Becoming a hospitalist opens doors to a dynamic career filled with new challenges and opportunities to impact patient care. Hospitalists are pivotal in managing the patient’s overall treatment and well-being. This relatively new occupation is essential in the healthcare system for coordinating care, improving patient outcomes, and enhancing hospital efficiency. As such, they act as the central point of contact for patients and families, ensuring clear communication and comprehensive care for everyone involved.

This blog aims to provide aspiring hospitalists with a step-by-step guide on education, training, and career development to succeed in this rewarding field. So, follow along to learn how to become a hospitalist and explore the salary expectations waiting for you!

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What Is a Hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a trained physician who focuses on providing care for hospitalized patients. Unlike doctors who see patients in an office setting, hospitalists work primarily in hospitals. They manage and coordinate all aspects of a patient’s hospital stay, from admission to discharge. This includes diagnosing health conditions, ordering tests, planning treatments, and monitoring progress.

Hospitalists typically have many responsibilities, such as performing medical examinations, reviewing patient histories, and determining necessary tests and procedures. In addition, hospitalists prescribe medications and therapies, keep patients and their families informed about health conditions and progress, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure comprehensive treatment. Lastly, these healthcare professionals play a vital role in ensuring continuity of care by creating detailed patient records and planning follow-up care after discharge. The primary goal of hospitalists is to enhance the efficiency of hospital care and improve patient outcomes.

7 Essential Steps to Becoming a Hospitalist

From educational requirements to residency training and board certification, the path to becoming a hospitalist is demanding. 

Earn an undergraduate degree

Finishing undergraduate studies in a science-related field marks the first step of the journey. To pursue a career as a hospitalist, recommended majors include Biology, Chemistry, or other fields that provide the necessary foundation in science for medical school.

Maintaining a high GPA during your undergraduate studies is crucial, as medical schools heavily weigh academic performance in their admissions process. Beyond academics, engaging in extracurricular activities like volunteering at hospitals or participating in research projects can strengthen your application. These experiences not only enrich your resume but also demonstrate your commitment to the medical field and provide valuable hands-on learning opportunities. 

Pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

Before applying for medical school, potential candidates are required to pass the MCAT, which tests a student’s knowledge and skills in the field of medicine. Knowing how to study for the MCAT is vital for success and requires using a variety of study resources like review books, online courses, and joining study groups. Taking practice exams is also beneficial, as it helps you determine strengths and opportunities for improvement. 

Besides submitting your MCAT score, the medical school requirements include transcripts and letters of recommendation, which can be submitted through the AMCAS system, followed by secondary applications specific to each school. Achieving a good MCAT score is crucial because it significantly impacts your chances of admission to medical school. 

Obtain a medical degree

The following step is completing medical school, a cornerstone in any doctor’s journey. It is typically divided into two main parts: the preclinical years and the clinical years. In the first two years, students focus on classroom and laboratory education in basic medical sciences. During the final two years, students engage in clinical rotations where they gain hands-on experience across various medical specialties. This period is essential for learning to manage a wide range of adult illnesses, particularly in fields like internal medicine.

These rotations are important for applying theoretical knowledge in real-world settings. Building relationships with mentors during this time can provide guidance, career advice, and opportunities. Gaining diverse clinical experience also helps students discover their medical interests and strengths.

Pass the required licensing examinations

The licensing examinations required vary depending on the area of study. Allopathic medical students take the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) Step 1 and Step 2, focusing on basic medical sciences and clinical knowledge, respectively. Osteopathic students take the COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination) Level 1 and Level 2, which cover similar content with an emphasis on osteopathic principles. For these exams, it’s beneficial to use review books, online courses, and practice questions. Group study sessions can also be helpful. Passing these exams is crucial as they are required for progressing to residency programs, where medical graduates receive specialized training in their chosen field.

Pass required licensing examinations

Complete a three-year residency

Completing residency is another crucial step that enables graduate medical students to apply their knowledge in real-life hospital settings under the supervision of senior doctors. To choose the right Internal Medicine Residency program, you must consider the program’s location, reputation, and available specialty opportunities.

During residency, expect rigorous rotations across various internal medicine subfields, providing extensive on-the-job training. This intensive period includes managing patient care, making diagnostic decisions, and working long hours. Skills developed include critical thinking, efficient patient management, and enhanced communication abilities. Residents also gain experience in handling complex medical cases and learning from seasoned physicians.

Obtain board certification

The final step is becoming board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). This marks the successful completion of an accredited residency program in internal medicine, along with other prior requirements. To obtain certification, doctors take the ABIM certification exam, assessing their knowledge and skills in internal medicine. Preparation for this exam involves extensive study through review courses, practice exams, and staying current with medical literature in journals.

Achieving board certification is beneficial for career advancement as it demonstrates a doctor’s expertise in internal medicine, enhances their professional credibility, and often leads to better job opportunities, higher compensation, and greater trust from patients and colleagues.

Attend a fellowship program (optional)

Some doctors undertake a fellowship program to specialize in a specific area of medicine, such as critical care, infectious disease, cardiology, or oncology. Pursuing a fellowship in medicine allows doctors to gain deep expertise in a niche field, often involving intensive research and clinical work. This specialization can lead to significant advantages, such as becoming a highly sought-after expert, leading advanced research projects, or securing top positions in academic or clinical settings. For instance, a fellowship in cardiology could lead to opportunities in specialized cardiac care centers or the development of new heart disease treatments.

Job Outlook and Salary of a Hospitalist

Though hospitalist employment data is limited, their wages are often high. On average, a hospitalist in the United States makes $218,987 per year, which is satisfactory. Factors that can influence salary include location, with higher wages in urban and high-cost living areas; experience, as seasoned hospitalists earn more; and additional certifications, which can lead to higher pay due to specialized skills and knowledge.

The job vacancies for hospitalists are expected to grow by 2029, with an anticipated 72,500 new jobs filled. Currently, the top states with the highest number of hospitalists employed are California, New York, and Florida, followed by Pennsylvania and Texas.


While becoming a hospitalist is challenging, it is also a rewarding career due to its impact on patients’ lives. To become a hospitalist, start by completing a bachelor’s degree, attending medical school, and finishing a residency in internal medicine. To further advance your skills, pass the required licensing exams and consider additional certifications.

Embrace the journey, knowing you’ll make a significant impact on patient care. Start today by exploring our Clinical Sciences Program and connecting with mentors. You have the potential to excel!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a hospitalist?

Becoming a hospitalist typically takes about seven years of postgraduate education. This includes four years of medical school followed by a three-year residency in internal medicine. Some hospitalists may choose to pursue additional fellowship training, but it is not required for most positions​.

What is the difference between a doctor and a hospitalist?

While all hospitalists are doctors, not all doctors are hospitalists. Hospitalists specialize in caring for patients admitted to hospitals and typically work solely within hospital settings.

Is becoming a hospitalist a worthwhile medical career?

Yes, becoming a hospitalist is a worthwhile medical career. It offers the opportunity to make a significant impact on patient care and hospital operations. Hospitalists are in high demand, enjoy competitive salaries, and have structured work hours, which can lead to a better work-life balance compared to other medical specialties.

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