How Can I Become a Hospitalist?

Research what it takes to become a hospitalist. Learn about the education requirements, job duties, salary, and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Hospitalist?

Hospitalists are doctors who provide general medical care for patients who are admitted to a hospital. They provide direct treatments for patients, and they also supervise other medical professionals involved in patient care, such as nurses, physician assistants and medical assistants. Some hospitalists also conduct research in the field of hospital medicine and help train future hospitalists.

The table below lists the general requirements for a career in this field.

Degree RequiredDoctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
Training RequiredGeneral residency or specialized hospitality residency program
Licensure/Certification Required by all practicing doctors in the United States; board certification is optional
Key ResponsibilitiesSupervise compatibility of various patient services during time in hospital, complete administrative tasks for hospital
Job Growth (2014-2024)14% (for all physicians and surgeons)*
Median Salary (2015) Over $187,200 (for all physicians and surgeons)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do As a Hospitalist?

As a hospitalist, you would supervise all the aspects of your patients' inpatient services, bringing together information from different specialists working with the same patient and ensuring that their treatment plans are compatible. You would also be involved in some administrative tasks to maintain efficiency and accuracy in the intake process in your hospital. Your position as a hospitalist would require that you are available to work for long periods of time, although your schedule may be more flexible than other doctors' because another hospitalist team member can take over your patients. Many hospitalists come from an internist background, though you could approach the position from any doctoral specialization.

What Education Do I Need?

To work as a hospitalist, you need to complete a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) doctoral program. You should focus on science and math in high school and then choose pre-medicine or biology as your major in a bachelor's degree program. Before applying to a medical degree program, you will need to take the Medical College Admission Test.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (www.aamc.org) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (www.aacom.org) list MD and DO programs, respectively, in the U.S. It will likely take you four years to complete medical school, allowing you time to study the theory and to learn the practice of medicine in a supervised clinical setting.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Any physician who wishes to practice in the United States must be licensed. If you complete an MD program, you take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (www.usmle.org) and if you complete a DO program, you take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (www.nbome.org). Completion of the examination and a medical school program qualify you to become licensed by your state. Check with your state's licensing board for specific information.

Some physicians choose to become board certified, a voluntary certification offered for doctors who pursue specialization in a medical field. The American Board of Medical Specialties awards certification when you have completed the testing specific to your area of concentration and after a successful peer review (www.abms.org).

What Is the Pay and Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that physicians and surgeons made a median salary of $187,200 or more in 2015. Growth rate was predicted to be 14% between 2014 and 2024. According to the BLS, this faster-than-average growth will be driven by the growing aging population and the increase in the number of people who have health insurance. Job availability is likely to be especially high in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a doctor, instead of working as a hospitalist, which is a general area of medicine, you might choose to focus your career on a highly specialized subfield, such as neurosurgery or pediatric oncology, by completing a residency and/or fellowship in that area. You could also consider a job outside of a hospital setting, such as a psychiatrist or family doctor. If you are particularly drawn to the research and teaching aspects of work as a hospitalist, you could consider becoming a postsecondary school professor in a biomedical field. This job would require you to earn a Ph.D.

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