodontist Osteopath Otolaryngologist Pathologist Pediatrician Periodontist Plastic Surgeon Podiatrist Prosthodontist Psychiatrist Pulmonologist Radiologist Rheumatologist Sports Medicine Physician Surgeon Urologist Vascular Medicine Specialist Vascular Surgeon Chiropractic Neurologist Veterinary Dentist Telemedicine Physician

Pros and Cons of Being a Doctor

While being a doctor offers numerous rewards and opportunities for professional fulfillment, it also comes with significant challenges and sacrifices that should be carefully considered before pursuing a career in medicine. Balancing the pros and cons, along with personal values, interests, and priorities, is essential for individuals contemplating a career in healthcare.


  • Fulfilling Career: One of the most significant advantages of being a doctor is the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on people's lives. Doctors have the privilege of diagnosing and treating illnesses, alleviating pain and suffering, and improving patients' overall health and well-being, which can be immensely rewarding.
  • High Earning Potential: Doctors typically earn competitive salaries, reflecting their extensive education, specialized skills, and the critical role they play in healthcare. Depending on their specialty and practice setting, doctors have the potential to earn substantial incomes, which can provide financial stability and opportunities for a comfortable lifestyle.
  • Intellectual Stimulation: Medicine is a constantly evolving field that presents doctors with intellectual challenges and opportunities for lifelong learning. Doctors engage in continuous education, research, and professional development to stay abreast of medical advancements, new treatments, and emerging technologies, which can stimulate curiosity and intellectual growth.
  • Job Security: The demand for healthcare services remains strong in the US, contributing to a stable job market for doctors. With an aging population, increasing healthcare needs, and ongoing advancements in medical technology, doctors enjoy relatively high job security and opportunities for career growth and advancement.
  • Respect and Prestige: Doctors are held in high regard by society for their expertise, dedication, and commitment to healing. They often command respect and admiration from patients, colleagues, and the community, which can enhance their professional satisfaction and sense of pride in their work.


  • Long Hours and Stress: The practice of medicine can be physically and emotionally demanding, requiring doctors to work long hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays. The demanding workload, high patient volumes, and pressure to provide high-quality care can lead to stress, burnout, and fatigue among doctors.
  • Student Debt and Financial Burden: Becoming a doctor requires a significant investment of time and money in education and training. Many doctors graduate with substantial student loan debt, which can take years to repay and may limit financial flexibility, especially early in their careers.
  • Administrative Burden: Doctors often contend with administrative tasks, paperwork, and bureaucratic requirements that detract from time spent with patients and clinical care. Increasing regulatory burdens, insurance paperwork, and electronic health record documentation can contribute to feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction among doctors.
  • Professional Liability and Malpractice Risks: Doctors face the risk of malpractice lawsuits and professional liability claims, even with diligent care and adherence to standards of practice. Malpractice litigation can be emotionally and financially draining, affecting doctors' professional reputations, insurance premiums, and overall job satisfaction.
  • Work-Life Balance Challenges: Balancing the demands of a medical career with personal life and family responsibilities can be challenging for doctors. The demanding nature of the profession, long hours, and unpredictable schedules can strain relationships, lead to feelings of guilt or burnout, and affect overall well-being.

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Doctors are also known as:
Physician Doctor Of Medicine