Beauty Center

How Long Are Physicians Typically in a Role For?

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Health & Wellness

From an outsider’s perspective, giving up a career as a physician may seem counterproductive. Physicians had to endure years of education and training to achieve their title, are well paid, and are respected by society for their dedication to improving patients’ lives.

However, despite the perseverance to get the role and the benefits associated with being qualified, the time a physician spends in the role varies depending on several factors. Many dedicated themselves to the craft during their teenage years and maintained a similar level of enthusiasm and involvement in the profession until retirement, while other physicians have trained later in life or left a role due to unforeseen reasons.

Factors Affecting Duration

A doctor recruiter agency would report three factors that influence how long a physician is likely to spend in their role.

1. Speciality

One of the biggest contributing factors to the duration of a physician’s career is their chosen speciality. Primary care, regarded as perhaps the most intense speciality, typically has a shorter career lifespan due to its demanding nature. Those in primary care are required to work long hours and regularly endure stressful situations, resulting in a greater risk of developing conditions like burnout.

On the other hand, on average, those who choose to specialise in practices like dermatology or radiology experience longer tenures in position, with these fields being associated with better work-life balance and compensation.

2. Career Stage

The career stage plays a crucial role in determining the length of a physician’s tenure. Early-career physicians, particularly those working in residency and fellowship training, are more likely to move between positions as they look to understand what intrigues them and creates the best opportunities for future career growth.

Once a physician has become established and well-respected in their speciality, they tend to stay in the role for proportionately more extended periods. It would be considered counterproductive and challenging to begin the process of networking and building a reputation again.

3. Job Satisfaction

The level of job satisfaction a physician experiences is synonymous with the length of time they spend in the role. Those who feel valued, supported, and respected by their organisation while finding the work itself stimulating are far more likely to spend extended periods in their role.

Meanwhile, the industry is known for long working hours and high stress levels. Some physicians find themselves unhappy or unwilling to tolerate the challenges for years and opt for more relaxed working lives in other fields, such as medical writing, education, wellness coaching, or healthcare administration.

Some of these roles are new or more viable in the 21st century than they were previously. With advancements in research around the implications heavy workloads can have on burnout and anxiety, physicians are more aware of alternatives to leaving their profession than in previous years.


According to CHORN, a student who entered college at 18, undertook the 11-16 years of education and training to become a fully-fledged physician, would spend between 31-36 years in their role if they retired at 65 and didn’t change speciality or career along the way.

However, increasing numbers of physicians eventually opt for alternative medical roles due to stress and burnout, so the answer is reasonably variable.