The Four Questions to Consider When Planning Your Internal Medicine Career

Internal Medicine is a launchpad to an impactful career that can span from complex patient care to leading structural change. It can evolve over time and offers diverse leadership and growth opportunities as you advance in your career.

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Between 40% to 60% of newly graduated physicians change jobs within internal medicine after five years as they hone their skills, learn about new opportunities, and discover areas of interest that best fit their career and personal goals. 

There is no one-size-fits-all guidance or career path when choosing a career in medicine. However, seeking the support of a mentor and consulting trusted resources can be helpful in determining the right path for you.

Consider the following to help you identify what you value most in an internal medicine career. 

1) How might you utilize your training in internal medicine?   

One of the advantages of a career in internal medicine is the diverse array of career pathways available. Consider what drew you to internal medicine, and the type of care or work you imagine doing. This could include longitudinal patient care in private practice or ambulatory settings, hospital-based care, research, education, or a role in health care leadership. 

The foundational training you receive as an internal medicine physician prepares you to lead in any setting and opens doors for you professionally to evolve and grow throughout your lifetime. A career in this specialty can create lasting impacts on patients, communities, and health care. 

2) What are your goals? 

Perhaps you see yourself on the frontlines of team-based care, establishing lifelong care relationships with patients. Maybe you are inspired by advocating for meaningful change in health care. Or perhaps you see yourself contributing to research that can improve the lives of patients and advance public health in the long term. Or maybe you see yourself leading health care forward as an educator, entrepreneur, business executive, or administrator, influencing health care policies or building new systems of care.

No matter your vision, there are opportunities to make an impact within any internal medicine career path you choose and to change your career path to explore new opportunities. 
3) What is your preferred setting? 

Internal medicine physicians work in many different clinical and non-clinical settings, from private practices and hospitals to board rooms, corporations, medical schools, research labs, public health and government agencies.  

Reflect on how you like to work, whether it’s with others in a collaborative environment or in an independent setting. Do you prefer to work alone or, are you seeking a blend of workplace settings? Do you envision yourself in a rural, suburban, or more urban environment? Determining the setting and location in which you’ll work is important for career satisfaction. 
4) What are your personal preferences and priorities?

As in any profession, thinking about your personal preferences will ultimately lead to a more rewarding and successful career where you can put your full expertise and foundational training to work.  

For some, compensation may be a leading factor when making a career decision, while others may prioritize practice location, schedule, or work-life balance. This is also a time to reflect on the type of impact you want to make. Whether it be building long-term patient relationships in a primary care setting, being on the frontlines of ambulatory care, educating future physicians or trainees, or influencing health care policies, the possibilities as an internal medicine physician are only as limited as your goals.

Consider how your career choices can provide the life you desire. 

Whichever path you pursue, know that you’ve chosen a rewarding and impactful profession that has endless opportunities.  

Your journey as the future of internal medicine is just beginning.   

For more resources to help with career planning, visit ACP's Career Connection