How to Switch Specialities as a Physician 

When you become a physician, there are many opportunities to advance your career. The most common way to gain new skills as a physician is to study a specialty. After some time though, you may feel like you’ve found a different area of medicine that you are more passionate about. If this happens you may decide to switch specialties. If you’re not sure where to start, here is a guide on how to switch specialties as a physician. 


Switching specialties is no easy feat, and there are many steps involved when you decide to learn something new. Before you decide to switch specialties, it is worth asking yourself what you are not enjoying about your current specialty. There may be nothing wrong with your current specialty, but you may be getting bored or want to broaden your skills as a physician. You may also be experiencing burnout or just a lack of passion for something you previously enjoyed. Switching specialties can help you find a career in medicine you are passionate about and open up a whole new world of helping patients. 

Once you decide that switching specialties is what you want to do, you’ll need to research what requirements go into getting a new specialty. Learning a new specialty requires completing a residency. So you’ll have to be ready to hit the books and go back to learning the ropes from experts in the field. A residency can take a couple of years and may require a relocation. If you’ve been working in medicine for a long time this can be a big adjustment. So it’s worth going in with an open mind and knowing that it will be the right move in the long run. 

When applying for residencies, you’ll need to make sure that your resume is up to date and how to tailor your cover letter to the programs you are applying to. Physicians Thrive has the resources to help you perfect your cover letter while applying to new residency programs. 

Once you’ve done your preliminary research into different programs, you’ll be ready to get your materials together and start the journey to a new specialty.

Consult with your Peers 

When you find the specialty that you are set on switching to, you can really do yourself a favor by finding peers in that specialty. Whenever you are deciding on a big career change you can learn a lot from people that already work in that specialty. If you already work in a setting with many other physicians, you can easily schedule a coffee or lunch with a colleague and pick their brain about their specialty. 

If you can’t find people you work with, you can reach out to the residency programs you are interested in and request to speak with professors and students. If you are looking at a specific hospital, you can reach out to the practicing physicians there for informal interviews. This way, you can make connections in the field that you want to switch into and learn about how those who are already practicing that specialty got to where they are. It is helpful to understand what the day-to-day looks like in a different specialty and if that line of work sounds like a good change. You might even realize that the specialty you thought you wanted to switch to wasn’t for you, and your peers can help guide you to the area that makes the most sense for you. 

Prepare for Interviews 

After you’ve learned about what it’s like to work in the specialty you want to switch to, you’ll have to prepare to interview for residencies. When doing your interviews, it is important to be able to explain why you are deciding to make a switch. You can find yourself at an advantage when interviewing for residencies after having experience in a different specialty. 

Instead of going right from school, you have enough experience to be able to reach out to hospitals that have the programs you are looking for. You’ll want to make sure when you prepare that you understand the work that goes into a switch and how you can learn and benefit from a new specialty.  


Whether you’re in your residency or have been a practicing physician for years, switching specialties is a big commitment. If you are thinking of making a change, it’s important to understand the time commitment and steps you’ll have to take to make the switch. After understanding what you’ll face, getting into a new specialty can help you build a more fulfilling and happy career

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