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After years of schooling, you may find yourself wondering if a fellowship is the right move for your career. Electing to pursue this additional 1-3 years of education and research can seem troublesome, as it is more time you spend not bringing the income of a practicing physician. However, electing to complete a fellowship can provide numerous benefits and specialized knowledge. The question becomes, with so many options, how do you select the best fellowship for you? Below are some tips for ensuring you make the right choice for your future.

Consult with your mentor

A strong mentor is one of the best assets to have throughout your educational and professional career. He or she can provide a wealth of knowledge and insight as to how to approach various situations and help weight the pros and cons of each possibility. In most cases, your mentor has been a huge source of inspiration and assistance throughout your educational career, and you should continue to leverage their experience in this situation as well.

Prioritize your clinical interests

When selecting your fellowship, be sure to understand the route you would like your career to follow. This can help you filter what specialties or research you would like to complete, and make more sense of the many options available to you. The University of Buffalo Department of Medicine recommends that you search for a fellowship that offers more than one training track.

“The research track of your program should allow you to pursue independent research interest,” the site states. “You’ll benefit from a larger selection of research opportunities if your program’s teaching faculty is comprised of physicians with multiple areas of expertise.

The clinical track of your program should offer additional electives and extra training in advanced procedures.”

Do your research

As you would with any major life decision, such as buying a house or looking for a new job, do your research. Look into the medical school offering the fellowship and its alumni base. Does the school hold a high reputation for success? Are past fellows seeing success in their own careers? Your research should also include potential peers in the program. Look into published works by current fellows and see those currently involved in the program are presenting their works. This will help expand upon the above points of emphasis and help you decide if that location may fit your needs.

Lastly, consider the location in which the fellowship would take place. Make sure the location matches your personal preferences to allow you to feel comfortable both inside and outside of your fellowship.

Get started early

In an article for the American Medical Association, Dr. Aaron Kithcart provides recommendations on how to begin your research.

“Start early by talking to colleagues and program directors, go to specialty national meetings and do your research online,” Kithcart says. “If you’re really interested in a program, communicate that regularly and they’ll remember you when it comes time to finalize their rank list.”

Electing to delay beginning your research or next steps for your fellowship can only stand to make you less competitive and more stressed.