Deciding on a Specialty

Matthew Varacallo, MD | Amiethab Aiyer, MD

November 18, 2022

No matter whether you are just starting medical school or are making your way through your clinical rotations, the decision to commit to a given specialty is a difficult one. While some of you may have come into medical school knowing what career you want to pursue, this may change with various experiences during your time there. In today’s post, we will share some things that can help guide your decision making on which specialty to select

👀Keep an Open Mind

No matter what experiences you have had growing up or in college, give yourself the honest chance to explore all specialties. You may be pleasantly surprised at which fields pique your interests; whether due to various pathologies, procedural capabilities or the patient population; taking the time to shadow various clinicians can help you gauge which specialty sparks that feeling of passion

👩🏽‍🔬Take Time to Explore Research

Doing research in different fields is a great way to connect with potential mentors, but also get a better understanding of the more academic nuances of a given field. This will allow you to further delineate if a particular field is right for you. Research in general demonstrates your ability to think analytically, work in teams and complete projects; even if the research is outside of your ultimate field of choosing, this can still be beneficial (even for residency applications).

🙋🏾‍♂️Hands on vs Hands off

Some folks will gravitate towards working with their hands and others may not. It’s certainly worth taking the time to shadow some clinicians in surgical or office based procedural settings to identify if this is something you enjoy. If this is not for you, then no worries at all! You can make a difference in patient’s lives no matter what field you enter.


While everyone in medicine works extremely hard to care for the plethora of issues that exist, some specialties may be more lifestyle friendly than others. This is important to many for a variety of reasons and it is important to be honest with yourself when deciding on a given field.

👊🏽Find Your Passion

The best way to pick a specialty is to find one that makes you truly happy; this will enable you to stay engaged with your patients, with research and ultimately happy!

DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2022 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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