Most U.S. medical students choose to obtain residency training in a single specialty field and obtain a training position in that specialty field through a residency matching process during the final year of medical school. Your required clinical experiences throughout medical school, particularly third-year clerkships, are likely to provide you with some exposure to a wide range of specialties. However, there are well over 20 separate specialties from which you can choose for residency training, and there are at least 17 additional combined specialty fields with residency training programs that offer joint training in two or three specialties.

Therefore, you will definitely NOT have clerkship experiences in every specialty which you could consider for residency training. However, you will probably be most likely to choose a specialty which will give you long-term career satisfaction IF YOU ARE FULLY AWARE OF ALL THE OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO YOU for your postgraduate residency training.

The Graduate Medical Education Directory

There are many additional residency training positions available in other specialties (ie, nuclear medicine, aerospace medicine, occupational medicine). The Graduate Medical Education Directory, published annually by the American Medical Association, is the single best reference for a comprehensive listing of every residency position in graduate medical education accredited by the Accreditation Council in Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). You generally must receive your residency training in an ACGME-approved residency training program in order to be eligible for board certification in the specialty. This reference book also provides valuable information regarding the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), medical specialty board certification requirements and medical licensure requirements.

Subspecialty Training

Many physicians choose to obtain advanced subspecialty training after completing a residency in their primary field. Subspecialty training usually involves one or more years of fellowship training. Physicians completing subspecialty training may be eligible for subspecialty board certification or special certification in the field of subspecialty. All advanced specialty training program accredited by the ACGME are also listed in the Graduate Medical Education Directory.

As you review the specialty information for each of the 20 major specialties which you can enter directly from medical school, you will notice that there are often several different routes of specialty training which can be taken prior to pursuing advanced subspecialty training in a given field. For example, advanced subspecialty training in critical care medicine is available for physicians who have completed categorical/advanced residency training in either anesthesiology or internal medicine and surgical critical care subspecialty fellowships are available to physicians who have completed categorical/advanced residency training in general surgery.