Family Physicians and General Practitioners

Occupation:Family Physicians and General Practitioners

About the job

Nature of work:

General Practitioners (GPs) and family physicians diagnose and treat the diseases, physiological disorders and injuries of patients. They provide primary contact and continuing and comprehensive care to patients of all ages. They usually work in private practice, including group or team practices, hospitals and clinics. Residents in training to be general practitioners and family physicians are included in this group.

Job duties:
General practitioners and family physicians perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Examine patients and take their histories, order laboratory tests, X-rays and other diagnostic procedures and consult with other medical practitioners to evaluate patients' physical and mental health.
  • Prescribe and administer medications and treatments.
  • Perform and assist in routine surgery.
  • Provide emergency care.
  • Provide acute care management.
  • Vaccinate patients to prevent and treat diseases.
  • Deliver babies and provide pre-natal and post-natal care.
  • Advise patients and their families on health care including health promotion, disease, illness and accident prevention.
  • Provide counselling and support to patients and their families on a wide range of health and lifestyle issues.
  • Perform patient advocacy role.
  • Coordinate or manage primary patient care.
  • Provide continuous care to patients.
  • Supervise home care services.
  • Report births, deaths, and contagious and other diseases to governmental authorities.
Sample job titles:
  • doctor of medicine (MD)
  • family doctor
  • family physician
  • general practitioner (GP)
  • intern
  • medical doctor
  • medical officer of health (MOH)
  • primary care physician
  • public health physician
  • resident physician

Compassion, sensitivity, and a desire to help people are important. Physicians must take final responsibility for their decisions and the effects they have on patients' lives. Therefore, emotional stability, ethics, maturity, and good judgement are essential. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are important. You should be able to inspire confidence and put people at ease. You must be willing to continually update your knowledge and skills. Good health and stamina may be needed, as physicians often work long hours.

Job requirements:
  • A bachelor's degree.
  • Graduation from an approved medical school and two to three years of family medicine residency training are required.
  • Completion of the qualifying examinations of the Medical Council of Canada and licensing by the provincial or territorial licensing authority are required.
Other considerations:

Most physicians are self-employed and administer their services through private practices. Most physicians are paid by fee-for-service where earnings depend upon the fees paid by the government for various services and the number of patients served. Some physicians are paid through alternative funding plans.

Family physicians tend to work long and irregular hours, especially those physicians who operate their own practices or work in small groups. General practitioners and family physicians may become specialist physicians with additional training.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Good

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “good”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is better than average when compared to other occupations in Nova Scotia. This is a fairly large occupation in Nova Scotia so job opportunities occur fairly regularly. The number employed in this occupation is expected to grow moderately over the next few years, which will likely provide some additional opportunities for employment. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Family Physicians and General Practitioners most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs are typically permanent positions. With employment conditions being somewhat seasonal, periods of downtime or layoff throughout the year affect some workers.

The median employment income for 46% of Family Physicians and General Practitioners who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $86,161. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Family Physicians and General Practitioners1,545Moderate growth255Low
Minimum: $16.48
Median: $31.91
Maximum: $38.46
Minimum: $6,197
Median: $80,726
Maximum: $199,894
Occupations in Health36,515Strong growth4,385Low
Minimum: $16.38
Median: $25.50
Maximum: $41.00
Minimum: $10,740
Median: $43,853
Maximum: $88,944
Family Physicians and General PractitionersCompared to: Occupations in Health
Percent employed full-time91%77%
Percent self-employed5%10%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentFamily Physicians and General PractitionersCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton8%$82,61113%$32,974
Annapolis Valley11%$103,92513%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeFamily Physicians and General PractitionersCompared to: All Health
% Employed% Employed
Median Age4844
GenderFamily Physicians and General PractitionersCompared to: Occupations in Health
% Employed% Employed
EducationFamily Physicians and General PractitionersCompared to: All Health
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high schoolN/Ax1.1%$27,581
High school0.8%x6.9%$24,119
Trades certificateN/Ax5.0%$31,728
College certificate or diplomaN/Ax39.4%$36,693
University certificate or diplomaN/Ax4.8%$50,769
Bachelor's degree1.5%x27.6%$57,186
University advanced certificate or diplomaN/Ax2.3%$61,833
Master's degree81.7%$107,5835.1%$87,808
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometry3.1%$107,5497.2%$83,000
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Right to Title and Practice:This job is regulated and the job title is protected in Nova Scotia (you may not use this job title without holding a provincial licence). A licence shows that the holder has met provincial requirements and is required to work in this job.
Regulating body:
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia
7071 Bayers Road, Suite 5005
Halifax, NS B3J 2C2
(877) 282-7767
(902) 422-7476
Useful contacts:
Doctors Nova Scotia
25 Spectacle Lake Drive
Dartmouth, NS B3B 1X7
Tel: (902) 468-1866
Fax: (902) 468-6578
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
774 Echo Drive
Ottawa, ON K1S 5N8
Tel: (800) 668-3740
Fax: (613) 730-8830

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Medical scientist (MSc, PhD)
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the university graduate level (Masters, PhD)
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any undifferentiated clinical science program that prepares graduated physicians (M.D. or D.O.) as research scientists in various areas.
See all institutions providing this program+
Dalhousie University
Office of the Registrar
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
(902) 494-2450
Program Name:Medicine (MD)
Education Level:This program is typically offered by a university school of medicine.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals for the independent professional practice of medicine, involving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses, injuries, and other disorders of the human body. These programs include courses in the basic medical sciences, clinical medicine, examination and diagnosis, patient communications, medical ethics and laws, professional standards, and rotations in specialties such as internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, neurology, ophthalmology, radiology, clinical pathology, anesthesiology, family medicine, and psychiatry.
See all institutions providing this program+
Dalhousie University
Office of the Registrar
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
(902) 494-2450
Additional resources: