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Choosing Your Specialty

Finding Your Fit

During the first two years of medical school there are many opportunities to help you begin to explore the many career options available to you. It will be important to begin, early, the process of identifying what you like (and don’t like) most about medicine (e.g. continuity of care, working with your hands, deep problem-solving, high paced environment, team approach).

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Introduction to the Specialties

The Road to Residency program begins with an introduction to the specialties. During the fall semester of the first year, we host panels of physicians representing each of the most common specialties. These physicians provide an overview of their work, typical expectations, (eventual) compensation possibilities, etc. Each panel concludes with a Q & A.

The Undifferentiated Medical Student (TUMS) is a top-ranked Medicine podcast in iTunes (free) about choosing a medical specialty and planning a career in medicine. There are a lot of specialties (120+) to choose from. The purpose of the TUMS podcast is to help med students learn the talking points of all the specialties and to empower them to start exploring their career options early and on their own.

AAMC's Careers In Medicine

Choosing a specialty should be an intentional and well-researched process. The best place to begin the process is the AAMC’s Careers in Medicine Website. This tool encourages a four-step process: Understanding Yourself; Exploring Options; Choosing a Specialty and Landing a Residency. Each step of the process is supported by multiple resources. Have a look by logging in with your AAMC ID and Password (same as you used for MCAT and AMCAS).

Student Organizations and Interest Groups

A great way to learn more about medical specialties is to attend career-related student organization meetings. Because ultimate career decisions aren’t made until late in the third year (and sometimes even into fourth year), you have time to explore multiple options, and attending many different interest group meetings is a great start! Visit this list of clubs and organizations.

Summer Experience

The summer between first and second year provides a great opportunity to learn more about specialties. Many of the clinical departments at Upstate offer structured and less-structured experiences for students. Keep your eyes and ears open to learn more about these opportunities.

Personality Types and Specialties

Maybe you have no idea what kind of specialty in which you’re interested. No worries, you’re not alone! Many students begin the exploration process by taking personality tests to evaluate fit with particular fields. Here are few to try:

Start Building Your CV Now!

It is never too early, during your medical school career, to start to build your Curriculum Vitae (CV). Different than a resume, a CV is academic in nature and follows a less stringent, though perhaps more focused, format. It is imperative that you begin to document your involvements, experiences and accomplishments right out of the gate. This early investment of time will make the residency application process easier as you will already be prepared to provide information to interviewers that is timely and complete. There are many resources to help you in the construction of your CV.

  • CV Section of this Website. Here you will find “how to” information as well as examples from previous Upstate students.
  • AAMC’s Careers in Medicine. Yes, you guessed it, we recommend this site yet again. Here you’ll find great information about categories to include in your CV and sample documents.

USMLE Step 1 Prep

The Step 1 Board Exam is the first in a series of cumulative tests taken by medical students and residents. A day-long exam, Step 1 has multiple one-hour sections that cover the preclinical education of medical school. Upstate students consistently have done well on Step 1. While studying for this exam is important, it should not compete with the study time dedicated to courses. There is adequate time to study between the end of year two and the beginning of third year. The Road to Residency Program provides guidance to second year students readying for this exam. We host panel discussions with students who recently completed the boards, and we provide study strategies and schedules to help students navigate the process to ensure success.