As you enter medical school, you have a wide range of options before you. Should you decide to study hematology, musculoskeletal oncology, or pediatric cardiology? Maybe neurology? While a few people know exactly what they want to do from the very start, most students wrestle with the choice of which field to specialize in.
Keep an open mind as you advance through your studies. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Report on Residents in 2017, most students change their idea of what they wish to specialize in—often multiple times—during med school. The speciality field that turns out to be the best fit for you may be one you never considered when starting out.
One word of caution: be wary of making your choice based on the desire to be like that one ‘medical hero’ you look up to. Regardless of what field you choose, that person’s success will always be there as a source of inspiration.
Here are some key considerations that med students should walk through as they determine the best field for them. Gaining clarity on these points may help you narrow down your options.
Answering these key questions often gives students a better sense of what career path to follow.
No matter how much you love the idea of a particular speciality, ask yourself if you have the specific skill set that will make you adept in that role.
Assess your greatest strengths as well as your weaknesses. You may want to create two lists for easy reference as you consider options for your career path.
“While this sounds somewhat trite – we have all seen individuals that love the ‘idea’ of a specialty, but early on it is clear that they do not have some of the basic natural talents, no matter how assiduously they study and master the content,” Dr Rob Smythe, an international acclaimed surgeon and current chief executive of SomaLogic, told US News.
Ask yourself whether you’re up for the fierce competition in certain fields, too — and be sure to have a backup in case things don’t quite work out with your first choice.
Med students often wonder what specialties best suit their individual personality. The following questions might help you make that call.
Compensation should play a more minor role in your decision rather than being a deciding factor. Most medical fields provide a high level of compensation — after all, you’ll need to pay off those student debts. At the end of the day, other factors will have a far greater influence over your quality of life.
After narrowing down the options to two or three specialities, it’s common for med students to feel the pressure to make the final call. Making the final choice can feel rushed, no matter how much research they put in, and, at the end of the day, more than one field might suit perfectly well.
Making this choice is one of the biggest challenges students experience in med school, and after making it, they often feel a sense of relief and clarity — though it’s also extremely common to experience uncertainty and imposter syndrome as they step into their chosen career! Remember that your peers are feeling the same things, and so did nearly every physician who has ever entered the medical profession.