Are you passionate about making a difference in your community? Do have a love of life sciences and wonder how our bodies work? Have you ever wondered, "What more does my family doctor do other than give shots and treat the flu?"

A Doctor checking a person dressed up as a bird

Primary care physicians are vital for maintaining healthy communities.

What Is a Primary Care Physician?

Who do your parents or grandparents go to when they are sick or need regular medical care for modern day illnesses like, hypertension and diabetes?

Marge Simpson says,

Primary care physicians, sometimes called family doctors, "are the foundation of the health-care system. Besides providing comprehensive preventive and primary care, they are also the gateway to the rest of the health-care system."

What Does a Primary Care Physician Take Care Of?

Primary care physicians provide medical care for patients suffering from minor ailments like the flu to long-term chronic diseases like diabetes. Typical responsibilities of a primary care physician include:

  • Diagnose and treat common ailments.

  • Conduct annual health check ups.

  • Refer patients for clinical tests and specialist consultations.

  • Provide vaccination & preventive care consultations on diet, exercise, hygiene, and disease prevention.

  • Manage patient records.

  • Provide regular medical care and consultations for managing chronic diseases like diabetes.

A cartoon doctor examining a kid's mouth with a flashlight.

Other Jobs Similar to Primary Care Physicians in Health Care

Primary care physicians manage the overall health care requirements of patients of all ages, and they're usually the first point of contact in the health care system.

There are other fields of specialization in health care which you can explore as similar career options. Some of these specialization fields are paediatrics (child medicine), obstetrics and gynaecology (childbirth and reproductive health), cardiology (heart health), etc.

Check out this list of doctor specialities and subspecialties to learn more.


Which of the following are the job responsibilities of a primary care physician? Select all that apply:

What Knowledge, Skills, and Strengths Are Required?

Pathway To Becoming A Primary Care Physician

  1. Bachelor's degree in a science related field

  2. Four years of medical school

  3. Approximately three years in a residency program

  4. Licensing exam to practice professionally

A clip from the show Family Guy. Father :

Skills And Strengths

  1. Time management skills to efficiently prioritize and manage time between patient consultations, record management, referral follow-ups, and other daily activities

  2. Critical thinking skills to "make sound medical decisions"

  3. Strong people and communication skills, as the role is all about interacting with people

  4. Strong emotional resilience is essential, as the job deals with serious long-term illnesses and end-of-life situations on a regular basis


Ray is 18 years old and has just finished his high school diploma. He has enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program and plans to be a family care physician. Roughly how old will he be before he can join a family practice as a doctor?

Where Do Primary Care Physicians work?

Primary care physicians can find work in different health care facilities.

A family doctor giving shot to a baby sitting in his father's lap.

Family/Walk-in Clinics

Services provided:

  • Regular health checkups

  • Diagnose and treat minor ailments

  • Helping patients manage chronic illnesses

  • Providing preventive care like flu shots

Hospital Emergency Rooms

Signpost with direction to Hospital Emergency Area

Hospital Emergency Rooms

Services provided:

  • Diagnose and treat problems of patients needing emergency care.

  • There is a certification that primary care physicians can obtain in emergency medicine. You can find more information on this certification in the U.S. and Canada.

Image of doctor's instruments - stethoscope, knee reflex hammer, and a blood pressure monitor

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO)

"HMO is a health insurance structure that provides health care through a network of physicians." The job of a primary care physician at an HMO is the same as in family/ walk-in clinics mentioned above.

A doctor giving a shot to a patient at a community health centre, with two nurses looking over.

Community Health Centres (CHC)

CHCs are not-for-profit community organizations that help vulnerable populations access basic health care services, with a focus on preventive health care.

How Much Do Primary Care Physicians Earn?

It is a long road to becoming a primary care physician and there are high stress levels and lengthy hours of work in the job. They earn a high salary for the important and challenging work they do in their communities.

Image of Canada's flag.

  • Around CAD $180,723 annually

Image of flag of United Stated of America.

  • Around USD $198,076 annually

What Can Draw You To Become a Primary Care Physician?

  • Love of science — biology and chemistry in particular

  • Genuine passion for patient care

  • A desire to serve the communities you live in

Two pairs of feet standing in front of a sidewalk emblem that reads Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

What Can Turn You Away From Being A Primary Care Physician?

  • Lengthy university and residency programs

  • High stress levels

  • Long work hours

  • High volumes of paperwork

Woman shaking her head with a sign that reads

Pick the Future Primary Care Physician

Image of a boy

Rick is a grade 11 student and enjoys volunteering at the local senior’s residence every Saturday. On average, he spends 4-6 hours every day on his school work. His favorite subjects are math and biology.

image of a boy

Ray is a grade 10 student and enjoys building Lego and tampering with small machines. He enjoys music and spends 2-3 hours everyday practicing in a band with his friends.

Image of a boy

Ryan is a grade 11 student and plays soccer at the state level. On average, he spends 1-2 hours daily at soccer practice and 3-4 hours on his school work. His goal is to complete university and start working by the age of 22-23.

Image of a girl

Rachel is a grade 11 student. She is always ready to help her friends and enjoys baby sitting her younger siblings. She likes math and chemistry. On average, she spends 1-2 hours every day on her schoolwork. She isn't sure what she'd like to do in the future.


From the above profiles of high school students who is most likely to pursue studies in Medical field?

Take Action

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If you enjoy science subjects and are considering medicine as a career, then try these actions to see your fit as a primary care physician.


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