The medical specialty of emergency medicine focuses on caring for patients with injuries and sicknesses that cannot be put on hold. Emergency medicine specialists work on unscheduled cases, with each day presenting new patients and unexpected medical problems.

The type of care emergency medicine providers give can be described as a cross between internal medicine and general surgery, requiring professionals in this specialty to have medical knowledge and skills that are far-reaching. Common cases that emergency medicine specialists see can include chest pain, stomach pain, broken bones, respiratory infections, cuts, skin infections, headaches, and more. For an overview of how to become an emergency medicine specialist, and what it’s like to practice as a physician, continue reading below.



Once an individual graduates from medical school, they must apply and complete a medical residency to practice as a physician. During 2018, 7,940 emergency medicine residency spots were offered. Of these seats, international medical graduates filled 380, or just shy of 5%. These low numbers make emergency medicine a relatively competitive medical specialty for international medical students to match into.

Like most residency programs, emergency medicine residents can expect their program to last between 3-4 years. Those looking to specialize in a sub-specialty of emergency medicine are required to complete a supplemental fellowship. Such fellowships can last 1-2 years. Subspecialties of emergency medicine include the following:

        • Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine
        • Emergency Medical Services
        • Hospice and Palliative Medicine
        • Critical Care Medicine
        • Medical Toxicology
        • Neurocritical Care
        • Pain Medicine
        • Pediatric Emergency Medicine
        • Sports Medicine
        • Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine


Practicing as a Physician

At present, around 40,000 emergency medicine specialists are practicing in the U.S. The average income for this population is $353,000 per year. Most emergency medicine physicians report that they feel fairly compensated for their work and that they enjoy their chosen specialty. Physicians state the attraction of this specialty includes its challenging nature and the opportunity to collaborate with a team.


Emergency Medicine Today

With the spread of COVID-19, many individuals depend on emergency medical professionals to address symptoms of the virus. These medical professionals are helping restore global health, even when it comes at the cost of their own. At present, two emergency medical specialists in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19.

Despite this, emergency medical physicians are continuing to provide quality care. Their role in current events may cause an increase in the demand for emergency medicine professionals in the future.


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