Choosing which specialty you’ll take is one of the biggest and most important decisions that you have to make. Some students already have their career trajectory in mind the moment they entered medical school while others still flinch when asked about it during their internship. Nevertheless, it’s all a decision that you have to do which will potentially make or break your medical career.
The question is, how can you make sure that the medical specialty you’re choosing is the right one? Do you just leave it all up to your Match results? How can you even know that you have the ability to pursue that specialty? Here are some of the things to consider when choosing your own medical specialty.
Before anything else, you have to ask yourself what you want as a medical specialty. Envision your career the way you dreamt about getting into medical school while you’re in high school or college. Do you have a personal history that might push you into choosing a certain specialty? What about clinical interests? Are there specific specialties that you don’t want to pursue? By starting with the things that you want for your career path, you will be able to roughly see what you want to be your future in the medical field.
Then start with what you need. Here, you have to dive a little deeper and focus on the personal things that matter to you and the people around you. Consider your lifestyle and financial aspects. Is there a necessity for you to start earning right away or can you spare more time for possible additional training? Also, think about the skillset that you need to obtain and practice your specialty. Do a little self-assessment whether it’s something that you can learn along the way or if it’s an innate trait.
It’s hard to choose a specific specialty when you’re looking at a long list. Start your decision-making process by choosing between surgical or non-surgical specialties. Narrow it out and then eliminate the specialties that you know you don’t want to pursue.
Keep tabs of your options. It’s better to do this early on so you can keep the list as short as possible without forcing yourself to eliminate everything but one. You can even up this process by taking note of what you want to do versus what you can do. It will make things easier for you to see your options that you want to do and at the same time, have the skillset or attitude needed to do it.
Start with the requirements for your specialty interest. This way, you’ll check in with the reality of what specialties are an option. If you’re about to take the Medical Licensing Examination, research about the minimum scores that you need to get for that specific specialty and how much higher you need to be to survive the competition.
But if you’re well into your residency and you still have second thoughts about your specialty, dabbing into a little bit of everything will help you a lot. Take advantage of the medical and surgical experiences that you go through. By exploring different kinds of specialties, you’ll allow yourself to get a better grasp of which parts of medicine you enjoy and are passionate about.
Consider the specifics of your chosen field like day-to-day activities. These things are often overlooked because medical students and professionals would make a choice of their specialty based on the interesting and exciting parts of it. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get unique cases every day, so you have to love even the most grueling tasks.
It’s nice to daydream about lots of things but choosing the right medical specialty for you means choosing the one where you will thrive and succeed not only in the medical field but in the aspects of reality. Think of it as a lifelong career strategy.
So you need to choose a specialty where you will have a stable job at a location that you like with your desired marginal return. It’s no secret that the academic road to be a medical professional is an expensive one and you need to have a proper salary that could reimburse that cost and more.
Choose a specialty that has a high demand but low supply. This not only will help you land and keep a job, but it will also make your compensation flexible to increase. Salary is not only tied to productivity but to the rule of supply and demand as well. Hospitals would pay more if the supply of specific medical professionals they are looking for is scarce.
When it comes to practice, location is important. Do you plan to work in an urban or rural setting? Is it going to be in a state hospital or in a private clinic? You have to know how saturated a specialty is in a certain market. Generally, you need to be more flexible in moving when your specialty is more specific than others and most of the time, practicing in a large city is the best option for it.
There are a lot of factors that can help you decide on what specialty is the right one for you but the most disservice you can do to yourself and to your medical career is to not be honest. Don’t choose a specialization just because your intern friend is choosing the same or your parents are forcing you to do so. Being stuck in a field that you don’t want to practice limits your medical capabilities.
Above all, dedication to medicine is the most important no matter which specialization you’ll practice in especially when there’s no absolute time to choose one. Some do it early on and some will realize it later than others. What saves you from choosing what you feel like a wrong specialty is your dedication to becoming a great doctor.