One of the most important decisions you will make during medical school is which specialty to choose. This can be a very daunting decision process as many medical students are not exposed to the full extent of many of the medical specialties that are available. Additionally, the exposure that they have during medical school may not be an accurate reflection of the reality of the specialty practice. What you choose will affect your career far down the line, so you need to think carefully about where you want to be in the future. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. In general, this is a life-long decision that a medical student must make with limited exposure and information on all the specialties. But, here are a few tips on how to figure out which medical specialization is right for you.
Choose a specialty unlikely to be replaced.
Like any other industry, there are some jobs that are cheaper to replace than pay people to do. Physicians are expensive to pay, and if a practice wants to cut costs, they may decide to replace a job with a less expensive provider or technology that’s equally able to get the job done. Advancing technology and artificial intelligence are both affecting the medical field drastically in places like radiology, pathology, and cardiology, which will impact whether a practice will choose to hire a physician or just install technology to do the job. When you’re choosing a medical specialty, you need to keep all of this in mind—is your potential job likely to be replaced with a less costly alternative?
Find a specialty not dependent on a few procedures or diseases.
Medicine is changing rapidly—genetic, pharmaceutical, and immunotherapy interventions are changing the way patients are treated every day. These advancements can solve problems sooner rather than later, but they can also impact the way physicians practice their work. Narrowing the scope of your work to a small number of procedures or diseases limits what you can do as a physician and is risky when you’re looking for jobs out of med school. Is specializing in a few specific procedures or diseases worth the limited job potential?
Make sure you like everything about the specialty.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of certain procedures or interesting cases. These sorts of things can catch your interest and draw your attention to a certain specialty. However, if you’re going to specialize in a field, make sure you like everything about it—not everything you do is going to be interesting. If you want to be a surgeon, you’ll have to be okay with all types of surgeries and intense lifestyle, not just ones that catch your attention.
Ultimately, what specialization you choose is up to you. If you’re truly passionate about a certain field, you should go for it. However, make sure to use your head as well as your heart when making a choice. You need to consider the practicality of a specialization in addition to your passion for it. Healthcare is constantly changing—make sure what’s right for you now will continue to be right for you years down the line.