Medical Doctor (General Practitioner)

Few relationships require as much emotional and physical intimacy as the relationship between doctor and patient. Doctors are licensed practitioners of the science of medicine.

The duties of general medical practitioners include the examination and diagnosis of patients, the prescription of medicines, performing of minor operations and provision of different treatments for injuries, diseases and other ailments. Medical practitioners (doctors) are licensed practitioners of medicine.

General practitioners diagnose and treat diseases and injuries and perform an important function in looking after the well-being of the community. Thorough knowledge of diseases and their symptoms is required for diagnoses and treatment. Medical doctors first compile clinical histories of their patients before making diagnoses. They make use of several techniques and different apparatus in the examination of patients, for example blood pressure gauges, X-rays and stethoscopes, in order to form an image of the disease or injury.

It is important that all factors be taken into consideration by general practitioners before a diagnosis is made. Treatment can be medical, surgical and therapeutic. They may prescribe medication or refer the patient to a specialist, for further diagnosis and special treatment. General practitioners may perform small operations or assist surgeons with big operations.

Medical students can opt to specialise after or during their internship year and their choices include the following:

Clinical Medicine Physicians:

  • Anaesthetist - anaesthetics during surgery
  • Cardiologist - heart problems and surgery
  • Dermatologist - skin problems
  • Endocrinologist - glands and blood
  • Gastroenterologist - stomach & intestine problems
  • Geriatrician - elderly people
  • Hepatologist - liver specialist
  • Internist - specialist physician
  • Nephrologist - kidney specialist
  • Neurologist - brain, spinal cord and nerve specialist
  • Orthopaedic Surgeon - bones
  • Orthodontist - dental surgeon - teeth and jaws
  • Ophthalmologist - eye specialist
  • Paediatrician - child specialist
  • Psychiatrist - mental problems
  • Pulmonologist- respiratory system
  • Radiation Oncologist - radiation for cancer
  • Rheumatologist - rheumatism specialist
Laboratory Medicine Physicians:
  • Anatomical Pathologist
  • General Pathologist
  • Haematological Pathologist
  • Medical Biochemist
  • Medical Microbiologist
  • Neuropathologist
  • Pathologist - diagnose disease
  • Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeon
  • General Surgeon
  • Gynaecologist
  • Neurosurgeon
  • Obstetrician
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Otolaryngologist
  • Plastic Surgeon
  • Thoracic Surgeon
  • Urologist

Personal Requirements

  • strong desire to serve the sick and injured
  • sincere and pleasant personality
  • emotionally stable
  • able to make decisions in emergencies
  • aptitude for science and mathematics
  • willing to study to keep up with medical advances
  • physical stamina to work long and irregular hours

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science 
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Degree: The Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree is offered at Wits, UP, UKZN, UCT, UFS, UL, US.

  • Theoretical training: 6 years.
  • Student internship: 1 year.
  • Community Service: 1 year
Students register with the Interim National Medical and Dental Council of SA as medical students and, on completion of their training, as medical doctors.

There are several fields of specialisation, such as orthopaedics, gynaecology, paediatrics, etc. Usually medical doctors must already be in possession of a MBChB degree for 2 years and be registered as medical doctors for 1 year, before they can specialise. Further training in these specialised areas takes about 4 years after which an examination is written in order to qualify as a specialist.


  • training hospitals and universities
  • research laboratories
  • hospitals, clinics and nursing homes
  • government departments and municipalities
  • large industries and organisations
  • large resort hotels, ships and other places where large groups of people gather
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can open private practice

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Medical and Dental Schools
University of the Witwatersrand
2 Jan Smuts Ave
Tel: (011) 717-2000

Getting Started

  • do voluntary work for a health care facility
  • try to obtain part-time or voluntary work at a hospital, nursing home or other health care facility
  • do first aid courses with such organisations as St John’s Ambulance

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Study Medicine at Stellenbosch University

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