Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Family Medicine

Family Medicine

In the increasingly fragmented world of health care, one thing remains constant: family physicians are dedicated to treating the whole person. Family medicine's cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focusing on integrated care. (Source: American Academy of Family Physicians)

Associated Societies

Quick Facts

The following information comes from the National Resident Matching Program's Charting Outcomes in the Match 2014 (PDF)  based on matched applicants in the United States.    

Advice for MS1 and MS2 Students

Q: What particular activities should first and second year students get involved with who are interested in pursuing this specialty?

Family Medicine Interest group, AHEC (summer between MS1 and MS2)

Q: Are research experiences important in your specialty?

No, but they can help strengthen your application.

Q: If so, do these need to be specialty specific research experiences?


Q: Does class rank matter?

Not particularly, but doing well in the first two years of medical school is always looked on favorably during residency interviews and prepares you to do well on your Step 1 exam.  Also, doing well in third-year clerkships is important. 8 percent of U.S. seniors who match are AOA members.

Advice for MS3 and MS4 Students

Q: When should I ask for letters of recommendation (LORs)?

Ideally you should ask for letters in May but absolutely no later than July, allowing your letter writers adequate time to upload your letter prior to the ERAS application submission date of Sept. 15. Your personal statement and CV should be ready as well as many letter writers will request this in order to write you a strong letter.

Q: How many LORs do you need?

A minimum of three.

Q: Is a letter from a chair required?


Q: Do all letters need to be written by members of this specialty?

No, but at least two should be from a family physician. All of your letters should be from someone with whom you’ve worked clinically.

Q: Does your Step 2 CK score matter?

A higher score makes you a candidate for more competitive residencies.

Q: What electives would you recommend for someone who is interested in pursuing this specialty?

Dermatology, Ortho for Primary Care, Family Medicine Sub-I, and Community Medicine.

Q: Should a student interested in this specialty do away rotations?

Not necessarily, but away rotations can be beneficial if you're trying to go to a competitive program or a certain region of the country.

Q: If so, how many “aways” do you recommend and when should they be completed?

No more than two.

Q: Which month is recommended to take off to interview?

November-January. Programs may offer multiple dates to the applicant but they are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Similar Specialties to Consider

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • PM&R
  • Psychiatry

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

  • Adolescent medicine
  • Behavioral medicine
  • Clinical informatics*
  • Community medicine
  • Emergency medicine
  • Faculty development
  • Geriatrics
  • Health policy
  • Hospice and palliative care medicine
  • Hospitalist medicine
  • HIV/AIDS care
  • Integrative medicine
  • International health
  • Maternity care/obstetrics
  • Preventative medicine
  • Research
  • Rural medicine
  • Sleep medicine*
  • Sports medicine
  • Substance abuse
  • Urgent Care
  • Women’s health

*Only certificates available

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

The fear that family medicine will become obsolete as physician assistants and nurse practitioners enter the field has not panned out. On the contrary, there is growing public recognition that comprehensive primary care is the solution for the health of our communities and the nation to improve health, reduce health disparities, improve health care quality, and lower the cost of care. Around the world, primary care–based health systems have lower costs, higher quality, and better access to care. The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the Council on Graduate Medical Education, and other respected organizations and policymakers have identified the need to train more primary care physicians.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains several key provisions to strengthen primary care. These include enhancing payments to primary care physicians and fostering the creation of advanced primary care models of care. A new payment system that rewards outcomes and quality over volume of services provided is being ushered in after the passage of landmark legislation in April 2015.

Rapid change in the U.S. health care system is increasing demand for family physicians. It is estimated that an additional 52,000 primary care physicians will be needed by 2025. Therefore, it is not surprising that family medicine has the highest recruitment rate of any specialty.

Additional Information

See the Career Essentials Pilot Page regarding specialty specific advice for more detailed information and resources.


Last edited on 05/03/2017.