California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Internists, General in California

May also be called: Attending Physicians; Doctors of Osteopathy (DO); General Internists; Internal Medicine Doctors; Internal Medicine Physicians; Medical Doctors (MD); and Physicians

What Would I Do?

Internists are physicians who diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, disorders, and injuries of internal organ systems such as the respiratory, vascular, and digestive systems. Like family doctors and pediatricians, Internists are often referred to as primary care physicians because they are typically the first health professionals patients see for their ailments. Internists mostly see adult patients and provide long-term, comprehensive care for them throughout their adult lives.

Internists examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications, as well as order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They may also educate patients on wellness promotion through disease prevention, physical and mental health management, and dietary or lifestyle changes. Internists use a variety of diagnostic techniques to treat patients through medication or hospitalization. When more complex care is required, Internists may refer patients to other specialists.

Tools and Technology

Internists use a variety of tools in the course of their work, including stethoscopes, automated external defibrillators, syringes, glucometers, suture removers, and otoscopes. They also use technology such as medical reference software, email and word processing software, computers, and smartphones.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Treat internal disorders, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and problems of the lung, brain, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract.Medicine and Dentistry
Prescribe or administer medication, therapy, and other specialized medical care to treat or prevent illness, disease, or injury.Judgment and Decision Making
Explain procedures and discuss test results or prescribed treatments with patients.Oral Expression
Manage and treat common health problems, such as infections, influenza and pneumonia, as well as serious, chronic, and complex illnesses, in adolescents, adults, and the elderly.Monitoring
Analyze records, reports, test results, or examination information to diagnose medical condition of patient.Critical Thinking
Provide and manage long-term, comprehensive medical care, including diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of diseases, for adult patients in an office or hospital.Service Orientation
Collect, record, and maintain patient information, such as medical history, reports, and examination results.Active Listening
Make diagnoses when different illnesses occur together or in situations where the diagnosis may be obscure.Complex Problem Solving
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Internists usually work in private offices or clinics, assisted by a small staff of nurses and administrative personnel. Some Internists, called hospitalists, work strictly in hospitals caring for patients who have been hospitalized. Increasingly, Internists work in group practices, health care organizations, or hospitals where they share a large number of patients with other doctors. Internists who work in group settings have more backup coverage, possibility for more time off, and can coordinate care for their patients with other physicians, but they generally have less independence than solo practitioners.

Some Internists, especially those in private practice, may work long, irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Some may also travel between their offices and hospitals and be on call on a rotational schedule to care for their patients. While on call, Internists may have to address patients' concerns over the phone, make emergency visits to a hospital or nursing home, and tend to last minute appointments.

Internists regularly come into close contact with sick people, but they can reduce the risk of illness by taking proper safety precautions such as wearing gowns, surgical masks, and gloves, and frequently washing their hands when performing patient consultations. Some Internists may need to purchase their own malpractice insurance.

Most Internists who own their private practice are generally not unionized. Practitioners who are part of a health care network may be members of a union like the Union of American Physicians and Dentists.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Internist may appeal to those who like searching for facts and figuring out problems, and work that includes practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They should also desire to help people and have the ability to relate to their patients. Internists should possess excellent communication skills, and have patience and empathy. They often work under the pressure of deadlines. Individuals who like to work with very little supervision should enjoy this occupation.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Earnings vary according to experience and location. Internists who work in rural areas may earn less than those who work in larger cities.


The median wage in 2021 for Internists, General in California is $0 annually. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Internists generally receive excellent benefit packages, including health and life insurance, vacation and sick leave, and retirement plans. Those in private practice are responsible for providing their own benefits and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Job opportunities for Internists should be ample, due to the continued expansion of health care-related industries. Job growth may also occur due to population growth and an aging population that will require frequent medical attention. More consumers are expected to seek high levels of care that use the latest technologies, diagnostic tests, and therapies.

Although the demand for Internists should continue, some factors may reduce growth. New technologies will allow some Internists to treat more patients in the same amount of time, thereby reducing the number of doctors who would be needed to complete the same tasks. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners can do many of the routine duties of physicians and may increasingly be used to reduce costs at hospitals and outpatient care facilities.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Internists, General is expected to remain stable between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Internists, General
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Individuals interested in becoming Internists should have a bachelor’s degree, and complete an accredited medical school program and a residency program. Prior to enrolling in a medical school, applicants must have completed 90 semester hours or 135 quarter hours of college-level coursework and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). While a specific major is not required, completed college coursework must include biological sciences, general and organic chemistry, physics, college-level mathematics, and English. Students generally also take courses in the humanities and social sciences. Applicants should check with the individual medical school admission offices for specific admission requirements prior to submitting an application. Although the completion of a college or university degree is not required for applying to medical school, it is strongly encouraged. Some applicants to medical school have advanced degrees.


After graduation from medical school, individuals begin a residency program where they work under the supervision of experienced doctors and put their medical knowledge to work. Residency programs with a concentration in internal medicine typically last three years. After Internists successfully complete a residency program and become licensed, they may begin practicing medicine on their own or seek further training in a subspecialty fellowship.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in becoming Internists should take courses in mathematics, science, and English. They should also volunteer in various types of community service activities to distinguish themselves from others applying to medical school since competition is fierce. Some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain experience in a health care setting.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is currently not a requirement for maintaining the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the U.S. Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). However, it is required to maintain the California state license and specialty certifications from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). Licensees must complete at least 50 hours of approved continuing medical education (CME) during the renewal cycle which is every two years.

Some Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) may offer introductory courses in medical careers.  To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Licensing and Certification

All Internists must be licensed through the United States Federal Government and the State of California. Internists with a Medical Doctor (MD) degree must pass the USMLE. The USMLE is a three-part comprehensive test that assesses a doctor’s medical knowledge and abilities.

Doctors with an osteopathic medical degree must pass the COMLEX-USA. Similar to the USMLE, the COMLEX-USA is a three part examination that tests new Doctors of Osteopathy (DO) on their knowledge and ability to perform the job of a physician.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs, Medical Board of California licenses all medical doctors who practice medicine in California. Applicants are encouraged to begin the process six to nine months before they will be required to hold a license. Doctors need to renew their license every two years.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs, Osteopathic Medical Board of California licenses all osteopathic doctors who practice in California. Doctors need to renew their license every two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Many different certifications are available for Internists. These certifications provide validation that the Practitioner is recognized as a specialist in the particular area. Most certifications require passing an exam, paying a fee, and completing continuing education requirements in order to maintain certification. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Health Care, Internal Medicine, and Medicine.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Internists, General are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Offices of Physicians77.1%
Outpatient Care Centers9.8%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals4.4%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct contact with employers is a traditional means of finding a job as an Internist. The hospitals where recently graduated doctors complete their residency programs may provide employment once the residency period has ended. They may also provide references or letters of recommendation. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Internists, General.

  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing and Convalescent Homes
  • Physicians and Surgeons

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Internists may join a medical group or open their own private practice. Private practice generally allows Internists more freedom in where and how they set up their practice, but these Internists may earn less money than those in group practice. Some Internists may choose to affiliate with a university and work as academics doing research or educating doctors in training. Other Internists may enter into hospital administration and management.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Internists, General with links to more information.

Physician AssistantsGuide
Registered NursesGuide

Other Sources

  • California Department of Consumer Affairs, Osteopathic Medical Board of California
  • California Department of Consumer Affairs, The Medical Board of California
  • American Medical Association
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • California Medical Association
  • National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners
  • Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons of California
  • United States Medical Licensing Examination

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-1063
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Internists, General29-1063.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ISR