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Choosing a Medical Specialty

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Choosing a medical specialty is a career-defining decision. AMA provides medical students the necessary information to simplify the use of resources in choosing a specialty.

How to Choose a Medical Specialty

Explore "Choosing a Specialty: An AMA Resource for Medical Students" (PDF, members only) for highlights on specialties/subspecialties, Match data and career statistics.

Follow these steps to choose a specialty, and learn what needs to be done during medical school to enter the training program of your choice.

Guidance From Specialty Program Data

Specialty program data can show the competitiveness of admissions to certain residencies. Statistics, such as the desired USMLE® Step 1 score for an interview, can also help guide studies during medical school.

Gain insight into:

  • How to choose a specialty and when
  • How competitive the admission to each specialty’s residency is
  • The residency application timeline
  • The daily challenges faced in each specialty
  • What the residency work environment and compensation are like
  • The additional career paths available
  • Data that provides the number of 1st-year graduate applicants in 2014 by specialty*

*Data from 2014 NRMP Main Residency Match

Make sure to research all specialties of interest and begin early, relying on specialty program data for guidance and staying up to date on medical school and residency news.

Research Specialties and Begin Early

  • Use career guides to explore the specialties. Look for guides with facts and figures related to work-life balance, such as salary and vacation days.
  • Join special-interest clubs or organizations at school.
  • Contact physicians in specialties of interest and ask to shadow them.
  • Read the AMA Wire® "Shadow Me" Specialty Series to see how physicians spend their days and handle the most challenging aspects of patient care.
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