From ArticleWorld

A physician is an individual that has undergone the advanced training to receive the credentials that allows them to practice medicine. In many countries, a physician must also be licensed. In the U.S., the term “physician” refers to anyone practicing medicine. In the U.K. and many other countries, a “physician” is one who practices internal medicine, reserving the term “doctor” for any other specialty of practice.


Training for physicians varies from country to country. In developed countries, becoming a physician means taking tertiary-level courses. In the U.S., all physicians must have a four-year college degree in order to be accepted to medical school; however, other countries offer such coursework to undergraduate trainees.

In many cases, physicians must undergo a period of supervised practice. In the U.S., the term refers to being an intern or a resident. In the U.K., one is called a junior doctor. During that time, the physician learns to apply the skills taught in medical school to a structured practice involving all areas of medicine. Some physicians will go on to further training in various specialties, such as pediatrics, surgery or orthopedics. In the U.S., medical fellowships are used to take a specialty-bound physician to a higher level of training.


In most parts of the world, a doctor must be licensed or registered in some way—a practice that is given as a temporary privilege that must be renewed on a regular basis. Doctors with mental health problems, behavioral issues or addiction problems may be required to seek treatment before they can be re-licensed. In severe cases, the person may not be able to practice at all in a given jurisdiction.

Some countries have the regulatory process at the governmental level. In the U.S., each state has a Board of Medical Practice that governs all licensing issues. In France, physicians must belong to the Order of Physicians in order to be allowed to practice medicine. In the U.K., the profession is self-regulated, with the government transferring its authority to the governing body (the General Medical Council).

In the U.S., a separate federal regulating body, the Drug Enforcement Administration, regulates the ability of a doctor to prescribe controlled, addictive substances. A physician must have a DEA number in order to prescribe these regulated medications.