Becoming a doctor is an admirable decision. It’s a rewarding career - but one that comes with great responsibility and lots of important decisions. But one of the biggest determinations to make before starting a career is deciding, "What kind of doctor should I be?"
A lot of factors should go into that decision. Below are five aspects to consider as you contemplate which specialty to enter and make your career.
More than anyone else, you know what most interests you and why. Think about your encounters with health care throughout your life. Maybe you, a friend or a loved one had an illness and received treatment during your childhood. Did a doctor inspire you to make a similar impact or motivate you to do it differently if you ever had the opportunity?
Or perhaps there’s an aspect to your studies that you’ve gravitated toward over time.
Also, consider the amount of administrative responsibilities - like paperwork - a specialty may require in addition to actively practicing medicine. This can vary depending on specialty and practice type, but it’s something that can affect your enjoyment of the profession.
Take stock of everything you’ve learned and were exposed to during your rotations. Which tasks are you eager to do? Which ones do you wish you could avoid? And what responsibilities inspire you to dive deeper and learn more? Use your experiences to really consider what type of practice most interests you.
As you consider potential specialties of interest, use tools like the American Medical Association’s FREIDA’s Specialty Guide. It highlights major specialties, details training information and provides information on related associations.
Choosing your specialty is a time for contemplative, honest thought. You may have a connection to an area of practice. You may have a deep-seated desire to practice it. But at the end of the day, do you have the skillset - or do you have the access and ability to obtain the necessary skillset - to enter that specialty? Practicing medicine means helping others to the best of your ability. An honest, clear-eyed self-assessment and conferring with a mentor can help your decision today set you up for success tomorrow.
What type of interests do you have in life? Are there certain amenities or activities you seek that would influence where you want to live and practice? Consider what would make you happy outside the office - and what activities, schools or career opportunities are available to any family members moving with you.
Money may also be a contributing or even driving factor. Organizations like the Medical Group Management Association and American Medical Group Association, or reports from online publishing sites like Medscape, provide physician compensation reports based on survey responses. Money shouldn’t be the sole motivating factor, but these resources can help you better understand how much you may earn and budget expenses like student loan payments.
While physician shortages are predicted overall well into the future, some specialties are often more challenging to fill than others. Sources like PracticeLink’s physician recruitment index can help you understand which specialties are most in demand and the hardest to recruit.
According to Medscape’s physician report, 78% of respondents said they’d choose medicine again, including up to 96% in some specialties. By doing your due diligence and considering your true interests, you can ensure you’ll feel the same way about the specialty you choose.