When Jada started medical school, she knew she wanted to be a pediatrician.

A doctor holding up a stethoscope in front of a school bus

She absolutely loved working with kids and knew itwas the kind of doctor she wanted to be. But when she applied for residency, she decided to become a dermatologist instead.

Jada's story isn't unique — almost half of medical students change their specialty during medical school.

So how do you choose a specialty that aligns with your personality traits and professional needs?


All medical specialties will require you to collaborate in a healthcare team and interact with patients, but some specialties fit people who are more sociable.

If you like to work independently:

  • Pathologists can spend hours viewing different specimens under a microscope in order to diagnose a particular disease.

  • Radiologists often work in "dark spaces" to precisely examine diagnostic imaging (X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, mammograms, etc).

  • Anesthesiologists deliver special medications that prevent patients from feeling pain. Patients usually only interact with anesthesiologists for a few minutes prior to surgery.

If you like to be around people:

Family Practice and Psychiatry are great choices for doctors who love to interact and help other people. Doctors in these fields must have deeply personal conversations with their patients to help guide their care. Two doctors high-fiving at an office desk.


Dani was highly active in team sports and clubs during college. She also worked at her college's student help center. Which specialty would fit her personality?

Stress Tolerance

Doctors make life-and-death choices for patients, so it's important to know how calm you can be under pressure.

A person wearing a medical mask looking stressed Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Flaticon Icon Emergency Medicine Physicians treat urgent medical conditions and have to make important decisions in the spur of the moment. The environment can be stressful if you have difficulty making critical decisions in a timely manner.

Flaticon Icon Dermatologists diagnose and treat skin diseases in individuals. They often describe their job as low-stress, because they can thoroughly explain various treatment options to their patients before beginning a regimen.

Flaticon Icon Obstetric Physicians provide medical care to expecting moms and help deliver their babies. Since no two births are ever the same, you might want to choose another specialty if you prefer a more predictable environment.

Flaticon Icon Oncologists provide cancer care and treatment. Before treatment, patients and oncologists carefully deliberate which course of action to choose. The discourse can be really helpful to alleviate stress for both the patient and the doctor.


Ren is good at thinking on their feet. What specialties might they be good at?

Work-Life Balance

Rocks balancing on a shore Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

All physicians agree that it's important to balance work and home life, but your definition of "balance" might be different from others.

Flaticon Icon Surgeons perform operations on patients and are some of the highest paid doctors. Their hours can be very long and many surgeons work weekends and holidays.

Flaticon Icon Neurologists treat and manage disorders related to the brain and spinal cord. They're frequently on call at hospitals to provide consultation or treat patients' unique needs.

Flaticon Icon Nephrologists focus on the diagnoses and treatment of the kidneys. They work long shifts and spend a lot of time completing administrative work.

Flaticon Icon Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat eye diseases. Once they complete their training, they usually have normal work hours to allow for a flexible lifestyle.

Flaticon Icon Orthopedic Physicians specialize in injuries of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, ligaments, nerves, and tendons). They describe their job as rewarding and the hours to be more predictable than other professions.


Which career should you pursue if you prefer 9-5 work hours?

Take Action

A doctor in full scrubs giving a thumbs up Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Before choosing your medical specialty, be sure to do thorough research and be honest with yourself about your personality.

Regardless of what type of physician you chose to be, always remember to have the patient's best interest at heart and engage in shared decision making.

After all, no one knows their body better than the patient and no one knows medicine like you, the professional.

Ask yourself:


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