Career Decisions/Pathway to Residency

You have already made your most significant career decision by entering medical school. However, within medicine lie many diverse areas of medical practice and research. Although you will not have to choose amongst these fields until the beginning of fourth year, you may wish to begin the process of career exploration early in your medical studies.

The Office of Student Affairs sponsors many career decision- making activities within the Specialty Advising, Guidance and Exploration (SAGE) program. These activities include lunchtime conferences and presentations by career specialty interest groups, career workshops offered during third year, Career Specialty Fair offered in January of each year, and the Careers in Medicine program administered through the AAMC. The major purpose of these activities is to provide you with a framework for thinking through the important issues in selecting a career path that is a good fit for you personally and academically. The programs will also help to inform you on what it is like to practice within a given specialty.

Careers in Medicine (CiM)

CiM is a career planning program designed to help you choose a medical specialty and select and apply to a residency program.   This four-phase process will guide you through the elements of career planning, including self-understanding, exploring a variety of medical careers, and finally choosing a specialty to meet your career objectives. People whose choice of careers matches their values, skills and interests tend to be more satisfied and successful in their working lives. This is also true of selecting a specialty.

While some students begin medical school knowing what specialty they will pursue, many students change their mind several times.  For others, the idea of choosing a specialty seems far off. CiM offers you a structured program designed to help you think systematically about your options.

As you work through the CiM program, you'll gain the tools to make an informed decision, based on guided self-reflection and the information you'll gather about the many career options available to you. CiM uses a four-phase career development model:

Understanding Yourself - Conducting an honest self-assessment is the foundation for the whole process and critical to making good career decisions. You need to understand who you are and what is important to you. The more you understand yourself, the better prepared you will be to successfully navigate this process, make a good decision, and be satisfied and successful in your career as a physician. The resources and exercises provided in the "Understanding Yourself" section will help you accomplish these goals.

Exploring Options - Learning more about specialties and other career options will help you figure out where you fit into medicine. The goal of exploring options is to learn about opportunities and specialties that may match your personal characteristics. Use this section as a starting point to explore medical careers.

Choosing a Specialty - It is important to be able to make healthy decisions about your medical career. This involves finding a good fit between the information you have learned about yourself and about specialties. It also involves considering what is important to you about the residency programs you are interested in pursuing and possible future practice settings. This phase will provide an objective framework to make these decisions.

Getting into Residency - Writing a Curriculum Vitae ("CV") and residency application, interviewing for residency, and going through the Match are integral components to implementing your decision. This is where you put your decisions into action. Information about individual residency programs can be found on FREIDA (Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access).

CiM is a circular program.  As you complete different aspects of the program and are exposed to different educational experiences, we encourage you to reassess yourself using any and all of the tools available in the program. To access this program, go to the Careers in Medicine web page and enter your AAMC user name and password.

For further information regarding CiM, please contact the Office of Student Affairs.

Residency Application Process

During Orientation the first year students are assigned a Peer Preceptor who is a member of the second year class. The Peer Preceptors help incoming students adjust to the demands of medical school, with the hope that this initial relationship will serve as a source of advice and support throughout the year.

During third year, students begin the formal process of career planning.  Part of career planning for students involves creating an advisor network by talking to as many people as possible in the fields they are interested in (attendings, residents, clerkship directors, interns, family, friends, etc.).   This is very important as it helps students get the best advice throughout the career decision/residency application process.

Pathway to Residency

The Pathway to Residency (PTR) was created by the Office of Student Affairs to help fourth year  students with the entire residency application process. This includes assistance with the NRMP, San Francisco Match, the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), CVs, personal statements, preparing for interviews, and help with rank order lists. Rising fourth year students will be given a PTR notebook at the Career Specialty Night.

PTR includes the following:

  • Career Specialty Night held in January of the third year
  • Fourth year specialty/application advice event held in March of the third year
  • Preliminary career planning meetings held in February/March of the third year, including planning fourth year schedules
  • Individual PTR Notebooks containing a timeline for residency, helpful websites, a guide  to  writing  a  CV  and  Personal  Statement,  sample  CVs  and  Personal Statements, PTR Terms, List of Faculty Advisers and additional helpful information
  • Class meetings held in the third year and fourth year on various topics concerning the residency process
  • Review of your CV and Personal Statement by the Office of Student Affairs
  • Issuance of ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) tokens in May of fourth year
  • Writing the MSPE (Dean’s letter)
  • Upload of transcripts and MSPE, to ERAS
  • Photo for residency application
  • Mock interviews
  • Individualized NRMP rank order list meetings
  • Advice on residency process and general career advice