So, you want to become a physician. Sounds great. But do you know which medical specialty you should choose? It is one of the most difficult decisions medical students make during their lives. There are a number of factors that have a significant impact on the selection of medical specialty. Your clinical interests, the experience you gained during clinical rotations, the duration of training, salary prospects and lifestyle considerations are the biggest factors that will help you decide which medical specialty to choose.
Some medical students are passionate about a particular medical field and have made the decision before applying to medical school. While others decide after completing clinical rotations and many are confused and unable to find the right medical specialty.
Whether you are a premedical student, currently studying in medical school or applying to the most competitive residencies, knowing how to choose the right medical specialty will help you make a well-informed decision. Here are a few important tips that will help prospective medical students choose the medical specialty and prepare them to make the right career choice.
Let’s get started.
Narrow Your Choices
With more than 60 medical specialties and subspecialties, choosing the one that best suits your personality and career goals is a challenge. Create a list of your preferred medical specialties based on your clinical strengths, skills and interests. It is advised to choose specialties that match with your personality and strengths.
For instance, if you are interested in psychiatry, you must have good listening skills and a lot of patience. Similarly, if you want to become a radiologist, you need to be a good observant to interpret CT scans, MRIs and X-rays. A pediatrician needs to be friendly in nature so that he can better interact with children and their parents.
You also get the opportunity to work in different hospital settings during your clinical years. Recognizing what you can enjoy most will help you make the right decision about your specialty. Understanding your strengths, personal traits and clinical skills will help you choose the best medical specialty and pursue a great career.
Find out Your Clinical Interests
It is one of the most important things that you should consider while choosing a medical specialty. When you complete your preclinical courses, you will observe some areas that are so intuitive and interest you more. Finding out topics or courses that you find most exciting and stimulating will help you understand which medical specialty would be the right choice for you. For instance, if you find physiology and pharmacology interesting, then choosing a career in anesthesiology would be a great choice.
Inpatient vs Outpatient Care
Okay, the next factor you should keep in mind while choosing the medical specialty is the type of patient care you want to offer. If you have a plan to practice clinically and create strong relationships with your patients, then you can go for outpatient care and choose from multiple medical specialties such as, primary care physician, gynecologist, psychiatrist, and more.
However, if you are interested in inpatient care and want to diagnose and treat patients, you can go for different career options such as orthopedic surgeon, pediatric surgeon, radiologist, endocrinologist, pathologist and more. When you choose inpatient care, you are supposed to perform different procedures such as, lab tests, X-rays, MRI, CT scans, endoscopy, mammography, dialysis and much more. Inpatient care also involves performing surgeries and delivering babies.
Surgical or Non-Surgical Options
Choosing a surgery specialty and becoming a surgeon is one of the most difficult tasks. However, if you have fine motor skills, high level of patience and excellent eye-hand coordination, you can choose the surgery specialty. Medical specialties that provide different surgery opportunities include urology, dermatology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, and anesthesiology.
You can also choose non-surgical specialties such as pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine, orthopedics, psychiatry and much more. You can also go for the specialty that involves surgical and non-surgical practices both.
Salary Prospects/Financial Goals
There is no denying the fact that some medical specialties have better career opportunities and higher salaries compared to others. Many medical students want to pay off student loans by choosing a medical specialty with higher salaries. Depending on the specialty, you can choose to become a private practitioner and earn a great deal of money. However, becoming a private practitioner may limit your chances of dealing with complex medical cases.
It is advised to work hard and prepare well for the USMLE Step 1 and 2, so that you can score impressive marks and become eligible for competitive residency programs. Plastic surgery, orthopedics, cardiology, radiology, dermatology, and ophthalmology are the highest paying medical specialties. Pursuing a medical career in these fields helps you fulfill your financial goals and pay off your loans.
Years of Training Involved
Medicine is a profession that involves long, tough years of education, residency training and on-the-job training. Physicians receive different types of on-the-job training to become well-trained specialties and provide excellent patient care. The type of specialty determines what form of professional training is required after graduation from medical school. Length of training is an important factor that has a great impact on your specialty choice.
Depending on the medical specialty, you need to complete 3 to 7 years of additional training and study to become a certified physician. For instance, in order to become a board-certified surgeon, you need seven years of additional surgical training in a particular subspecialty. If you want to pursue a career in dermatopathology, laser medicine or cosmetic surgery, you need to complete four years of residency training and two years of fellowship training.
Over to You
If you haven’t decided which medical specialty you want to pursue, it is the right time to figure out what type of doctor you want to be and make an educated decision. Medical students gain experiences throughout medical school, they gain exposure to different specialties during clinical years that help them make a well-informed decision. Keep the above-cited factors in mind when it comes to choosing the medical specialty. So, choose wisely and become an excellent physician.