Choosing the right specialty is easy right? Go to medical school, get decent grades, then start a residency in your field of interest. That’s all there is to it! WRONG! There are a few things that are never truly explained to premedical students, one of which is how to choose a specialty. Here are 3 things to consider when choosing your specialty.
- Do I like (and are you capable of doing) the bread and butter of the field? Many students are attracted to the “Sexy” parts of certain specialties. For example, in Pulmonary Medicine, everyone wants to do bronchoscopies and cool procedures. However, the bread and butter is COPD and Asthma. Yes, you do get a chance to do the cool stuff, but the majority of your time will be spent doing things that are probably less interesting to you. The first question you should ask yourself about any field is, “Do I like the bread and butter?”
- Are the attendings happy? Once you get in medical school, you will be exposed to residents and fellows more than attendings. Students often error in decided whether or not they like a specialty by evaluating the happiness of the young physicians who are still in training. Do NOT do this. Training is temporary. Yes, it might be a miserable 3-8 years (depending on how specialized you get) but your life as an attending (a doctor who has completed training) might be much different. Evaluate the life of the attending, not the trainee!
- How much money will you make. Yes I brought up the dollars! There is a somewhat asinine concept that permeates through medicine and encourages us not to think about money. “As long as you love what you do, it’s all worth it.” Well, tell that to Uncle Sam who will be asking you for his loan money back with interest. As a physician, you have spent a significant amount of time in training and taking on debt, while your age mates (who likely studied less than you and made lower grades than you) have been out making money and building wealth for several years. Loving your work is great, but that love in and of itself won’t pay back your loans, feed your children, or pay your mortgage. Remember, it’s the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil, not the money itself.
This about sums up how to choose your field of specialty. If you like the bread and butter, the money is right, and the attendings are happy, you’ll be a good fit. Certainly there are other things to consider such as are you good with your hands, and do you prefer to work with people or mostly alone, but three listed items above are a good guideline to get started.
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