Planning your medical career can seem like an overwhelming task, but it's easier if you break it down into smaller steps. Review the page below to find out more.
There are several years before you need to make a decision and pick your specific career path.
Over the next four years in medical school, it is your job to:
- engage in self-reflection
- research different career choices
- choose a career path and to apply to residency programs
Student Affairs at the Max Rady College of Medicine can help you with this by providing career resources.
The Max Rady College of Medicine’s career resources program follows the AAMC’s Careers In Medicine (CIM) Program.
All undergraduate medical students are given log-in information and are encouraged to visit the CIM site and complete the self-assessments and review the career information.
This career planning page will follow the template of the CIM site and provide additional resources at every step that are meant to complement the CIM resources.
Step 1: self-understanding
An important first step in choosing a medical specialty, is becoming self-aware and realizing how one’s personality, temperament and interests can guide a decision on which medical specialty to pursue.
AAMC’s Careers In Medicine has individual and password-protected links to self-assessments.
Self-assessment tools include:
- specialty indecision scale
- medical specialty preference inventory
- physician values in practice scale
- skills assessment
Keirsey Temperament Sorter II (Career Temperament Report)
This is a temperament and personality assessment that helps you understand your work patterns and preferences, especially as it relates to selecting a medical specialty.
Explanation of Personality Type Test Results–Center for Applications of Personality Type
This provides a short description of each of the 16 personality types as measured by the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.
University of Virginia’s Medical Specialty Aptitude Test
This free online questionnaire can be completed in approximately 15 minutes. The results will provide you with a list of specialties that appear to complement your personality and working style, which may guide you in terms of specific career paths to research.
Duke University and GlaxoSmithKline’s Pathway Evaluation Program
This free online self-assessment provides you with a ranked list of how compatible you may be with several different medical specialties.
Step 2: career exploration
Once you have a better understanding of your own strengths, weaknesses and expectations of a career, it is time to explore your options.
AAMC’s Careers In Medicine has specialty profiles available to view for free, without requiring a log-in or password.
Major specialties are profiled and information includes: career overview, which personality types are often found in the specialty, what personal characteristics specialists in the field possess, American income information and links to specialty-specific societies and journals.
Canadian Medical Association has specialty profiles available to view for free. There are 36 specialty profiles and information that includes career overview, residency requirements, practice demographics, income and satisfaction levels.
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada has specialty profiles available to view for free. Information includes detailed residency training objectives, accredited residency programs and contact information.
The National Physician Survey is also available to view for free. It contains Canadian physician responses on career questions by specialty. It also includes information on physician demographics, practice setting, and professional satisfaction.
Careermd.com has an online database to search for physician job opportunities throughout Canada and the United States.
Step 3: choosing a specialty
After you have learned more about yourself and researched your options for different medical specialties, it is time to make an informed decision regarding your choice of specialty.
CIM has tools for decision making which includes: a guideline for decision making, an approach to decision making and problem solving and a decision making exercise specific to medical career choices.
Medscape from WebMD provides free registration to a personalized homepage (according to your specialty of interest) with full-length medical articles, medical news, USMLE prep quizzes and case study challenges. This site can be helpful for becoming more knowledgeable about a specialty in which you are interested.
The American Medical Association provides the links of national (American) medical specialty society webpages.
These sites will be of interest to you once you have a specialty of interest in mind, and you can search for information on student memberships to specialty societies as well as specialty society conferences.
Still finding it hard to decide? You may want to re-take the self-assessments. Over time and as you go through your medical education, your answers to self-assessments may change. You may have different viewpoints on working with others, patient contact, etc. and re-taking the self-assessments may point you in a different career direction.
You may also want to seek out a physician in the department(s) that interest you for a fresh perspective. You can also book an appointment with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 4: applying for residency
In Canada, the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) is responsible for matching medical students to residency programs.
The Residency Info Guide provides a CaRMS application timeline, links to Canadian postgraduate medical education programs, and a listing of direct entry and subspecialty residency programs in Canada.
CaRMS and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students have compiled a free downloadable booklet regarding the role of CaRMS, important deadlines in application, how the match works and specialty-specific success rates for previous years.
Once on their site enter "Match Book " in their search engine to pull up various annual reports.
McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine provides a comprehensive checklist and website for gaining admission into a residency program (including how to obtain a U.S. residency).
Students in the pre-clerkship years are encouraged to participate in shadow experiences. This can help you decide whether a specialty is a good fit and to ask questions.
UGME Student Affairs can help you locate shadow experiences that might be the best fit for you. Contact StudentAffairsMed@umanitoba.ca to request an appointment.
The following is a list of shadowing contacts for core specialties at the Health Sciences Centre.
|Family Medicine||Jana Mudraemail@example.com|
|Internal Medicine||Tammy Posillipofirstname.lastname@example.org|
Many of these tips were developed by Dr. David Robinson during his term as electives advisor. We remain indebted to him for these useful ideas.
Many of you may be considering doing an “early elective” which can take place in August in place of your summer vacation (you then need to take your two weeks vacation during the normal elective time blocks). For students applying to highly competitive specialties this may be one way to get an elective at the program of your choice, make an early impression, and maybe get a reference letter in “prime time” (before CARMS applications).
So while it seems like a great idea there are a number of drawbacks to consider before leaping in. Apart from the fact that there are a few special rules in place for this (eg: you need to have passed all your NMBE exams - see the electives office for details) strategically, earlier is not always better.
First, as this is only a two-week block, you may be a distant memory by the time CARMs finally rolls around.
Second, because it's still summer some of the key folks you want to connect with or make an impression on may be hanging out at the cottage instead of the hospital. Finally, it's a very long time from January to August. Vacation time is hugely important to recharge and reconnect with friends and family after a busy eight months and before embarking on the home stretch of medical school.
How do I pick my electives?
Electives serve a number of functions but the most important is improving your chances of matching to your chosen specialty. Are you committed to one specialty and willing to go anywhere (program-first)? Or are you more concerned about matching to a particular city (city-first)? Or are you somewhere in-between.
You’ll first want to pick the top couple of programs (here or elsewhere) you want to match to and try to do those before CARMS applications are due (prime time) at the end of November.
Your chance of getting an interview is higher if you’ve done an elective and gotten a strong reference letter at a given program. Don't worry if you’re not 100 per cent sure. One of the functions of electives is helping you decide if that's the career for you.
Self-assessment – really knowing and accepting your strengths and weaknesses - is key to knowing which specialties might be right for you.
Sometimes the idea of pursuing a particular specialty is what we are really in love with. Wouldn't it feel good to tell your high school math teacher you were a neurosurgeon? Be aware of influence landmines, and remember that you are the one who has to live with the call schedule and sacrifices inherent in whatever specialty you choose. Sometimes who we really are is not the same as who we wish we were.
It's also critical to be realistic. Sometimes students fall in love with aspects of a particular specialty but are lacking in a required trait or skill that will allow them to really succeed in that area. For example, radiologists need to excel at spatial reasoning, otolaryngologists need depth perception (and ask for proof of it on their CARMs applications), surgeons need dexterity and steady hands, and ER doctors need to be able to withstand the physiologic challenges of long-term shift work. Individuals who are short of the typical skills needed can sometimes still do the job, but if you hate heights, does it really make sense to become a pilot?
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Be honest with yourself. How do they match up with the specialties you’re considering? If you’re not sure, ask some of your family or classmates - they may be able to add valuable insight. You can also make career counselling appointments through Student Affairs to navigate the many self-knowledge career planning tools available through the Careers in Medicine website.
Another source of data that can be really helpful are the Canadian specialty profiles developed by the Canadian Medical Association and available here: https://www.cma.ca/En/Pages/specialty-profiles.aspx. These profiles go through every possible career path and outline things like remuneration (how much you make), call, job satisfaction and other issues.
While this does not replace talking directly to people who actually do this work, it can be an important addition to get a feel for the specialty across the country.
Using data for planning, strategizing, and reassuring
When planning for CaRMS you are going to get advice from lots of people. Some of this is going to be good, evidence based advice, others will be of the “it worked for me” variety, and still others will be based on urban myths, rumours or other unfounded sources. What you can count on is that there are multiple strategies that can work, and that most students will find a match in their preferred discipline.
CaRMS does collect data on strategies and how they’ve worked, and taking a look at that data can be reassuring and help you plan for your electives. Here’s a link to the most recent data published by CaRMS: https://www.carms.ca/data-reports/r1-data-reports/electives. You can look at this data for the disciplines that interest you, to get a really good idea of how important it is to do an elective in that discipline or in a particular location, and how much time in one discipline is “enough.”
Remember, what worked for one student may not work for another, and every discipline is a little different. Look at the data and make a plan that you think can work for you!
The Canadian Federation of Medical Students, in association with CaRMS, puts together a Matchbook every year to inform students about the match, share perspectives of recently graduated medical students, and answer questions you may have. The matchbook is accessible here: https://www.cfms.org/what-we-do/education/cfms-matchbook.html. There is also great info from the CMA that is specialty specific, and you can link to it from the matchbook site.
External electives – should you?
External electives allow you to explore alternate programs and different (possibly warmer!) cities. If you’re committed to a certain specialty or just desperate to leave Winnipeg then you’re certainly going to want to explore a couple of different universities. Even if you’re planning on never leaving Manitoba for training or practice, an external elective can provide a unique perspective on how medicine is done elsewhere and help make you a better doctor. External electives aren’t mandatory (and some folks may not be able to swing one) but they’re a great opportunity if you can make it work.
For those of you open to moving, external electives are an important part of career planning. Time, money and rules around electives mean you can’t go everywhere. Decide on which would be your top one or two choices to match to and try to get electives in those programs. An elective will give you a much better view of the program, and the people than any website or interview will do. It will also help showcase your talents and abilities to the program so you’re more of a familiar face at interview time. If you’re interested in more than one specialty, consider doing back to back electives at the same place in different specialties. It will reduce your travel costs and be a smoother transition. Because some electives are competitive, don't panic if you can’t get an elective at the exact program of your choice. Program directors know how hard it can be to fit everything in.
Canadian residency resources
The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) has an application timetable with tasks and due dates for each year’s residency application.
Specialties at the University of Manitoba
Max Rady College of Medicine offers a wide range of accredited residency training programs, listed here.
Postgraduate Medical Education in Canada
The Royal College of Physician and Surgeons of Canada has a list of accredited residency programs (including training objectives and program director contact information) sorted by specialty and subspecialty.
Careers in the United States
United States Medical Licensing Examination
Are you thinking of a medical career in the United States? This may include residency, fellowships or practicing medicine in the United States upon completing your training.
If you are thinking about any of these career paths, it is important to look into writing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). You will need to have passing USMLE scores in order to apply for residency or to practice in the United States.
The American matching system differs from Canada in that there are several matching services, rather than the single system Canada offers. It is important to know that if you apply to both CaRMS and an American match, you are obligated to accept the residency to which you match first.
International trainee resources
Preparing to work in Canada
There are a few things you should know before you arrive in Canada to work. The Government of Canada offers information on important things to note and action.
Canadian Work Permit
If you're looking to apply to travel, study, work or immigrate to Canada, the Government of Canada immigration and citizenship website is a good place to start.
Social Insurance Number (SIN)
If you require a Canadian social insurance number, check out the Government of Canada website for information on eligibility and how to apply.
Manitoba Health Card
There are a few different options on how you can apply for a Manitoba health card – the Manitoba government website outlines how to start your application.
IELTS Testing Manitoba (Fort Garry Campus)
English Testing Canada offers the paper-based IELTS test at the University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus in the south end of Winnipeg.
CV, resume and interview tips
When applying for residency programs, you will need to submit a CV, which is a summary of your past education, employment, volunteerism and research activities.
CaRMS residency interviews may be the first interview you have attended since starting medical school, and you will need to practice your interviewing skills.
The following links provide information on CV and personal statement writing, as well as interview tips: