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While some students begin medical school with a well-conceived idea of the specialty they’ll pursue, only about one quarter of a medical school cohort stick with this choice throughout medical school.1 This means, conversely, about three quarters of a medical school cohort either have no idea of the specialty they'll pursue upon matriculation or end up changing their mind during medical school. In fact, several studies have shown that as many as 70 percent of a cohort will change their mind during medical school.2 

Regardless of your thoughts about your future specialty and physician career, CiM offers a structured, organized approach to evaluating specialties and making career decisions.

CiM follows a four-step career-planning process grounded in the theory of person-environment fit (previously, Parsons’ trait and factor theory), which shares similar or equivalent concepts with other theories (e.g., person-organization fit, person-job fit) prominently recognized across academic fields (e.g., industrial and organizational psychology, public administration). As such, it is widely recognized across fields that individuals who fit their field, work setting/environment, and other related factors are more happy and satisfied and, thus, more engaged, productive, or high-performing.

Because the goal is fit, CiM employed the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach (more info here, here, and here), an approach used widely across higher education, and adapted it for the medical field. The CiM four-phase career planning model is to be used as a framework for guiding physicians-in-training through the career exploration process to identify their fit and ultimately land in their next phase of training and, eventually, practice.

In following this model, CiM provides tools and information that help students consider their personal attributes and preferences alongside their career options to make effective decisions about their specialty and residency. Below are a short description of as well as a few highlighted tools and resources for each phase.

Understand Yourself

In this, the first phase, CiM provides self-assessment activities and exercises to help students understand their interests, values, skills, and personality. These tools help students learn more about themselves and their goals for their physician career as well as narrow the list of specialties to those that might be a good fit.

Explore Options

This phase helps students explore specialty options and practice settings. CiM offers a starting point for learning about medical specialties by providing information and data on residency program requirements, competitiveness, workforce, compensation, and links to more information for each specialty. Following this initial career exploration, students are encouraged to narrow their specialty options, conduct in-depth research, and gain experience through rotations and electives in the specialties they’re considering.

Choose Your Specialty

The third phase helps students integrate what they’ve learned about themselves and specialties to make a realistic specialty decision that meets their educational and career goals. CiM provides advice and reflections to help students determine their best fit.

Prepare for Residency

This phase helps students transition to residency by providing students the information they need to apply to and secure residency training.

CiM provides information on scheduling rotations, applying to residency programs, writing CVs and personal statements, securing letters of recommendation, interviewing, and other relevant topics. Our Residency Preference Exercise (RPE) allows students to identify criteria important to them in their residency training, search for programs, and rate programs based on their personal criteria.

  1. Report on Residents. Association of American Medical Colleges. Table A1. Continuity of Specialty Preference on the Matriculating Student Questionnaire and the 2021 Graduation Questionnaire.

  2. Kazerooni, EA; Blane, CE; Schlesinger, AE; Vydarney, KH. Medical students' attitudes toward radiology; comparison of matriculating and graduating student. Academic Radiology. 8/1/1997. 4(8). 601-607.