Should You Pursue Fellowship? 5 Things To Consider Before Applying

Should You Pursue Fellowship? 5 Things To Consider Before Applying

Jun 11, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

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Surviving your residency is no easy feat. For some, the three to seven years of residency is sufficient enough for them to thrive on their own medical careers. To others, it’s one milestone achieved before they pursue a post-residency training. Making this decision is not easy and for most, the additional pressure and responsibility are daunting.

Pursuing fellowship means gaining medical independence and at the same time, responsibility. You get to practice your own style and way of medicine, but you’ll have to fully take the responsibility of treating your patients. So should you pursue a fellowship? Here are five things to consider before applying:

1. Consider your personal lifestyle

A lot of medical professionals willing to pursue fellowship fail to consider the demands of it. The accomplishment of surviving through residency might lead you to think “this couldn’t be worse” then dive straight into fellowship applications.

While confidence and self-assurance are good things, but you shouldn’t overlook your personal lifestyle. Know the demands of pursuing fellowship when it comes to time and how will it fit with your family and your personal life. This is important especially when you start out because everything in your life must be flexible enough to accommodate the additional responsibilities of going through a fellowship.

The dedication needed in pursuing one is even higher than you might expect. There will be a lot of instances where set hours don’t matter — you’ll come to the hospital whenever you’re needed.

Another thing that you should consider is your location and your future income. If you plan to practice in a quiet rural town, it could be difficult for you to use your subspecialty training rather than living and practicing in a big city. Taking a fellowship should financially make sense too. While it’s generally true that your salary increases when you’re a specialist, it still depends on the presented opportunity. The return from the financial costs and effort for years of additional training should be beneficial for you and your family.

2. Think about your medical goals

From your career perspective, will taking a fellowship help you advance your goals when it comes to your specialty? Or will it lead you away from it?

Not everyone realizes the huge difference between being a resident and being a fellow when it comes to medical responsibilities. If your medical goal is to work in a primary care clinic or you’re already satisfied with your job as a resident, a fellowship program might draw you away from that.

Pursuing a fellowship means digging deeper on the academic side of medicine. You have to make a personal differentiation between your current medical practice to academic medicine for you to check if a fellowship program will help you advance your medical career for better patient care.

3. Determine your passion

As you complete your specialization during residency, you should already have a complete grasp of your field. Asking yourself if you’re ready to give up other practices in your specialization is always a good basis when thinking about pursuing a fellowship. Determine where your passion lies and where your skills perform the best.

Taking a fellowship will make sense if you have the passion and the drive to hone your skills on what you really want to do. The experience of it will definitely be harder than residency so you have to make sure that you spend your fellowship on something where your passion and your skills match.

4. Analyze the current and future responsibilities

Taking up further medical education means that you are also progressively increasing the responsibility you’re taking. It’s important that you not only think about your responsibilities to your patients but to the hospital as well.

It’s highly important that you consider your future responsibilities as a fellow and more so, as an attending. Compare it to your current responsibilities and evaluate yourself on the way you handle it. Are you willing to challenge yourself by adding more medical and academic duties? If so, will you still be able to perform efficiently?

Finding a mentor during your years of residency will make all the difference. Talk to your colleagues and seniors about the responsibilities of being a fellow for you to properly gauge and prepare yourself for it.

5. Competition during fellowship match

Someone will always try to tell you that the fellowship match is incredibly competitive and applying for it needs a dedicated amount of luck. Considering that the number of applicants to fellowship has tripled the last decade, intense competition for a fellowship spot is expected but it shouldn’t deter you away from it.

What most residents don’t realize until they get their match results for fellowship is that applications for it start at the very first year of your medical training. With an increasingly competitive field, you have to build out your resume with experience, research, publications, leadership and project positions, and more. That starts early on in your career.

Get yourself an early start if you think that there’s a slight possibility of you wanting a fellowship position in the future. Express your interest to your supervisors. That way, they’ll be able to help you with your elective and in the last year of your residency. Build your connections with people who might point you in the right direction.

So before you apply, assess yourself if you’ve done enough to match with your desired program or at least level the playing field when it comes to competition.

While pursuing a fellowship is not required, a lot of medical professionals take this career path because of the unprecedented satisfaction of getting in and being able to finish it. The medical career is a long one and not everyone is at the same pace. That is important to remember when you’re considering and applying for a fellowship. The hard work and level of competition are enough to make anyone buckle especially if they don’t know what they’re getting into.

It’s always crucial to remember that regardless of your application results, there will always be another option waiting for you. Either you go through the match process again or continue to work as a general practitioner. Nevertheless, fellowship is not for the faint of heart which is why here at, finding the best program for you will always be the top priority.