Choosing a Specialty with Careers in Medicine®

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Only about one quarter (27%) of medical students stick with their original preferred medical field or specialty throughout medical school.1 And roughly three quarters of graduates report pursuing a field or specialty they experienced during medical school. 

Regardless of where you are in considering your physician career, you probably want to start the residency application and match process feeling well-informed and confident rather than anxious and questioning your decisions.  

Here are a few tips and helpful resources from the AAMC Careers in Medicine® (CiM) program: 


  • Be proactive and start early. Waiting adds pressure and stress, but, in the end, you’ll be glad to have had as much time as possible. What’s more, considering specialty and practice options early helps you prepare effectively for the residency application process. 
    Read about what’s involved in researching and evaluating specialties and more about why to get started early in med school 

  • Reflect on who you are and what you want for your career and lifestyle. The more honed your vision of your future, the easier it is to determine where you fit in medicine.  
    Start your self-reflection by taking CiM career tests (i.e., assessments) tailored for medical students, focusing first on the ones that measure your interests (MSPI) and your values (PVIPS)

  • Take a look at CiM’s specialty profiles to see the breadth of specialty options. With more than 160 medical specialties and limited exposure during medical school, there are so many more career options than you can imagine.  


  • Rush to decide on a specialty as quickly as possible. This approach often causes students to backtrack later, for a whiplash-like (and ineffective) experience. 

  • Wait for fate to reveal your specialty to you. There is no specialty fairy to bop you on the head. This too-relaxed approach can leave you feeling like you’re not in control. 

  • Attempt to game the system by trying to mirror the residency applicants who eventually entered your preferred field or specialty. Focus your efforts instead on becoming the best medical student, colleague, and future physician you can be, which will best poise you for success. 

1 Report on Residents. Association of American Medical Colleges. Table A1. Continuity of Specialty Preference on the Matriculating Student Questionnaire and the 2021 Graduation Questionnaire. 

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