Factors To Consider When Choosing a Medical Specialty

Factors To Consider When Choosing a Medical Specialty
  • Opening Intro -

    Medical students are exposed to several areas of general clinical practice during their third-year rotations.

    When it comes time to apply for a residency, the student should have a strong notion of what area of medicine they want to practice.


It’s not an easy decision, and there are several factors to consider when choosing a medical specialty.

People or Procedures

In your clinical rotations, be very observant about what areas you like and which you can’t stand. Much of the time, this comes down to how often you spend talking to and caring for patients compared to how much time you spend performing procedures. Your preference for getting to know patients or your greater liking for surgery may help you decide which specialty appeals to you more.

Job Market and Future Prospects

The ebb and flow of graduations, residencies, and retirements, as well as technical advances in medicine, can affect the supply and demand for certain medical specialists. Rural areas may have totally different needs than large urban medical centers. Look ahead and consider which specialties might be impacted by advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence and telemedicine.

If a patient in a remote area can get clinical advice from a top specialist in a city far away via telemedicine, will they need to consult a local practitioner?

Is there a possibility that the diseases or conditions your chosen specialty deals with will be cured or addressed through technical advances like genetic engineering?

Geography and Temperament

When you choose a medical specialty, you’re choosing how you will spend most of your time for the rest of your working life. Certain specialties demand long hours and are subject to such a high level of unpredictability that they leave little time to pursue recreational activities.

Another consideration is whether you like the personalities of the health care providers in the specialty you are considering. Certain personality types are more drawn to some specialties than others.

You’ll spend a lot of time with colleagues who adopt the same specialty as you, so think about your experience of how they’ve behaved thus far. Do they show a good sense of humor and a deep concern for their patients, or are they more fascinated by the intricacies of the procedures they perform?

You should also think about where you want to live. At the end of your residency, you may have the opportunity to make a geographic change, but you may not be able to make a change in your area of specialization without substantial retraining. Shadow professionals in areas you find interesting as much as you can, and make sure to do so early in your medical education.

other valuable tips:

You may gain exposure to specialties you hadn’t considered before, such as endocrinology, in which specialists help patients with hormonal disorders and diseases like diabetes or thyroid disorders, or otolaryngology, in which specialists treat disorders of the ears, nose, and throat.

Most medical schools provide resources for students that list factors to consider when choosing a medical specialty. Talk to faculty about why they chose their specialty and what they like about it to gain further insight.

Image Credit: choosing a medical specialty by envato.com

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