Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Internal Medicine

Internal MedicineInternists are personal physicians who provide long-term, comprehensive care in the office and the hospital, managing both common and complex illnesses in adolescents, adults, and the elderly. An internal medicine physician’s primary responsibilities include health maintenance and disease screening, the diagnosis and care of acute and chronic medical conditions, management of patients with multiple, complex medical problems, and serving as consultants to other disciplines such as surgery, obstetrics, and family medicine. (Source: AAMC Careers in Medicine)

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?

Internal medicine student interest group, shadowing and research if interested/able.

Q: Are research experiences important in your specialty?

Not required, but they can help strengthen your application.

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

Any research experience is better than no research experience!

Q: Does class rank matter?

For certain (“higher-tier”) programs, yes. Also, 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. 16.4 percent U.S. seniors who match are members of AOA.

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?

At least three.

Q: Is a letter from a chair required?


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


Q: Does your Step 2 CK score matter?

It can help for more competitive programs.

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

Any internal medicine electives, dermatology and ICU/critical care.

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

This is an individual decision based on your goals.

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

Most interviews are from mid-October through mid-January.

Similar Specialties to Consider

  • Family Medicine
  • Medicine/Pediatrics or other combined medicine programs
  • Emergency Medicine

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

Many possibilities. Some popular ones include cardiology, GI, heme/onc, nephrology, infectious disease, allergy and immunology, general internal medicine. See the AAMC Careers in Medicine website for all of the options.

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

Many internists no longer go to hospitals because the time spent there is long and generally poorly compensated. Some specialists now even express surprise at finding general internists in hospitals. Hospital boards often have more specialist than generalist representation because only specialists have the income to support such time out of their offices. Internal medicine for the next few years probably will present basic training for evolving sub-specialization in areas such as cardiology, infectious disease, transplantation, cancer and the like. There should continue to be individual options for focusing on basic biochemistry and pharmacology in labs, primary teaching, or taking care of patients in hospital or office/clinic settings. Specific careers are hard to predict. [For instance,] one good vaccine against coronary artery disease would make major changes in cardiology. (Source: Melchinger)

Additional Information

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


  • Melchinger, D. (n.d.). "The Future of Internal Medicine." Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.
Last edited on 11/17/2016.