Primary care doctors, or family and general practitioners, are the first doctors that patients see before they're referred to specialists. They usually treat patients for common illnesses or injuries, including sinus and respiratory infections, abrasions and small fractures. Most have regular patients who see them for checkups or whenever they need basic medical care. If you want to become a primary care doctor, you need to earn a medical degree.
Salary and Qualifications
The annual mean salary for a primary care doctor was $180,850 as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To work in this profession, you need to complete a medical degree. This includes attending 4 years of medical school and then completing a minimum of 3 years as a resident. You'll need a bachelor's degree and a high grade point average to get accepted into medical school. Other key qualifications for this job include an attention to detail, compassion, patience and physical stamina. You'll also need communication, leadership, organizational and problem-solving skills.
Salary by Employer
A primary care doctor's salary can vary considerably by the type of employer for which she works. Primary care doctors earned some of the highest salaries, at $238,270, working in medical and diagnostic labs. Those employed by home health care companies and nursing homes also earned relatively high salaries of $188,030 and $187,680 per year, respectively. If you worked in a physician's office as a primary care doctor, you'd make $184,630. In outpatient centers and general medical and surgical hospitals, you'll earn salaries closer to the national average for all primary care doctors -- $180,860 and $175,410, respectively.
Salary by State
Primary care physicians earned the highest annual salaries of $214,080 in Arkansas. Those in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida also earned relatively high salaries of $213,600, $202,860 and $190,840 per year, respectively. If you worked in California as a primary care doctor, you'd make $182,200 annually. In Texas and Pennsylvania, you'd earn $179,170 and $173,150, respectively. While primary care doctors may earn higher salaries in states and cities with higher living costs, some states may pay more because demand exceeds supply. This may be why primary care doctors' salaries are higher in Arkansas and Iowa.
The BLS predicts a 24-percent increase in jobs for physicians and surgeons, including primary care doctors, between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the 14-percent growth rate for all occupations. An increase in the senior population is the primary reason more doctors will be needed in the next decade. Demand for physicians, including primary care doctors, is contingent on health care reimbursement policies. Consumers will visit doctors less as their out-of-pocket expenses increase. You may find more job opportunities as a primary care doctor in rural areas or smaller cities that have difficulty attracting quality physicians.