Understanding the difference between internal medicine and general practice is crucial for anyone considering a career in medicine.

Internal medicine focuses on treating adults who deal with complex diseases and conditions, while general practice, or family medicine, provides comprehensive care to patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

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This comparison, “internal medicine vs general practice,” highlights the specialized approach of each occupation, setting the stage for an exploration of each field’s unique aspects and contributions to healthcare.

In this blog post, we invite you to discover the difference between an internist and a general practitioner as we cover the educational requirements, work experience, salary, and job outlooks.

What Is Internal Medicine?

Internal medicine is a medical field focused on adults. But what does an internist do? Doctors in this area, known as internists, are experts in understanding how the human body works and can handle multiple health issues simultaneously. Internists spend a lot of time learning about different diseases to prevent, find, and treat them effectively. They look after the whole body, not just specific parts, and can deal with everything from common colds to complex illnesses.

Internists often work with other doctors, helping to figure out what’s wrong when health problems are complicated. Their goal is to keep adults healthy, manage chronic diseases, and improve patients’ overall quality of life through prevention, early detection, and treatment of diseases. Whether it’s a regular check-up, managing a long-term illness, or solving challenging health puzzles, these healthcare providers play a crucial role in adult healthcare.

What Is General Practice?

General practice, on the other hand, is a branch of medicine in which doctors, known as general practitioners (GPs), provide primary healthcare to people of all ages. They are the first point of contact for patients with any health concern.

GPs handle a wide variety of medical conditions, from common illnesses like colds and flu to managing long-term diseases such as diabetes or asthma. They focus on the whole person, considering both physical and mental health aspects. GPs also play a crucial role in preventive care, offering advice on how to stay healthy, conducting regular check-ups, and giving vaccinations.

GPs can offer tailored advice and treatment by getting to know their patients over time, solidifying their spot as an essential part of the healthcare system.

The Difference Between Internal Medicine and General Practice

Both internists and general practitioners make vital contributions to adult and family health. That being said, the educational requirements and the work experience differ for each. In the following section, we will explore various aspects of both roles to ensure a more comprehensive understanding of each. 


To become an internist or a general practitioner (GP), the educational path starts similarly but diverges during residency. First, both internists and GPs complete an undergraduate degree, typically lasting 4 years. Next, they attend medical school for 4 years, earning either a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.

After medical school, though, the paths split during residency, where the training becomes more specialized. Internists usually enter a residency program in internal medicine or discover internal medicine subspecialities, focusing solely on adult patients. This residency usually takes about 3 years and prepares them to handle a wide range of adult diseases. On the contrary, GPs pursue a residency in family medicine. This also lasts about 3 years but covers a broader spectrum, including pediatrics, obstetrics, and geriatrics, allowing them to care for patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly.

Both careers require passing a licensing exam to practice medicine.

Work Experience

To excel in internal medicine or general practice, gaining hands-on experience through clinical rotations, internships, and residencies is crucial. During medical school, students undertake clinical rotations in various specialties, including internal and family medicine. These rotations allow students to work with patients under the supervision of experienced doctors, helping them understand different medical conditions and treatments.

After graduating from medical school, doctors enter a residency program, which is a period of intensive training specific to their chosen field. For internal medicine, the residency focuses on adult healthcare, teaching doctors to diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases. In general practice or family medicine, the residency covers care for patients of all ages, from babies to the elderly, and includes a broader spectrum of healthcare, such as pediatrics, obstetrics, and geriatrics.

These experiences are vital. They help doctors develop the skills and knowledge they need to provide high-quality care, make accurate diagnoses, and develop effective treatment plans for their patients.



The salaries of internists and general practitioners (GPs) can vary widely depending on where they work, how much experience they have, and if they specialize in certain areas of medicine.

Generally, doctors earn more as they gain experience and if they work in places where there’s a high demand for medical services. In the U.S., internists can expect to earn an average salary of around $276,000 per year. GPs have it almost the same, with their annual salary revolving around $266,000. However this can be higher or lower based on the factors mentioned.

Doctors working in big cities or areas with fewer medical professionals might earn more due to higher demand. Also, those with special skills in areas like sports medicine or geriatrics might have the opportunity to increase their earnings. It’s important to note that these salaries reflect many years of education and training, and the actual amounts can vary widely by region and practice setting.

Job Outlooks

The job outlook for both internal medicine and general practice is very positive. With growing populations and an increasing focus on healthcare, the demand for internists and general practitioners (GPs) is expected to rise. This means there will be plenty of job opportunities in hospitals, clinics, and private practices. 

As people constantly need preventive care and treatment for chronic diseases, these doctors will be essential. Plus, with the opportunity to specialize in areas like geriatrics or sports medicine, internists and GPs can advance their careers and potentially increase their earnings. Overall, the future looks bright for those entering these fields, with stable job security and the chance to make a significant impact on patient health.

Internal Medicine vs General Practitioner: Which Role Is Right for You?

If you’re struggling to pick between a career in internal medicine or general practice, consider your interests and lifestyle. This simple step can make or break your decision.

Internal medicine focuses on adult health, dealing with complex diseases. If you enjoy solving medical puzzles and working with adults, this might be for you. General practice, or family medicine, lets you care for patients of all ages, from babies to the elderly, covering a broad range of health issues. It’s ideal if you like variety and building long-term relationships with families.

Salary and the job outlook are similar, so it shouldn’t make a difference. 

In essence, both paths require dedication and a passion for healthcare, but your ultimate choice should align with who you want to help and how you want to make a difference.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re drawn to the complexity of adult diseases as an internist or the diverse, all-encompassing care of a general practitioner, both fields offer rewarding careers filled with opportunities to make a real difference in people’s lives. The choice between the two is solely personal. With a clear understanding of the educational journey, potential earnings, and job prospects, you’re now better equipped to navigate your future in healthcare, choosing a path that not only aligns with your professional aspirations but also fulfills your personal passion for helping others.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Why do people choose internal medicine?

People choose internal medicine to specialize in adult healthcare, focusing on diagnosing and managing a wide range of complex diseases.

What are the cons of internal medicine?

The cons of internal medicine include long hours, high stress from dealing with severe illnesses, and the need for continuous learning due to rapid advancements in medicine.

What type of doctor is best for primary care?

For primary care, a family practice doctor is often best as they provide comprehensive health care for individuals of all ages, offering a continuity of care for families.

Why choose internal medicine vs family practice?

Choosing internal medicine over family practice often comes down to a preference for working with adult patients and dealing with more complex health issues.

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