Being a doctor is one of the noblest professions in the world. However, there’s a dearth of physicians on a global scale, and the world needs more physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
In the United States, deficiencies will likely reach 122,000 by 2032, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), owing to an increasingly aging population. A continuous spike in chronic diseases contributes to these shortages, too.
Taking queue from these concerns, below are the most in-demand specialties medical students should consider before becoming a full-fledged physician.
- Internal Medicine
An internist manages the treatment of various diseases of the body. Human beings have complex systems that interact with each other. That’s why there are multiple subcategories within this specialization. These include the following:
- Cardiology (cardiovascular system: heart and blood vessels)
- Immunology (immune system)
- Pulmonology (respiratory system: lungs and other organs that help in breathing)
- Endocrinology (endocrine system: glands, hormones)
- Gastroenterology (digestive system: gastrointestinal tract, liver, gallbladder, pancreas)
- Hematology (blood, bone marrow, vascular system, lymphatic system)
- Rheumatology (musculoskeletal system, joints, bones)
- Oncology (cancer)
- Infectious diseases
To be able to practice legally, you’d need to pass the licensure exams. Additionally, to be board certified in internal medicine and its subspecialties, you’d need to pass the American Board for Internal Medicine exam.
With heart diseases becoming one of the world’s major causes of death, it pays to specialize in cardiology and become a cardiologist. Another subspecialty to consider is geriatric medicine, that is, if you want to become a physician who focuses on promoting the health of older adults. Before taking the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam, a physician must become a certified internist or practice family medicine for a number of years.
- Emergency Medicine
Professionals who choose this specialization are among the highest paid in the medical field. As the term implies, emergency medical doctors need to think on their feet to deal with patients who need immediate and critical care. Physicians who practice emergency medicine should be confident about their swift decisions as delays may lead to deaths.
As with other licenses for healthcare workers, you need to undergo training and education, as well as gain clinical skills and a state license in order to practice. Additionally, an emergency physician needs to renew accreditation every 10 years.
- Psychiatric Medicine
A psychiatrist provides treatment for persons suffering from mental illness or those with mental health issues. These medical professionals are one of the highest-paid physicians in the field. Psychiatrists are generally expected to earn a median annual salary of around $234,000.
There is an increasing need for psychiatrists. A 2019 study conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that 41 states in the US reported severe deficiencies in psychiatrists for children and adolescents. According to the study, there are only 1-17 psychiatrists for every 100,000 children. With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, this need may have increased, considering the impact of movement restrictions and infection-related anxieties in individuals of all ages.
Practicing psychiatric medicine entails obtaining the needed accreditations and clinical residency. After completing all the medical education requirements, a would-be psychiatrist must earn a certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
- Family Medicine
Often confused with internists, family medicine practitioners also study the different systems and diseases of the human body. What sets them apart from internal medicine doctors is that they can provide health care services to all members of the family. However, they work as primary care physicians, meaning they only practice general medicine. Hence, they refer patients to doctors with specializations, if needed.
Because of the nature of their work, it requires them less time before starting their practice. And financially, they earn less than the others. It’s believed that the demand for primary care doctors will continue to increase, including those who practice family medicine.
This branch of medicine deals with utilizing images to support the diagnosis and treatment of specific injuries and diseases. Radiologists are said to enjoy one of the highest salaries in the medical field.
Chronic diseases often need skilled radiologists to check on the progress of most health problems, triggering a spike in demand for these professionals. A radiology residency program is needed, along with state certification, in order to start a career as a radiologist.
- Pediatric Medicine
If you love children, being a pediatrician might suit you best. As a physician for the younger population, your focus in pediatric medicine will be on treating diseases and injuries affecting children, babies, and adolescents. These doctors diagnose and offer treatment for kids with various health problems and refer them to other doctors, as needed. A pediatrician also has the option to pick a subspecialty, just like an internist.
There are many factors to be considered in choosing the best specialization as you plan to kickstart your medical career. As the world grapples with physician shortages, it’s up to you to decide which specialty is badly needed in the current setting in your area. Compensation aside, make sure to choose a career path that provides happiness and self-fulfillment more than anything else.