How to choose a Medical Specialty: 5 Steps to Clarity.

In my most recent blog post I wrote about the best point of time when to choose a specialty:

The earlier, the better.

You will have a great advantage in your future career if you start preparing for your specialty while studying.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

That is easier said than done. These five steps will help you make up your mind:

Step 1: Use your internships wisely:

Most internships are rather short and last only 2-4 weeks. This time is so valuable! Even if you know for sure you are not going into that particular specialty, you can profit a lot.

Use my FREE START GUIDE to be prepared for any internship. That way, you get to spend most of that time doing what a doctor in that specific field does. You get the opportunity to see and feel whether this is your future field. The rest of the time you should observe the doctors to decide, whether you want to end up in his shoes.


Step 2: Talk to different doctors of your favorite specialties.

When facing a question, it’s always good to ask someone, who already came up with a solution. So ask them:
  •      Why did they decide for their field?
  •      Is the reality like they expected?
  •      Would they do it again? Why?
  •      What qualities and talents are essential to succeed in this specialty?
  •      Do they have freetime? Is the pay OK?

Step 3: Do the strengthsfinders test:

Find out what you are good at, spend the most time of your career doing these things, and you will do great!
Unfortunately the results of the test don’t say: Urology or pediatrics. But they do give us certain clues.

Is your strength profile more towards empathic strengths? That would point me to a specialty with a lot of patient contact. (Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Internal medicine) Analytical could mean that you are good at diagnosing (Pathology, Radiology, Internal Medicine).

Probably no test result will exclude one specialty and the results shouldn’t be overemphasized in this decision. The specialties in itself vary a lot and so do the required talents. But you should definitely take the test, no question there.


Step  4: Think.

Remember the reasons why you decided go into medical school? Was it

  • …because you just like to help and be with people?
  • …because you like to solve puzzles?
  • …because you are manually gifted?
  • …interested in science or research?

Look for specialties where you can put these talents and activities to practice.

Step 5: Remember: This is not a wedding.

You can always change your decision again. I know colleagues who changed their specialty during residency and they did just fine.  It’s not like you sign a contract to be a radiologist. It only is a decision for you that gives you the opportunity to focus and prepare yourself for your career. If you realize later that you don’t like to spend all day in the darkness looking at black and white pictures, and actually like to talk to people from time to time, you can always change your mind. No harm done.

If  one choice is too big a step for you, start by narrowing it down to two or three speacialties and put your focus on that.

Question: What are the specialties you think about going into? Please leave a comment below!



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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