Should You Do a Fellowship?

Should You Do a Fellowship

Should You Do a Fellowship?

Medical professionals are skilled at weighing the pros and cons of important decisions.

This decision-making ability comes in handy when it’s time to decide whether to embark upon a medical career or apply for a fellowship and continue training in a medical specialty. The ability to have more responsibility, practical experience, a deeper focus, and increased opportunities is attractive to many, but it isn’t for everyone. Completing a fellowship can offer specialized opportunities, a better pay scale, and more credibility – but is a significant time and energy commitment.

Doctors should ask themselves these important questions when deciding whether to pursue a fellowship:

Do I need more training to reach my goal?


If you want to practice general medicine, the answer is no. However, suppose you have an interest in forensic psychiatry, neurosurgery, or many other specialized fields. In that case, you’ll need more practical experience and exposure to subspecialties to figure out where your interests lie and how to best apply your skills. A fellowship is an excellent way to immerse yourself in your greatest area of medical interest.

Am I passionate about a specialty?


After 4 years of medical school and 3 to 7 years of residency, signing on for more training can seem daunting. Choosing an area of specialization (and hopefully securing a fellowship) is an enormous commitment. You will dedicate years—possibly even decades—to developing knowledge and skills in that area. Decide how committed you are before narrowing your focus.

Do I understand the role?


As a fellow, you will likely need to take on more responsibility very quickly. Are you comfortable with a leadership role? Many fellows cover for the attending physician. Consider completing a rotation in that specialty or subspecialty so you can truly understand the demands of the role and what your life would be like should you choose to pursue a fellowship.

How important is work-life balance?


Some specialties have no set hours. They require work at all hours of the day and night. How flexible and adaptable are you? Would you prefer to practice in various settings, or are you happiest with set hours and a set location for your work? Before pursuing a fellowship, make sure the specialty will provide the lifestyle you want or need.

Can I afford it?


Applying (and then interviewing) for a fellowship can be expensive, and fellows earn less money than doctors out of training. Committing to a fellowship means more years of practicing medicine at a lower pay scale, and if you’ve accrued considerable debt while pursuing your medical degree, paying back student loans will likely factor into your decision. However, the pay range for specialties is generally higher than for primary care, so that may tip the scale for you.

Are you considering a fellowship? Or a medical fellow looking for flexible opportunities in your field? 


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