Choosing a Specialty with Careers in Medicine®

With more than 120 specialty and sub-specialty options to choose from, how do you select something you’ll be happy with for the rest of your professional life?
Portrait Of Male Doctor In Emergency Room

There's no magic formula for decision making. Finding a good fit entails exploring who you are and what you want for your life, then identifying the career options that will support those goals. Keep in mind there may be several specialties that will provide you career satisfaction.

During your first year, focus on making a successful transition into medical school and mastering the material. This is also the time to begin building relationships with mentors and advisors, so they know you well and can best support you as you explore specialties and apply for residency.

The summer between your first and second year is a valuable time to explore specialties or bolster your research experience in a specialty you're already considering. Then, carve out some time during your second year to participate in specialty interest groups and physician panels organized by your school. It’s also a good idea to conduct informational interviews with physicians in a range of specialties (especially those you won’t experience firsthand during your clinical rotations).

As you begin clinical rotations, use this Clinical Evaluation Worksheet to assist you in gathering your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on each specialty as a possible career choice for you. As you compile information about your clinical experiences, the evaluations will help you see what additional information you may need and how you fit—or don't—with each specialty.

Factors to consider when evaluating a specialty include the tasks and activities involved, patient populations and medical conditions encountered, length of training, practice settings, and earning potential. Through the AAMC's Careers in Medicine®, you also have access to several self-assessments that will help you identify specialties and practice options that fit with your unique interests, values, personality, and skills.

With all the information you’ll have gathered about yourself and your options, you should be well equipped to choose your specialty with confidence.

Making the Decision

As you ponder your specialty decision, you’ll need to figure out if you’re competitive for the options on the top of your list.

Electives and Make-up Courses

Did you know that the AAMC can help you secure an away rotation or global health experience?

Research and Training Opportunities

Looking for ways to enrich your medical school experience? Check out our directories of clinical, research and public health opportunities.

Clinical Rotation Evaluation

What did you like most about the specialty? What did you like least? Use this worksheet to record your experiences.