How to Become a Hospitalist: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated on January 20, 2024

With the aging population and increasing complexity of healthcare, there is a growing demand for hospitalists – physicians who specialize in the care of hospitalized patients. Becoming a hospitalist is an appealing career path for many doctors due to the variety of patients seen, increased pay compared to some other specialties, and regular work schedules. However, the road to becoming a hospitalist is a long one. It starts with finishing four years of medical school, then at least three years of residency training in internal medicine or family medicine. Subsequently, some physicians choose to complete an additional hospital medicine fellowship for further training in this field. This article will outline the step-by-step process to pave the way for a career as a successful hospitalist physician.

What is a Hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in the care of patients in a hospital setting. Hospitalists are doctors who focus on providing care for patients during their hospital stay, from admission to discharge.

Types of Hospitalists

Some common types of hospitalists include:

Duties and Responsibilities

Hospitalists have a vital role in the hospital environment. Their main duties include:

Hospitalists aim to improve efficiency and quality of care through centralized, dedicated inpatient care management. Their specialized presence in the hospital can lead to shorter lengths of stay as well as reduced costs.

What Do Hospitalists Do?

So what exactly does a hospitalist do on a daily basis? Here are some of the key responsibilities and duties:

For more details on hospitalist duties and responsibilities, you can refer to this site.

Educational Requirements for Becoming a Hospitalist

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step toward becoming a hospitalist is earning a bachelor’s degree. While any major is acceptable, common ones include biology, chemistry, biochemistry, or healthcare fields like nursing. Make sure to take prerequisite courses for medical school like biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. A bachelor’s degree builds a foundation of scientific knowledge necessary for the medical curriculum.

Complete Medical School

After earning an undergraduate degree, the next educational requirement is completion of a 4-year medical school program. Medical school provides hands-on clinical experience and in-depth study of disease processes, diagnoses, and treatment modalities. The first 2 years focus on classroom scientific study, while the last 2 years involve clinical rotations under physician supervision across medical specialties like family medicine, surgery, pediatrics and internal medicine. After graduating from an accredited medical school, one earns their M.D. or D.O. degree.

Complete a Residency in Internal Medicine

After medical school, newly minted M.D.s or D.O.s must complete a 3-year internal medicine residency program to gain specialized training in that field. This post-graduate clinical training focuses care for adolescents, adults and geriatric patients. Residents get supervised experience in hospital wards and ambulatory centers diagnosing and managing acute and chronic medical issues. Successful completion of an internal medicine residency allows one to become board certified in the specialty.

Postgraduate Training for Hospitalists

Becoming a hospitalist requires significant postgraduate training beyond medical school. Here are the key steps:

The right combination of residency training, board certification, and hospital privileges establishes a solid foundation to begin a career as a successful hospital medicine practitioner. Continuing education is also critical as protocols, technologies, and best practices continue to evolve for caring for complex hospitalized patients.

Skills and Qualities of a Successful Hospitalist

Becoming a successful hospitalist requires developing a specific skillset and embodying certain qualities that are well-suited to the demands of the role. Some of the most critical skills and qualities include:

fast-paced hospital environment demands excellent multi-tasking capabilities. Hospitalists juggle assessing new patients, making rounds, coordinating care plans, consulting specialists, updating documentation, and handling inquiries.

The multifaceted hospitalist role demands broad-based skills and qualities. Aspiring hospitalists should seek to cultivate these vital attributes through formal training and real-world experience. With dedication to sharpening expertise in these areas, physicians can pursue rewarding careers as hospitalists.

Hospitalist Salary

Hospitalists can earn a lucrative salary, especially with increased experience. According to data from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the average starting salary for hospitalists in 2020 was $263,000. However, salaries can vary widely depending on factors like location, experience level, certifications, and type of hospital.

Urban areas and coastal regions tend to offer higher pay compared to rural areas. Hospitalists working at academic medical centers and large hospitals also tend to earn more than those at smaller community hospitals. Those with additional certifications like Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP) may also command higher salaries.

Experience LevelAverage Salary
Less than 1 year$230,000
1-2 years$240,000
3-5 years$255,000
6-10 years$275,000
More than 10 years$300,000

As shown, salaries tend to increase significantly with every few additional years on the job. Those just starting out can expect an average of around $230,000, while experienced hospitalists with over a decade in the field earn around $300,000 per year on average. The highest-paid hospitalists can potentially earn salaries of $400,000 or more at the peak of their careers.

Several factors account for the salary growth in this field. An aging population and rise in complex chronic diseases have led to a greater demand for hospitalists. There have also been moves towards quality-based reimbursement models and value-based care, making experienced hospitalists essential for hospitals to run efficiently and achieve positive outcomes.

For those looking to enter this rewarding career, the financial prospects are clearly quite positive in addition to the opportunity to make a real difference in patient lives. With strong demand nationwide for hospitalists, it remains an excellent option for those considering a career in medicine.

Career Opportunities and Advancement

Hospitalists have many opportunities to advance their careers and take on additional responsibilities. Some advancement opportunities include:

There are many ways for hospitalists to expand their roles over time whether they want to pursue leadership, specialization, academics, or other career development opportunities. The field offers diverse options for advancement.


Becoming a hospitalist requires dedication through several years of education and training. It’s a meaningful career path for those who want to coordinate comprehensive care for patients in a hospital setting. With compassion and medical expertise, hospitalists can greatly improve patients’ hospital experiences. If you’re considering a career as a hospitalist, be prepared for challenging work that requires strong communication, organization, and analytical skills. There are promising job prospects for those willing to take this rewarding career journey. For more guidance, see the American College of Physicians’ advice on hospital medicine careers.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a Hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in taking care of patients in the hospital. They manage the entire course of treatment for hospitalized patients, from admission to discharge.

How long does it take to become a Hospitalist?

It typically takes at least 11 years to become a hospitalist. This includes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and a three-year residency in internal medicine or family medicine.

What is the difference between a Hospitalist and a General Physician?

The main difference lies in their work settings. Hospitalists work exclusively in hospitals, managing the care of hospitalized patients. General physicians, on the other hand, usually work in outpatient settings, providing primary care to a diverse group of patients.

What does a Hospitalist do on a daily basis?

Hospitalists oversee the coordination of patient care from admission to discharge. They also manage patient admissions and discharges, coordinate patient care with other providers, document patient care details, and communicate with patients and their families.

What are the different types of Hospitalists?

There are several types of hospitalists, including general hospitalists, pediatric hospitalists, and OB/GYN hospitalists. The type of hospitalist a physician becomes depends on their specialty and area of interest.

Do Hospitalists perform surgeries?

Hospitalists do not typically perform surgeries. Instead, they coordinate with surgeons and other specialists who may be involved in a patient’s care.

How much do Hospitalists earn?

According to the Medical Group Management Association, the average starting salary for hospitalists in 2020 was $263,000. However, salaries can significantly increase with experience and additional certifications.

What skills are important for a Hospitalist?

Important skills for hospitalists include effective communication, extensive medical knowledge, efficient multi-tasking abilities, stamina, a collaborative mentality, and a personable bedside manner.

Is additional training or certification required to become a Hospitalist?

After completing a residency in internal medicine or family medicine, some physicians choose to complete an additional hospital medicine fellowship for further training. Additionally, physicians must become board certified in their specialty to ensure competence.

What are the advancement opportunities for Hospitalists?

Hospitalists have many opportunities for advancement, including taking on leadership positions, specializing in a certain area, or becoming an academic hospitalist. These paths allow hospitalists to expand their roles and influence over time.