How to plan our future after your residency may be weighing on your mind as you finish your medical studies and prepare to enter the “real world” of medicine. No matter what specialty you chose or how long your residency is, uncertainty can come up and make the future look cloudy. The best way to fix this is to start planning your future life and career, and start now. In this blog, we’ll answer your questions about why you need to start planning your future after residency now, what your career options are, where you can go for career advice, and how to strategically map out your future career as a doctor.

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7 min read

Why you should start planning your future after residency now Career paths after your residency Strategically plan your post-residency years How to plan your future after residency Who can help you plan your future after residency? FAQs

Why you should start planning your future after residency now

Wherever you are in your journey to becoming a doctor, it’s important to start thinking about your future after residency now. Start thinking of your future and planning your next steps. For most residents, the road ends with their final year of residency. You’ve spent all this time and money investing in yourself and your future career. You’ve finally accomplished what you set out to do, but once the residency years are over, many feel the uncertainty creep up. Chances are you’ve had your entire trajectory planned up until this point, and now you’re not entirely sure what comes next for you. If you’ve planned your entire life from high school to college to med school and beyond, it can be easy to let the fear and stress about the future take over. Planning for your future can help take away some of this burden.

After residency, you’re looking at the rest of your professional career as a doctor. Whether your plan is to enter the public sector and work at a hospital, or you want to go private sector and become a plastic surgeon, planning and strategy are essential. Maybe you’re considering medical fellowship training or you want to take a non-traditional medical route and become a military doctor. Whatever your career goals, its important to stay on top of planning so the road doesn’t end when your residency does.

Career paths after your residency

Your career paths after your residency are wide and varied, as we’ve already touched on. You could take your board certification exams and become an attending physician, the culmination of all your hard work and years of study. You might be interested in pursuing a sub-specialty and decide to apply for a medical fellowship. Perhaps you’ve even decided to pursue an MD without residency, narrowing your career choices, but you have a specific career path in mind.

Alternatively, you may be interested in looking at medical job opportunities abroad. If this is the case, even more rigorous planning is needed. You’ll need to plan the logistics of moving and living abroad, apply for international visas, perhaps get up to date on vaccinations or special certifications. There are also language barriers to think about, and whether you want to take classes to learn a new language. It’s also key to find out whether your medical degree and certifications will translate equally in the country you’re thinking of practicing in.

If you’ve already polished up your residency CV for the upcoming job hunt, also think about talking to a resident career counseling service to talk over your options and prepare yourself as best you can for this next momentous step.

Want to see an overview of some key points we'll cover below? This infographic is for you:

Strategically plan your post-residency years

Life and career planning takes some serious thought, brainstorming and consideration. This will be an ongoing process, which is why we recommend starting early. But the most important thing is to start. The next thing to do is organize your planning in an effective way. This is what we mean by strategic planning. If you’ve never sat down to write down your career goals, consider reading some grad school career goal statements for inspiration. Writing down your career goals can be enormously clarifying and satisfying.

Next, we’ll take a look at the key areas of your life you’ll need to start planning your future after residency.


The move from resident to attending physician can be a challenging one. Something you need to consider is the financial difference. The difference in how much money residents make and how much you’ll earn as a fully fledged doctor can be staggering. And its easy to get caught up in the sudden increase of disposable income with increased spending, leading many post-residents to stop saving money for their future. It’s critically important at this time in your life to learn how to plan and stick to a budget, no matter your income level. Now that you’re officially an attending and no longer a student, things like student loan repayments will come due. You’ll want to start saving for retirement, a house down payment, maybe a new car loan. Secondly, as an attending you’ll need to take a good look at your insurance coverage. Malpractice insurance, disability insurance, life insurance is all essential to have as a doctor to cover you in any situation. Most of you will also want to consider setting up an emergency fund for yourself or your family. So before you get too excited about making a good income for the first time, think about your financial health long-term and set yourself up for success down the road. If you need advice on your next career moves, a physician career advisor can help you look at your options and decide on the best ones for you.

Personal and mental health

Once your residency is over and you become an attending physician, the training wheels are officially off. This can mean a lot of pressure on your shoulders as you make decisions, attend to patients and go through the day-to-day, year-to-year work of a doctor. Any doctor will tell you that the work you’ve chosen can take a heavy emotional toll. Many doctors struggle with their mental health, long after they’ve left med school. Preparing yourself for the changes of life after residency, and for the possibility of burnout, emotional impact and stress is a good defense, but it’s also not possible to prepare for absolutely everything. Start developing some self-care strategies and stress-management techniques now, if you haven’t already. Consider things like counseling or therapy and have a plan for recognizing signs of stress and mental illness in yourself. If you have a plan of action ready to go, you’ll be more likely to take action for yourself when you need it most. Having a strong support network of others can also help reduce the risk of burnout. It’s a common enough story of seeing new doctors dive into the field and work themselves to the point of exhaustion, but it’s important to remember to heal thyself, too.

Family and lifestyle

The final consideration is your personal life. Your future plans will include your family and lifestyle, too. Your career as a physician will likely include some changes over the years ahead. You might decide on a career change somewhere in the future, or perhaps you want to start a family, buy a house, or travel the world. There are endless possibilities in the medical field and different types of medical specialties and career paths, and your personal life needs to sync with any professional decisions. Think about the kind of life and lifestyle you want. Does the career path of your choice fit with that mental image?

Interested in re-examining how to choose a medical specialty? Check out this video:

How to plan your future after residency

Now that we’ve covered the strategic part of planning your future after residency—what you need to consider and what kind of future career and life you want—we’ll look at the nitty gritty logistics to take into account during your planning process. We’ll also explore some handy tools and tips you can take advantage of during this process.

There is a huge amount of information to consider when you’re planning your career as a doctor, as we already know. Your financial, personal and professional future depend on figuring out the details. And before you accept any job opportunity, you’ll need to examine the salary, future opportunities, work environment and the nature of the work itself. The medical field doesn’t always follow a linear path, and it’s possible to pursue specialized fields in medical research or education. Or maybe you plan to travel internationally, switch your specialty down the road or jump from an MD to a DO. Maybe you’re a physician assistant and you’ve made the decision to pursue an MD. Whatever field of medicine you decide to enter, it’s wise to make sure it’s the right one, since you don’t want to be stuck in a job or place where you’re not happy. Time is the one commodity you can’t get back, and life as a doctor means a big demand on your time. Decide what you want from your medical career now, and plan to make it happen.

Some simple things you can do to smooth the brainstorming, soul-searching, planning part of sketching out your future include:

Who can help you plan your future after residency?

We’ve already discussed some of the resources you can use when planning your future after your medical residency. Physician or resident career counseling services or advisors can be a huge help. They can provide advice on your options, help you decide what your career goals are, provide feedback on your resume, show you how to craft a cover letter or prepare you for job interviews with mock interviews. If your path so far has included nothing but study and medical work, you may not have developed the professional job search skills that you’ll need, so a career advisor can fill in those gaps for you.

Medical mentors, supervisors or attending doctors are also a vital resource to keep. These are the individuals who have been where you are, and their advice and experiences are a goldmine of useful information and aid when planning your future career and life. Take advantage of these connections and build meaningful ties now, so you can turn to them when you feel that itching uncertainty or need to start seriously planning your future after residency.


1. What happens after residency?

There are many career paths once you’ve completed your medical residency. You can become a board-certified attending physician, apply for a medical fellowship in a sub-specialty, go into the public sector working at a hospital or get a job with a private practice. There are endless possibilities.

2. How can I plan my career after residency?

Planning your career after residency requires strategy, dedication, and consideration. You need to look at all the factors of your life as a whole, as well as examine what your career goals are and how you want to achieve them.

3. Can I change specialties after my residency?

Yes. It is possible to change the trajectory of your career, although it’s advised to give careful thought to this before you do so. Consider talking to a career counselor to find out what your options are.

4. How do I choose the best job after residency?

Choosing the best job can be tough, but you don’t want to take a job in a place where you’ll be unhappy. Research the places you’ll potentially be working, and ask lots of questions at any professional interview.

5. How can I prepare to become an attending?

You won’t know what it’s like to be an attending until you are one, but you can use the resources you have now by talking to your supervisors or medical mentors to hear about their experiences and ask their advice.

6. Who can advise me on post-residency career options?

Career counselors or advisors are very helpful in providing advice and tools for planning your post-residency career.

7. Can I save money during my residency?

Yes. It’s a very good idea to save money during your residency, since many find their finances dry up in the post-residency years as they focus more on spending than saving. Remember to save for your future!

8. I’m not sure what to do after residency. What can I do?

Uncertainty is something almost all residents face. Talking to your mentors or a career advisor can be a good first step, but also think about what you want out of your medical career and what your future goals are.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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