In the U.S. the path to becoming a physician is as follows, one must complete their undergraduate degree, graduate from medical school, pass the USMLE, and apply for residency. Once these steps have been completed an individual may decide to partake in a fellowship. Fellowships in the U.S. allow for physicians to become further specialized in one parameter of the medical specialty they completed during residency. Dentists may also take part in fellowships. For information on if a fellowship is right for you, how to apply for a fellowship, and what to expect during it, continue reading below.
Considering a Fellowship
Choosing to continue your postgraduate education after years of medical education and residency is a commitment. It means delaying your career in favor of obtaining additional knowledge and skills. If time is a drawback, then skill is a benefit. Fellowships are a great option for individuals who are not interested in practicing the entire scope of the medical specialty they have pursued. A fellowship can provide the training that allows someone to be eligible for a position that, in the future, will allow them to enjoy showing up to work. This joy, found through further specialization, can lead to greater patient care and, possibly, a larger paycheck. Because of the time and energy specializations can take, few choose this route. That means there are few trained to provide the level of medical care some patients need, making these individuals strongly sought after.
Obtaining a Fellowship
Similar to the way the National Residency Match Program pairs medical graduates with residency positions, the Specialties Match Service branch of the NRMP connects applicants who have completed their residency with a fellowship. In most cases, fellowship programs have fewer spots than residency positions. Serious applicants should submit their materials early. This can be done through ERAS. For further information on this check out our post, ‘How to Create an ERAS account.’
The next step, after applying, is preparing for and participating in interviews. These are opportunities for you to introduce yourself and explain why you are a great candidate. It is also an opportunity for you to learn more about the program. This can help you to determine if it is the right fit. Interviews will cover personal information, your interest in medicine as it applies to the specialty you are interested in, and your goals or future plans.
During the interview, it is important to show interest in the program. This can be displayed in a couple ways. Be sure to show up early for your interview and be well-manicured. Be respectful, polite, and show enthusiasm for the program. One way to show interest is to ask questions. During the interview questions may arise that you would like to ask but, just to be safe it is a good idea to prepare a few ahead of time.
More information on applying for fellowships and the timeline of fellowship matching can be found on the NRMP’s website, here.
Fellowship participants make be referred to as fellows or, in some cases, consulting physicians. A fellowship differs from a residency in that the participant is given more freedom and thus, more responsibility. These experiences usually last between one and three years. They are paid however it should be noted that the salary is much smaller than that of a practicing physician.
For a complete list of the medical fellowships offered, click here.