Other Specialties

For some students, one of the major draws of medicine is the chance to choose from a wide array of medical specialties. The opportunities to guide your career toward a very specific area of health care are considerable if you are willing to commit to the time and training required in medical school. The American Medical Association (AMA) has noted that all physicians must complete residency training in a particular specialty of medicine, and many practicing physicians do choose to specialize in a certain medical area.

More About Medical Specialties

The list of specialties available in health care is quite extensive. Ultimately, the specialty you select and the course of study you decide to pursue during medical school are largely dependent on your personal interests and skills. For example, those who love working with children may consider a career in pediatrics, while someone who works well under pressure could be suited for a career in emergency medicine. According to the National Resident Matching Program, the most frequently chosen medical specialties include emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery.

If you wish to learn more about the medical specialties listed on this website, or if you are interested in other specialties, review the listing included on the National Medical Specialty Society Websites page provided by the AMA. The website of the American Board of Medical Specialties also contains additional information on specialties you may wish to pursue.


Anesthesiologists are primarily interested in surgical patients and pain relief. Described by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) as a patient’s “advocate in the operating room,” anesthesiologists work in conjunction with other physicians and surgeons to help choose correct treatments before, during, and after surgery. Anesthesiologists monitor the vital statistics of a patient during surgery, including heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing, and they also help maintain those life functions. Their job is making vital judgments that help protect the person on the operating room table, and treating any difficulties that arise during surgery or in the recovery period. In addition to the important operating room role, an anesthesiologist can also be found helping patients in intensive care units and labor and delivery rooms, and assisting those suffering chronic pain.

Training for a Career in Anesthesiology

To enter this specialty, medical school students must spend four years each in college and a graduate doctoral program, and an additional four years in residency training. Fellowships in anesthesia subspecialties, research, or education take an additional year. The subspecialties available include critical care medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, and pain medicine.

In critical care medicine, anesthesiologists diagnose and treat injured and critically ill patients. They especially focus on trauma patients and those with multiple organ dysfunction. Physicians interested in hospice and palliative medicine strive to keep patients with life-limiting illness comfortable, maintain their quality of life as much as possible, and help address both the patient’s and the family’s needs during the dying and grievingprocess. In pain medicine, the anesthesiologist diagnoses and treats pain disorders and provides care to patients with acute, chronic, or cancer pain.

The American Board of Anesthesiology examines physicians who wish to become board certified in this field of medicine. The anesthesiologists who voluntarily apply for this certification must also have successfully completed an accredited anesthesiology training program in the United States.

For additional information about anesthesiology and some of the professional organizations related to this field, see the American Board of Anesthesiology website and the ASA website.

Cardiac and Vascular

Physicians interested in diagnosing, treating, and preventing problems in the heart and blood vessels are called cardiologists. They help patients with heart disease learn to live productive lives, and participate in treating heart attacks, heart failure, and problems with heart rhythm. Cardiologists are not surgeons, but many are trained to perform procedures such as cardiac catheterizations or putting in a pacemaker. (Cardiac surgeons perform the more major procedures such as bypass and open-heart surgery. Vascular surgeons work on blood vessels involved with, but outside, the heart, as well as with the lungs.)

Cardiology has a few subspecialties. All cardiologists, the Texas Heart Institute has explained, are clinical cardiologists who aim to diagnose, manage, and prevent cardiovascular disease. An interventional cardiologist performs noninvasive procedures such as angioplasty. Electrophysiologists diagnose and treat problematic heart rhythms; this is the fastest growing cardiology specialty, according to the Heart Rhythm Foundation. Pediatric cardiologists focus on infants or children.

Training for a Cardiology Career

Other Specialties

The training to become a cardiologist is extensive, and includes four years of medical school, three years of general internal medicine training, and three additional years of specialized training. Cardiologists may become certified in their specialty if they have completed a minimum of ten years of clinical and educational training and passed a two-day exam administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

To learn more about cardiology and about a professional organization supporting physicians and other health-care personnel in this field, visit the American College of Cardiology (ACC) website. The ACC is comprised of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals. It helps educate individuals interested in cardiology and supports cardiovascular research.

Critical Care

The history of critical care medicine dates back to Florence Nightingale and a recognized need to group patients with life-threatening illness or injury in specific areas of the hospital. Nightingale wrote about the advantages of this standard, and nurses have long reported that patients located closer to the nurses’ station receive better care. Dr. W. E. Dandy began the intensive care practice by opening a three-bed unit for postoperative neurosurgical patients in Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Since then, general exposure to critical care, or ICU, medicine has increased significantly. Northridge Hospital Medical Center in California stated that an estimated 80 percent of Americans will have either a friend or family member in critical care, or will be a critical care patient themselves, at some point in their lifetime.

Critical Care Has Changed the Practice of Medicine

In intensive care medicine, physicians work closely with multiple personnel, including highly trained nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and clergy. ICU care differs from more traditional hospital care because of the abundance of nurses for each seriously ill patient, and because the ICU utilizes specialized monitors that keep close tabs on a patient’s heartbeat, breathing, and blood pressure. Since the implementation of critical care procedures, the time patients with certain conditions spend in the hospital has been reduced significantly.

Northridge Hospital explains that a new physician specialty has stemmed from critical care medicine. Intensivists direct the care of seriously ill patients and collaborate with other health- care professionals when needed to ensure the best patient care possible. In medical school, students can choose from multiple medical specialties that have critical care subspecialties, such as pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, and anesthesiology. The American Board of Medical Specialties decided to certify physicians in critical care for these four primary specialties in 1986.

Emergency Medicine

Physicians practicing emergency medicine must be comfortable making decisions quickly. They are charged with taking appropriate action that can help prevent death or further serious injury to a patient who requires immediate help. They must be able to evaluate a situation, recognize a problem, and provide the care and stabilizing procedures necessary to address the situation correctly.

Is Emergency Medicine For You?

Following medical school, a physician’s residency training for emergency medicine lasts three years. Securing a spot in a residency program may not be easy, as this branch of medicine is quite competitive. Another one to two years is required to become certified in one of the field’s five subspecialties: hospice and palliative medicine, medical toxicology, pediatric emergency medicine, sports medicine, and undersea and hyperbaric medicine.

When deciding whether emergency medicine is the right specialty for you, it can be helpful to speak with physicians, as well as with medical students planning to go into the field. Differing opinions on a subject can help you better weigh the pros and cons of the specialty. Consider your personal characteristics, as well. Prospective emergency medicine physicians must be well-versed academically, as the patients they will see in an emergency room could present any number of medical problems. Students must also demonstrate resourcefulness, commitment, a strong work ethic, and an ability to work well with others.

Direct involvement is another helpful avenue to pursue when considering emergency medicine. The Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association (EMRA) suggests shadowing a physician, volunteering in a hospital, or even considering becoming an EMT. Once you have entered medical school, join an emergency medicine interest group if one is available. Regardless of the options available to you, the EMRA’s “Advice for High School and College Students Interested in Emergency Medicine” states that the chief way a prospective or current medical school student can make this decision “is to do continually more research and keep an open mind as you progress.”

Family Medicine

Family practice physicians are responsible for the total care of an individual and his or her family. To perform their work, these doctors require training in an extensive number of medical specialties, including psychiatry, pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and internal medicine. According to the American Medical Association, this discipline emphasizes primary care for families and prevention of illness or health problems through the use of consultations and other community resources.

The Family Physician Shortage

The United States health-care system is currently facing a lack of primary care physicians, which has negatively affected the health situation of many Americans. Statistics have shown, however, that a strong primary care system can be quite beneficial in terms of lower mortality rates, less frequent trips to the emergency room, and other important consequences. While other medical specialties limit a physician to a specific system of the body, family medicine is unique in that the physician can maintain a continuing relationship with his or her patients and provide comprehensive care as a first line of defense against illness.

If you decide family medicine is the right choice for you, expect to spend three years in residency training after medical school. Certification in a subspecialty like sports or sleep medicine, for example, will require an extra year. While some of these shorter fellowships are merely educational, there are others, called Certificates of Special Qualifications, that will earn a physician unique designations for their skills..Some of those subspecialties are adolescent medicine, and hospice and palliative medicine.

In other medical specialties with Certificates of Special Qualifications, physicians are not required to maintain their primary certification. Familyphysicians, however, must renew their certificates every ten years, as well as obtain recertification in family medicine every seven years.

Options for medical practice are perhaps most flexible for family practice physicians. Surveys have shown that family physicians work about 40 hours each week on patient-related tasks. Their schedules are often flexible enough to allow them the chance to pursue opportunities in research and education, or to craft their careers to best suit their passions and interests.

Internal Medicine

A physician who specializes in internal medicine has several names: “Doctor of Internal Medicine,” “internist,” and “general internist.” Internists do not perform operations, and they are not family physicians or general practitioners, both of whom deliver babies and treat children; instead, internists focus on preventing, finding, and treating adult illness. They work in hospitals, offices, and nursing homes, managing a patient’s care and often helping another doctor treat a patient. Occasionally, internists are called “The Doctor’s Doctor.”

The phrase “internal medicine” was actually coined from the German phrase “innere medizin,” which was used to describe physicians who combined laboratory science and patient care. American doctors who studied medicine in Germany brought the phrase back to the United States.

Is a Career in Internal Medicine Right for You?

If you like searching for the answer to a difficult health issue, internal medicine could be an appropriate specialty choice. Not only do internists work to diagnose difficult cases, but they must also help handle chronic illness and perform patient education to help others address a health problem or stay well in the first place. Many internists care for their patients for life.

The American College of Physicians has described an internist’s training as “both broad and deep.” An internist spends at least three years in medical school. If a physician wants to focus his or her work on a specific age group, or specific system of the body, there are multiple subspecialties to pursue. Some of these options include cardiovascular disease, critical care medicine, geriatrics, gastroenterology, rheumatology, sleep medicine, and sports medicine. Subspecialty training takes between one and three years after the general internal medicine residency.


Mammography is a branch of radiology, or the process of using X-ray images of the human body to help diagnose a medical problem. Those who help produce these images are called radiologic technologists and radiologic technicians; radiologic technicians are also sometimes referred to as radiographers.

A mammogram is an X-ray image of the breast. Used as a diagnostic tool, mammograms can detect a tumor before a woman or her health-care provider can feel the tumor themselves. Aside from being used as a screening tool for women who do not show any cancer symptoms, mammograms are also suggested for women with a high risk of developing cancer and for those who have symptoms of the disease.

A variety of medical school options are available to a person who chooses the field of mammography. Many programs help students earn a certificate or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in the field. Radiologic technologists can choose to be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Many states use an ARRT-administered exam for licensing purposes. Attaining this certification requires that a technologist graduate from an ARRT-approved, accredited program and pass a test. To maintain their certification, radiologic technologists must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years.

Is a Mammography Career Right for You?

In deciding whether mammography is the career for you, consider some of the traits that those in this field must possess. Technologists and technicians are often on their feet for long periods of time. While they may work at diagnostic machines, they may also be required to perform a procedure at a patient’s bedside, or to travel to other locations with their diagnostic equipment in a large van. Technologists and technicians typically work an average 40-hour week, but evening, weekend, or on-call hours could be necessary.

Employment of radiologic technologists is expected to grow at a faster than average rate for the 2008 – 2018 decade. The aging population has increased the need for diagnostic imaging, and the tool is frequently used as a means of monitoring the effectiveness of disease treatment. Technicians knowledgeable in more than one type of imaging, such as both mammography and magnetic resonance imaging, for example, are expected to have some of the best job prospects.


Neurologists diagnose and treat diseases that impede the function of the brain and spinal cord, and of the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels that relate to these structures. Neurologists can work with adults or can practice child neurology.

Medical Training for a Neurology Career

The training to become a neurologist requires four years in a residency program. Additional subspecialties require one to three more years of study. The subspecialty options include hospice and palliative medicine, pain medicine, vascular neurology, and neuromuscular medicine.

Like any medical specialty, the training to become a neurologist begins early. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) advises students to “make the most out of your classroom time.” Build your knowledge of neuroanatomy, as familiarity with pathways and how systems function is a key requirement for being successful in this field.

Remember that practice is important, too. “Quiz yourself on pathways until it becomes second nature,” the AAN suggests. Read about patient cases, put in extra time studying for board exams, and find other students who are interested in neurology to aid your learning process during college and medical school.

Helpful learning tools can be found outside the classroom. Finding a mentor can be a great step toward entering neurology. A mentor you trust — and who has similar interests to yours — can provide useful insights that will help guide your career. Don’t forget that shadowing a neurologist can be a highly effective way to learn what daily life as a neurologist could be like. Between your first and second years of preclinical training, consider assisting someone who is conducting a neuroscience research project to learn more about this aspect of neurology.


Nursing is the largest occupation in health care, employing more than two million individuals, and is one of ten professions expected to have the largest numbers of new jobs in the future, according to the Mayo Clinic. No matter the type of nurse, the American Nurses Association (ANA) says all are engaged in the work of providing “holistic, patient-focused care.” Since Florence Nightingale described the profession in the 1800s, the core mission of nursing has remained the same. Nurses are focused on the entire person — and the person’s family — not just on a specific health issue. The body’s response to a physical health difficulty may be rather straightforward, but an individual’s mental and emotional response to his or her circumstances can be much more variable and have just as powerful an effect on how well a person recovers from what ails them. “It is often said that physicians cure, and nurses care,” the ANA explains.

Nurses can have several professional designations. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) have completed a basic nursing course of 12 to 14 months in duration; they are not registered nurses. A Registered Nurse (RN) treats and teaches patients about their health conditions, records their medical histories and symptoms, administers medication, and helps provide emotional support to patients and their families. A Nurse Practitioner (NP), meanwhile, is an RN with advanced education and training who can also provide acute and preventive health care to patients. NPs complete graduate-level studies and earn a master’s degree.

Nursing Training

For someone desiring to become an RN, nursing school training can take three general forms: a four-year university education, a two-year associate degree program, or a three-year diploma program. Four-year programs train future nurses for the full range of responsibility they will face upon entering the workforce. Two-year programs offer an Associate Degree in Nursing to their successful graduates. Three-year diploma programs employ classroom and clinical instruction; this type of nursing education has declined significantly as nursing schools take increased charge of nursing instruction. Nurses who complete these shorter educational courses have a more restricted scope of duties they can perform.

Obstetrics and Gynecology

As specialists in women’s health, obstetricians and gynecologists help manage a woman’s general medical care, and also provide care for pregnancies, childbirth, and reproductive system issues. OB/GYNs work to treat and prevent disease, but their primary interests are in conditions specific to female anatomy, such as breast or cervical cancer. They are also able to provide surgical care for women who require those services, as well. OB/GYNs serve both as consulting physicians to other doctors and as primary physicians for women.

OB/GYN Career Path

Physicians spend four years in residency training to learn how to become an OB/GYN. The obstetrics and gynecology specialty has multiple subspecialties: critical care medicine, gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology/infertility, maternal and fetal medicine, and hospice and palliative medicine. Training for a subspecialty requires another one to three years’ time.

After a physician’s residency training is complete, he or she may choose to become certified by an organization such as the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Obtaining board certification requires that the doctor pass a written exam to demonstrate that he or she possesses the required skills and knowledge to provide the medical and surgical care women need. An oral exam is also administered by a panel of national experts who are interested in the physician’s medical experience, and who also conduct a review of the patients the physician has treated during the prior year. Physicians must be recertified after a specified period of time to maintain their certification status.

Obstetrics and gynecology offers considerable flexibility to the practicing physician. After their medical school years and additional educational requirements are complete, OB/GYNs will be prepared to care for young girls in their prepubertal years through women experiencing menopause. Physicians can combine on-call work and scheduled working hours, work solely in an office, join a large group practice, or add hospital work to their schedules, as well.

Obstetrics and Gynecology

As specialists in women’s health, obstetricians and gynecologists help manage a woman’s general medical care, and also provide care for pregnancies, childbirth, and reproductive system issues. OB/GYNs work to treat and prevent disease, but their primary interests are in conditions specific to female anatomy, such as breast or cervical cancer. They are also able to provide surgical care for women who require those services, as well. OB/GYNs serve both as consulting physicians to other doctors and as primary physicians for women.

OB/GYN Career Path

Physicians spend four years in residency training to learn how to become an OB/GYN. The obstetrics and gynecology specialty has multiple subspecialties: critical care medicine, gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology/infertility, maternal and fetal medicine, and hospice and palliative medicine. Training for a subspecialty requires another one to three years’ time.

After a physician’s residency training is complete, he or she may choose to become certified by an organization such as the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Obtaining board certification requires that the doctor pass a written exam to demonstrate that he or she possesses the required skills and knowledge to provide the medical and surgical care women need. An oral exam is also administered by a panel of national experts who are interested in the physician’s medical experience, and who also conduct a review of the patients the physician has treated during the prior year. Physicians must be recertified after a specified period of time to maintain their certification status.

Obstetrics and gynecology offers considerable flexibility to the practicing physician. After their medical school years and additional educational requirements are complete, OB/GYNs will be prepared to care for young girls in their prepubertal years through women experiencing menopause. Physicians can combine on-call work and scheduled working hours, work solely in an office, join a large group practice, or add hospital work to their schedules, as well.


For an individual who has been diagnosed with cancer, finding a qualified doctor is one of the most important first steps that can be taken toward treating this serious medical condition. If your career goals include learning how to diagnose and treat cancer, and becoming one of the valued team members a cancer patient requires, oncology could be the right specialty for you.

Oncologists fall into three categories. Medical oncologists use medicines like chemotherapy to treat cancer; radiation oncologists treat the disease using radiation; and surgical oncologists address cancer with surgical options. Oncology can be broken down further into subspecialties, including pediatric oncology and gynecological oncology. Doctors specializing in internal medicine can become medical oncologists; in this subspecialty, the physician manages and treats a patient’s cancer, or may refer the patient to another specialist for further assistance.

Oncology Career Training

The training to become an oncologist is extensive. Following four years each of college and medical school, prospective oncologists enter four to six years of specialized training. After residencies and fellowships are complete, those looking to specialize in a particular area of oncology take exams to become board certified.

Oncologists must possess several qualities to be successful in their field. Chief among those traits is being able to inspire confidence in your abilities and make patients feel comfortable with you as their physician. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) maintains that an oncologist is responsible for a patient’s care from the moment he or she receives a diagnosis throughout the duration of the disease. The physician must be able to provide top-notch care, communicate treatment options and specifics about cancer well, and work well as part of a team to provide a patient the best experience possible.


Ophthalmologists provide comprehensive eye and vision care for their patients. They are trained to diagnose and treat — medically or surgically — eye and vision disorders. As physicians, they can also treat adverse effects on the eyes caused by conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and other types of inflammation. The breadth of this discipline leaves a doctor considerable latitude in choosing how to direct his or her career. Additionally, the abundance of eye problems patients often experience can lead to a longstanding relationship between patients and their ophthalmologists.

Ophthalmology Training

Expect your time in medical school and residency training to be extensive if you choose ophthalmology as your specialty. These physicians are the only individuals trained and qualified to provide such extensive eye care. Those who want to become an ophthalmologist will spend four years in medical school and four to five years gaining more specialized experience.

As with other specialties, ophthalmologists can choose to become board certified at the conclusion of their training. This process helps verify that a physician meets a certain knowledge and skill level in his or her field and has the training necessary to provide the best care to patients. The American Board of Ophthalmology is one organization doctors can turn to for certification.

Rapid technological advances have pushed ophthalmology ahead of other surgical specialties in terms of “diagnostic and therapeutic precision,” according to theAmerican Academy of Ophthalmology. With these advances, the field has developed multiple subspecialties. For example, the cornea and external disease subspecialty provides a physician the chance to perform corneal transplants, treat problems involving the eyelid, and work with several other conditions. Doctors could also work in a newer subspecialty, cataract and refractive surgery, to surgically treat refractive problems in eyes. Glaucoma and pediatric ophthalmology, along with a few others, are also subspecialties.

For many ophthalmologists, the number of subspecialties available is just one of the draws of this field. Some appreciate the challenge of performing a difficult surgery, including microsurgery in and around the eye, and reconstructive and aesthetic facial surgery. The hand-eye coordination an ophthalmologist possesses must be among the most highly developed.


Pathologists perform important laboratory work related to the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Using a microscope to examine tissue specimens, body fluids, and cells, and with the assistance of laboratory tests, pathologists can help physicians make important decisions regarding a patient’s care. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) has written that more than 70 percent of the decisions physicians make are based on laboratory findings. “In fact,” the ASCP says, “the practice of modern medicine would be impossible without the tests performed in the laboratory.”

In patient care, pathologists are responsible for providing and interpreting accurate laboratory information, as well as for monitoring the results of medical therapies provided. The number of diagnostic tools that can be used in a medical setting is expanding rapidly, meaning physicians are relying on the help of skilled pathologists even more intensely to help them use lab results effectively. Ultimately, the pathologist’s goal is improved patient care; pathologists take special care to report directly to a physician when they find unusual or potentially life-threatening lab results.

Medical Training for a Career in Pathology

If you’re intrigued by the medical answers you could uncover in a laboratory, pathology may be a good career choice. To become a pathologist, you will need to successfully complete your four years of medical school. An additional three to four years of residency training is also necessary. Students can choose to combine anatomic and clinical pathology in a four-year program, or complete a three-year residency in either anatomy pathology or clinical pathology individually.

Pathology also has subspecialties that necessitate an additional year of training. The subspecialties include blood banking / transfusion medicine, chemical pathology, cytopathology, forensic pathology, medical microbiology, and others. Neuropathology is also a subspecialty in this field; it requires two years of extra education instead of one.


Pediatricians work with children from birth until the time they become young adults. They work both in preventive health care and in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Pediatrics is not simply the care of “small adults,” the American Board of Pediatrics has explained. Children are people who are growing and changing rapidly in terms of physical and mental development, and pediatricians must have an appreciation of that fact.

Pediatrics Medical Training

After completing medical school, a prospective pediatrician must successfully finish a three-year pediatric residency program. The residency includes time in general pediatrics, normal newborn care, and a subspecialty area. Some of the pediatric subspecialties are sports medicine, critical care medicine, cardiology, and adolescent medicine. Up to three additional years of training are required for certification in a subspecialty.

To further demonstrate their skills and knowledge, pediatricians can also choose to become board certified. Most are members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and are considered AAP Fellows.

In addition to practical skills and knowledge, pediatricians also have to understand that a child’s home and family life have a significant impact on his or her well-being. The pediatrician’s job includes encouraging a supportive home and family life with a child’s parents. Pediatricians may even extend their efforts to the community level to help improve the quality of child and adolescent health care.

According to the AAP, there is no other group of physicians that compares to pediatricians in terms of career satisfaction. In a 2006 survey, 95 percent of graduating pediatric residents focused on general practice reported that they would choose a pediatric residency again if given the opportunity to re-do their residency. The pediatric specialty generally boasts more flexible jobs than other specialties.


Phlebotomy is the process of using sterile practices to remove a volume of blood from a person’s body. The practice is used as a regular treatment for people who have too much iron in their blood or who produce too many red blood cells, for example. The procedure is performed by a health-care professional in a medical clinic.

Phlebotomists fall under the category of clinical laboratory technicians. They perform less complex laboratory tests and procedures, and generally work under the supervision of medical and clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers. Their medical school training makes phlebotomists specialists in a particular area of lab work.

Training for a Phlebotomy Career

To become certified as a phlebotomy technician by the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT), an individual has a few different options. The technician could spend a full year working as a part-time phlebotomist, work six months as a full-time phlebotomist, or obtain a letter or a signature on the membership application from a health-care supervisor attesting that responsibilities have included the regular procurement of blood specimens. Phlebotomists must complete an accredited phlebotomy training program, be current ASPT members, and have documentation of 100 successful venipunctures and 5 skin punctures. The National Phlebotomy Association also has a Phlebotomy certification process for phlebotomists.


In psychiatry, physicians specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and addictive problems, as well as other disorders such as sexual and gender identity issues, adjustment problems, and anxiety struggles. Psychiatrists are trained to understand the physical, social, and mental components of an illness, and are able to treat the whole person when there is a problem. Psychiatrists also order laboratory tests, prescribe medication when necessary, and help families who are struggling with stress and other crises.

Medical Training for a Career in Psychiatry

Following medical school, psychiatrists spend four years in residency training. Many residency programs allow for a more transitional first year of study to accommodate students who may need additional time making their specialty choice. A residency can also include time spent in general medical care, neurology, and emergency care, along with time spent studying psychiatry more extensively.

There are several subspecialties in psychiatry, including forensic psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, sleep medicine, and geriatric psychiatry. Subspecialty training takes up to two more years.

WebMD notes that there are some common misconceptions about psychiatrists, such as the idea that they only treat people with severe mental illness. In a clinic or hospital setting, a physician could see a number of trying mental health cases, but in a private-practice setting, many of the patients a psychiatrist sees will likely not be on medication. In the private-practice setting, however, there is an increasing trend of psychiatrists practicing medicine management more often. Frequently, other mental health providers conduct therapy sessions and then refer a patient to a psychiatrist for additional help if medication could be beneficial to that patient.

If psychiatry sounds like an interesting career option for you, consider some of the additional qualities a psychiatrist must possess. Empathy and sensitivity are two of the chief requirements for being successful in this profession. However, some may say the “art of psychiatry” is difficult to pin down. Some researchers have proposed that becoming skilled in relating to others is a lifelong process of continued practice and learning.


Radiologists use medical imaging procedures such as X-rays, ultrasound, electromagnetic radiation, and ionizing radiation to diagnose and treat disease. Doctors who practice radiology are either diagnostic radiologists or radiation oncologists. Depending on the needs of a patient, a radiologist can fill either a primary or consulting role in health care. Radiation oncologists are primary physicians. In other instances, a radiologist works in conjunction with another physician to help choose the correct examinations for a person, interpreting medical images and applying results to patient care. When needed, the radiologist can also recommend additional treatments and tests that may benefit a patient, and can direct a radiology technologist in the proper way to use medical equipment to conduct an examination.

Radiology Career Training

Because radiological procedures are medically prescribed, a physician must be highly qualified to perform this line of work. A radiologist’s extensive training includes radiation safety, and encompasses the information needed to perform radiological procedures and interpret medical images. After medical school and a residency training period of five years, radiologists often elect to become board certified by the American Board of Radiology or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology.Through board certification, a physician is further able to demonstrate the high level of knowledge and skills he or she has attained.

Some doctors choose to move directly into practice, while others pursue at least an additional year of training in one of the field’s subspecialties: neuroradiology, nuclear radiology, pediatric radiology, or vascular and interventional radiology.

There are a variety of personal qualities that can help a doctor be successful in radiology. Good communication skills will aid in interacting with patients and other physicians, and a measure of empathy and caring about others will help in dealing with patients who are ill or experiencing difficult circumstances.


Sonography is another term for ultrasonography, or the process of using high frequency sound waves to produce images of organs, tissue, and blood flow in the body. With a sonogram, or ultrasound, a physician can more easily detect and treat heart disease, heart attacks, or vascular disease. Sonography differs from the use of x-rays because it is radiation-free.

Sonography Career Training

With their medical school training, sonographers can learn to specialize in numerous areas of sonography. The technology is probably more commonly associated with obstetrics and gynecology, but it can also be used to examine the abdomen and breasts, and in echocardiography, neurosonology, vascular technology, and ophthalmology.

The time a student will spend learning to become a sonographer ranges from one to four years in length, depending on the type of educational recognition a student desires. The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography recommends that students pursue their education through a program recognized by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

There are several physical and personal characteristics a sonographer or vascular technologist should possess to be successful in this field, including the strength to regularly lift more than 50 pounds and to push, pull, bend, and stoop with their bodies. They should also be able to work while standing about 80 percent of the time. Compassion to interact with sick or injured patients and effective communication skills are also required.

Sonographers should have considerable career opportunities in the future as technological advances spur new ultrasound procedures. Additionally, an aging population and increases in outpatient care will generate new job opportunities in physician offices and clinics, as well as in diagnostic imaging centers. Hospitals, however, are expected to remain the primary employers of professionals in this specialty.


Surgeons are trained to diagnose and treat sick or injured patients. Once a patient is under anesthesia, surgeons use special tools to correct deformities or whatever problem a patient may be facing. Many surgeons choose to perform general surgery, focusing primarily on problems in the abdomen, but there are other prevalent specialties as well, including orthopedic surgery, neurological surgery, cardiovascular surgery, and plastic or reconstructive surgery.

A range of diagnostic techniques is available to surgeons as they attempt to determine a patient’s cause of illness or injury. Once the doctor knows the problem, he or she is then able to provide preoperative, operative, and postoperative care to the individual.

Training to Become a Surgeon

General surgeons are expected to be at least somewhat knowledgeable in other surgical specialties so that they are able to recognize other potential problems and refer a patient to another appropriate surgical specialist if necessary. Once a prospective general surgeon finishes medical school, he or she can expect to spend five years in general surgery residency and up to two years of additional training to practice in a subspecialty area.

Surgery has a number of specialties. Hand surgeons repair structures of the hand or wrist. In hospice and palliative medicine, physicians attempt to prevent and relieve the pain of individuals with serious illnesses. Pediatric surgeons specialize in surgery for premature and newborn infants, children, and adolescents. Physicians in surgical critical care work with critically ill and postoperative patients, especially trauma victims and patients with multiple organ dysfunction. Vascular surgeons, with some exceptions, specialize in problems with blood vessels.

According to the American College of Surgeons, “Surgeons are trained, not born.” However, there are some qualities a good prospective surgeon should possess. Strong intellect, attention to detail, perseverance, and creativity are quite important. Surgeons also need to be reflective; considering the effects of your medical judgments on others will eventually improve your surgical choices in the future. It will be up to you to lead your medical team, so you will also have to be comfortable in a leadership position, motivating others to work together with you for the best outcome of the patient. The process of becoming a successful surgeon is a lifelong one.

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