5 Poorly Considered Factors When Choosing a Medical Specialty

Posted by:

5 Poorly Considered Factors When Choosing a Medical Specialty

There is a great deal to consider when choosing a medical specialty. Though some medical students may claim to have known what they wanted to be since they were young, the vast majority of students will not make a final decision regarding their specialty until they are well into their medical school curriculum. Some may even face the end of their internships without a clear direction. With that said, there are issues you may not even be aware of, that could potentially alter your decision making process.

1 – Competition

Depending on your ranking within your medical school class you may be a very strong candidate for whatever you choose to specialize in. However, since there are only a few students at the top of their class, it is more likely that you are somewhere in the middle of the pack. Certain specialties only admit the top 10% of medical school graduates. It is important that you realistically evaluate where you rank in your class and choose a specialty where your chances are high of gaining admission into a quality program.

2 – Training Time

Considering the time that is required to complete a training program is often not realistically considered when choosing a specialty. For example, the younger medical school graduate may have grandiose ideas of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon, but the extensive time that is required for the general surgery residency and additional cardiovascular surgical fellowship, may be too long for an older student. The young female medical student, with the desire to start a family, may dream of being a pediatric ophthalmologist, but the required amount of time to completely meet the training requirements in this subspecialty may be so long that her additional life goals may be compromised.

3 – Financial Opportunities

By the time most students complete medical school, the amount of debt that has been amassed is quite significant. The ability to pay educational debt, while living a comfortable life, is not always an option for some of the lower-paying disciplines, such as family practice and internal medicine. The big picture view is a necessity when considering the reimbursement scale of a specific specialty.

4 – Status

Though most physicians hold a high level of status in their own general communities, the hierarchy between individual specialists is still very much a reality. With surgical sub-specialists leading the status pack, choosing to be a family practitioner can leave you feeling like “the low man on the totem pole.” If your desire is to lead among other leaders, a surgical sub-specialty should seriously be considered.

5 – ON-CALL Schedule

Some specialties are very on-site call intensive (i.e. surgery, anesthesiology, OBGYN). In addition, other specialties (i.e. family practice, internal medicine, psychiatry) are off-site call intensive (i.e. many calls can be handled from home). At the same time, some specialties rarely have calls at all (i.e. dermatology, pathology, radiology). You will need to evaluate how much you want to be disturbed by calls outside of your normal business hours.


Each specialty has its own particular set of positives and negatives. It is important that you evaluate what is most important to you, as a physician, and base your decisions on the factors at the top of your list.


About the Author:

  Related Posts

Add a Comment