There is an ever-growing list of medical specialties for physicians to focus on after they’ve completed their education. For those who don’t know, your specialty is the branch of medicine that you practice. Some common examples include cardiology, pediatrics, anesthesiology, and dermatology. What practice area you choose will have a major effect on almost every aspect of your future career, from your earning potential to your work-life balance. That’s why it’s so important to do your research and make a carefully considered decision. If you’re still on the fence, keep reading for some tips for choosing which medical specialty to study.
How should you choose a medical specialty to study?
Though you won’t formally choose your specialty until near the end of your education, you should start thinking about it early. Pay attention to what subjects interest you in high school and college, as well as what classes you excel in. If you work with college application advisors when applying to your degree program, you can even ask about how to best prepare for a career in a specific practice area. A trained college application counselor will have years of experience that can give you an edge during the admissions process.
Many people choose their specialty based on personal history. A student who watched a family member go through the stages of Alzheimer’s may want to pursue a career in neurology. The experience of being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, particularly when your loved one’s cognitive function begins to decline, can make a significant impact on you. The experience can also shape your goals and inspire you to push for progress so other people don’t have to go through the same thing in the future.
It’s also important to be practical and look at the realities of the job market. Some specialties are in higher demand than others, and it’s necessary for aspiring doctors to think about where they want to practice and how quickly they can expect to get a job. Your performance in medical school will also affect your options. Students who want to be surgeons will need to perform well in relevant coursework and on their USMLE if they want to match into a surgical specialty after graduation.
What else should you know about pursuing a career in medicine?
It isn’t easy to be a health care worker, and your career will likely involve dealing with a number of unique stressors. The long hours and challenging, detail-oriented work can often result in sleep deprivation for medical students, residents, and practicing physicians. Though there have been additional regulations placed on mandatory multi-day shifts and the number of time residents can spend at the hospital without a break, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Anyone who struggles with their sleep should talk to their health care provider about possible solutions as soon as possible.
Identifying effective stress management techniques is also essential for anyone who works in health care. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing stress, but there are some simple activities and lifestyle modifications you can try, even if they’re simple. Research has indicated that spending 20 minutes interacting with nature can cause a noticeable reduction in levels of cortisol, which is a stress-producing hormone. Putting together the perfect routine may take some trial and error, but it’s worth the effort.
Establishing a career in medicine is incredibly difficult and requires a strong educational background and years of pre-professional training. Though you won’t formally select a specialty until near the end of your schooling, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what you want to do as soon as you’re sure you want to pursue a medical career. Your personal experiences, academic interests, and professional goals will all inform your decision. Having a general idea of the type of medicine you want to practice will help you make a plan for both medical school and your future career.