Deciding on a specialty is an incredibly important decision that each medical student must make before they graduate. And for most people, the choice can be incredibly difficult. There are nearly two dozen options to choose from, and a short 3 years to decide what do with the rest of your life. So what factors should you consider and how should you prepare so you aren’t scrambling last minute with your decision?
M1: This is the most time you’ll have in all of medical school (besides 4th year), so start early! Explore, shadow, and gain experience in various specialties you may be interested in. In particular, consider the specialties that you don’t get much exposure to during medical school, such as radiation oncology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, surgical subspecialties, etc. Towards the middle of the year, pick the most competitive specialty you are interested in and find a research mentor to work with during the summer and beyond. This is important – you’ll establish a source of mentorship and advice, and boost your CV a bit. And if you decide to go into a less competitive specialty later, you still have the option to do so.
M2: You’ll be pretty busy this year, so put the specialty search on hold for now. Instead, focus on doing well on Step 1 – you’ll keep all your options open with a good score.
M3: Time to explore most of most of the specialties in depth during your clinical rotations. Try to schedule the rotations you are interested in early, so you can make a decision earlier. In my experience, 3rd year rotations are not long enough to truly decide if you love a specialty, but more than enough time to decide you don’t like it. For each rotation, consider the daily schedule, the patient population served, the work-life balance, and other qualities important to you – and find the one that suits you the best.