Career exploration – getting started
Some doctors know their specialty before
they’ve even started university. For the vast majority, however,
choosing a particular field requires a far more complex decision
making process. Deciding on which area you want your medical career
to focus should involve a considerable amount of research. You
might be attracted to some aspects of a specialty, but find aspects
like working hours or the types of patients you are likely to
encounter less appealing.
The choice of your specialty is a decision
which is going to affect the rest of your career, so thorough
research is critical. Don’t rely on preconceptions. Before opting
for a particular area you should have a considerable knowledge not
just of the specialty, but the environment in which you’ll be
working and the patients you’ll be treating.
So which areas should you be focusing on?
The nature of the work
- What systems, diseases and patients will you predominantly be
- Is there a lot of variety in the work, or does it tend to focus
on very singular specialised problems?
- What are your shift patterns likely to be, and how often will
you be working out of hours?
- Are there particular ethical issues you will be dealing
Who you’ll be working with
- Will you be regularly working with consultants, GPs, allied
health professionals or other members of the clinical team?
- Are your potential colleagues a fairly homogenous group with
similar interests and values – and do these match your own?
- What kind of relationships do the health professionals in this
area have with their patients?
- Can you easily imagine working harmoniously with these
- Does the training required fit in with your skills and
- How long will the training typically last?
- How competitive is this option?
- Will your academic qualifications and clinical experience
enable you to realistically compete?
- Is this field of medicine likely to change substantially in the
next few years?
- What research questions are being studied?
- How might technology impact on this specialty?
Planning your research
The key is to create a well-rounded picture of
the environment in which you’ll be working, and think carefully
about whether you can see yourself excelling on that career path.
It’s quite natural to have a preconceived idea of what a certain
area might be like. But don’t make a decision on this basis without
further investigation. It would be unwise to limit yourself and
rule out options unnecessarily, and you might be surprised at what
some areas have to offer.
You may want to begin your career exploration
activities by visiting our Specialty
pages or continue in this section, Researching
your options to find out other ways of learning about
specialties and your possible future medical career.