During the frenzied days of medical school, internship and residency, newly minted doctors must also decide their careers by choosing a specialty. It can feel like running an obstacle course while blind-folded. With limited knowledge, doctors must choose a direction of training that will dictate their entire professional careers. We wondered if years later, physicians were still happy with early career choices.
Our latest poll shows that 74 percent of physicians are happy with their choice and would choose it all over again. For those physicians who would choose a different path, 16 percent would change for lifestyle reasons and 10 percent would switch for clinical reasons.
The Top and Bottom by Specialty
The specialties who are most happy with their choices are:
- Orthopedics 87%
- Oncology 86%
- Psychiatry 86%
Of this group, 75 percent of oncologists say they enjoy their specialty (the highest rating available) and orthopedists are right behind at 71 percent. Psychiatrists were a little less enthusiastic, 59 percent say they love their specialty and 27 percent say they’d still choose it but wish they had more knowledge.
The specialties who were the least happy are:
- OB/GYN 59%
- Internal medicine 60%
- Family medicine 62%
29 percent of OB/GYNs said lifestyle factors would lead them to choose another area. Internal medicine and family medicine cited dissatisfaction with lifestyle 25 and 23 percent of the time respectively.
The range for choosing a specialty over again vary from a low of 59 percent to a high of 87 percent (see chart), a big swing by specialty and the biggest reason citing for selecting a different road was lifestyle.
How Can We Help Young Doctors Decide Their Path?
Overall the vetting process during the training years seems to work well for most. A large majority, 74 percent, would choose their specialty over again. That suggests physician candidates are receiving good information and being steered properly by mentors.
However, some young physicians admit to choosing a path other than their preferred specialty because of financial concerns with longer training periods. Since the average physician enters the workforce with just over $300,000 in debt, they have a right to be concerned. Others shy away from less lucrative salaries into specialties known for making more money. The salary range by specialty can vary from about $150,000 per year up to $450,000 per year, a significant difference over an average career of 36 years.
As a physician were you happy with the choices you made early in your career? What do you wish you knew that would have helped you make an informed decision? What advice would you give to someone in medical school today who is interested in your specialty? We will be discussing this in detail inside our physician community, if you’re an M.D. or D.O. please join us.