Clarifying your priorities is crucial when choosing a specialty.  Sometimes asking yourself either/or questions can help to achieve this.  Most trainees would like a little bit of everything but turning the questions into yes or no answers is generally more helpful to rule out possible specialties.  Some questions to consider when choosing a specialty include:

  • Would I prefer secondary care to primary care?
  • Would I prefer developing longer-term relationships with patients rather than treating them and passing them over to another department?
  • Would I prefer treating chronic disease rather than acute symptoms?
  • Would I prefer working with adults rather than children?
  • Would I prefer to work in the lab than on a ward?
  • Would I l prefer to have the opportunity to undertake private work or not?
  • Would I prefer to have a wide range of knowledge rather than be highly specialised?
  • Would I prefer a specialty with surgical aspects than a specialty with no surgical aspects?
  • Would I prefer working in a multi-disciplinary team than working primarily on my own?
  • Would I prefer a specialty that focuses on and values research and publishing?
  • Would I prefer to work part-time rather than full-time?
  • Would I prefer a large specialty (i.e. large in-take of trainees) rather than a small specialty (i.e. small in-take of trainees)?
  • Would I prefer to take time out of programme to work abroad or undertake research rather than working straight through to CCT?

Once you have asked yourself these questions (and more), begin researching specialties to see which best fit your preferences.  Try to rank all the specialties from highest preference to lowest preference.

Research the variety of specialties using Health Careers website.  Use the Health Education England North East website for information about Specialty Training in the North East and North Cumbria.

Reading person specifications for specialties at a variety of entry levels can help to provide insights.  Up-to-date person specifications can be found on the specialty training website.


Regardless of your level of training, if you are preparing to choose a specialty it is helpful to test your expectations by experiencing it (i.e. if it is not included in your rotations for FP).  You may not have the opportunity to have a 3-4 month rotation in a specialty but you can try to arrange a one to two week taster to experience it.

If you are training in the Northern Foundation School, you will find that each Trust makes different arrangements for taster experiences.  Some Trusts arrange formal tasters that trainees can apply for; whilst others ask that the trainees arrange their own tasters and then seek out approval from the educational supervisor and clinical tutor.  

If you can’t arrange a formal taster, you can arrange a day or more of work experience. Depending on the specialty you would like to experience, try your GP or dentist, contact education centre staff for contacts or ideas, use any additional healthcare contacts or contact a careers adviser or educational supervisor to help you think creatively on how you can get the experience.