Career decisions should consist of

  • Consideration of all specialty options - there are over 60 specialties, each with subspecialties
  • Your interests outside of work
  • Whether you want opportunities for academic and/or management activities
  • Availability of full or part time work now or in the future
  • Location - rural, inner city, community, district general hospital, teaching hospital etc
  • Your family, dependents' and/or partner's career aspirations and priorities
  • Desired organisation size
  • Desired team size
  • YOU! Your priorities, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, skills etc
  • Recognition of external forces that may influence your decisions
  • Long term consequences of any decisions you make

Resources to help you make career decisions

A fantastic introduction to career decision-making is set out in Houghton A. No such thing as a wrong career. BMJ Careers. 2007; 334: 208-9.

Matching personality type to career is not a diagnostic resource but will help you to appreciate that personality traits will influence which specialties may be appropriate for you. After completing Matching personality type to career think about why the results are such, reflect on the personality type it has ‘labelled’ you as and reflect on the appropriateness of that.
Think about your traits and priorities while opening your mind to the plethora of specialties out there by completing Sci-59

A similar tool to Sci-59 is the medical specialty aptitude test (MSAT). However you must remember this is an American tool and thus its validity in the UK is not confirmed. However, MSAT and Sci-59 may be beneficial if they help you to think about what you want and the answers to important career decision-making questions and if it helps to broaden your views on potential specialties. Try MSAT here

The Modernising Medical Careers website contains a short piece written by Prof Shelly Heard to give advice on Choosing your hospital specialty

BMA Careers Services website contains information for BMA members on the correct processes to undertake when deciding upon their ideal specialty.

 The University of London Careers department present SORTIT you have to register (free) to use the site but then it stores your results for future review. Go to the “Option Generating” tab to use various resources to help to highlight the options available to you. The “Researching and exploring” tab will challenge you to think about how much you know about each of your options. Finally the “Taking decision” tab will help you to understand how you make decisions and give you ways of choosing between options.

Find out as much as you can about each choice. Visit Specialty Information 

De Souza B. Choosing your specialty foundation training. BMJ Careers. 2007; 334: 172-3.

Make sure you are eligible for a particular specialty/grade otherwise your application will be a waste of time. Person specifications can be found here

Check out the competition. You can access competition ratios for training posts on deanery websites. Don’t forget to consider that competition ratios are dynamic and change from year to year. Competition ratios can help you gain an impression of the popularity of the specialty however they are a reflection of the past situation and do not give you any indication on the strength of your application compared to other applicants. 

If you are contemplating a number of career options, use Weighing up your options to help you to decide which may be the most appropriate option for you.

If you have not used it already now refer to Elton C, Reid J. The ROADS to success. Postgraduate Deanery for Kent, Surrey and Sussex; 2007, to help you to make informed career decisions that have considered your current and desired situation carefully and realistically.

Going it alone when rating your strengths and weaknesses and choosing a suitable career can be tricky and inaccurate. To have help in really getting to know yourself, to make decisions and to be challenged on your decisions, talk your self-assessments, completed resources and ideas over with someone you trust to be honest, trustworthy and insightful.