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Last Updated: 03/17/15

Emergency Medicine Description

Becoming a physician that practices emergency medicine is probably one of the most intense and exciting specialty options. A physician that specializes in emergency medicine is almost always found in the emergency department of a hospital. Choosing this career path means that you will encounter a wide range of different medical emergencies and be relied upon to quickly diagnose the condition, then formulate and initiate a treatment plan. In the emergency department you will see everything from broken arms and gunshot wounds to rare diseases and traumatic brain injury, just to name a few. Even though most emergency medicine physicians work in environments where they have to diagnose a treat a wide range of conditions, you can also choose to specialize in a particular area. These areas include:

Hospice and palliative medicine: The prevention and relief of pain and suffering experienced by patients with life-limiting or terminal illnesses


Medical toxicology: The evaluation and management of patients that have experienced accidental or purposeful poisoning through drugs or other toxins


Pediatric emergency medicine: The management of emergencies in infants and children


Sports medicine: The prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of injuries sustained in athletic endeavors


Hyperbaric medicine: The treatment of decompression illness and other conditions caused by diving accidents


Many people become emergency medicine physicians because they enjoy living a fast-paced lifestyle where they encounter a new challenge everyday. Working as an ER doc means you will work long hours and spend a lot of time being on call, much of that time being spent sleeping at the hospital. As an emergency medicine doctor, you should expect to work in 8, 10 or 12-hour shifts.


However, most of these physicians have this job because they love it, and this was reflected in a 2012 Medscape poll that reported emergency medicine physicians are the fifth happiest of all the specialties they polled. The average happiness rating for this group was 4.01, on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the happiest. This field of medicine can be particularly rewarding as you are often keeping people healthy in the most critical of moments.


Training Requirements

In order to become a physician that practices emergency medicine you must first complete four years of medical school and then begin an intensive residency training program. The residency for emergency medicine is typically three years long. Upon completion of your residency you will have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). If you choose to become specialized in one of the areas mentioned previously, you will have to complete one to two years of training in your chosen specialty and pass a certification exam.


Emergency Medicine Salary

According to a survey published in the July 2010 issue of Modern Healthcare, emergency medicine physicians make an annual salary of anywhere from $239,000 to $316,000. What you make can depend on the hours you work, the facility in which you practice and the regional location in which you practice.



The job outlook for physicians who practice emergency medicine is very good. This is not only because this type of physician is such a vital part of any emergency or trauma department in every hospital, but because it takes a certain personality type to enjoy the work. Job prospects are usually best if you are willing to practice in rural and low-income areas, because these areas generally have a more difficult time attracting doctors.


Emergency Medicine Resources and Sources: