Medical students make specialty decisions that are critically important to their long-term career satisfaction and overall well-being. The dynamic of larger class sizes set against stagnant numbers of residency positions creates an imperative for students to make and test specialty decisions earlier in medical school. Ideally, formal career advising begins in medical school.
Medical schools typically offer career development programs as extracurricular offerings. The authors describe three curricular approaches and the innovative courses developed to address medical students' career development needs. The models differ in complexity and cost, but they share the goals of assisting students to form career identities and to use resources effectively in their specialty decision processes.
The first model is a student-organized specialties elective. To earn course credit, students must complete questionnaires for the sessions, submit results from two self-assessments, and report on two physician informational interviews. The second model comprises two second-year career development courses that have evolved into a longitudinal career development program. The third model integrates career topics through a doctoring course and advising teams. The authors discuss challenges and lessons learned from implementing each of the programs, including marshaling resources, achieving student buy-in, and obtaining time in the curriculum. Invoking a curricular approach seems to normalize the tasks associated with career development and puts them on par in importance with other medical school endeavors.