A physician is an individual who is legally qualified to engage in all aspects of the practice of medicine. Other medical professionals, such as nurses and dentists, are restricted by law to limited areas of medical practice.
To become a licensed physician, an individual usually must:
- Hold an undergraduate degree in an appropriate scientific discipline, such as biology or chemistry;
- Obtain admission to and complete a program at an accredited medical school, obtaining the degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.);
- Serve one year as an intern in a hospital and be exposed to a variety of medical specialties through a series of rotations;
- Pass a written exam on basic medicine and medical ethics, but this requirement varies from state to state.
Physicians must retain their standing by paying annual fees and, in most jurisdictions, proving they hold insurance covering instances of malpractice.