Subspecialty Careers: General Internal Medicine

Subspecialty Careers: General Internal Medicine

The Discipline
Internal medicine is a specialty that relies on the basic sciences and a diverse breadth of knowledge to form the foundation for a successful career in a variety of fields, including general internal medicine, hospital medicine, or any of the internal medicine subspecialties. Specialists in general internal medicine ("general internists") are crucial in filling a vital need in our health care system, serving as the primary or principal providers of care in outpatient (ambulatory) and /or inpatient (hospital) settings.

General internists handle the broad and comprehensive spectrum of illnesses that affect adults, and are recognized as experts in diagnosis, in treatment of chronic illness, and in health promotion and disease prevention-they are not limited to one type of medical problem or organ system.

Common procedures for general internists include lumbar puncture, joint aspiration and injection, central venous line placement, paracentesis and thoracentesis.

After successful completion of medical school, those interested in becoming an internist will enter a residency program. Residency in internal medicine usually lasts three years, and residents work in a variety of settings, including university hospitals, community teaching hospitals, hospital outpatient clinics, and community physicians' offices. Residents assume progressive responsibility as they acquire various skills in treating hospitalized patients and gain competency in ambulatory care. The broad experience provided by three years of internal medicine residency provides the necessary training for practice as a general internist. For general internists who are interested in an academic career that includes a research component, a number of academic medical centers also offer general internal medicine fellowships following residency training.

Training Positions
For the 2011-2012 academic year, there are 381 ACGME-accredited training programs with 23,034 trainees. Last year, there were 380 ACGME-accredited training programs in General Internal Medicine with 22,925 active positions. Forty-four percent of the trainees were female and 48% were U.S. medical graduates.

The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) offers certification for physicians interested in pursuing the field of internal medicine.

Major Professional Societies

  • American College of Physicians
    190 N. Independence Mall West
    Philadelphia, PA 19106-1572
    Phone: 215-351-2600
    Web site:

Major Publications

Have questions about training and careers in internal medicine? Search the ACP Mentoring Database to find an internal medicine physician who can answer your questions.



Back to January 2012 Issue of IMpact



More Articles Like This