Deciding on a career in medicine is not solely about your ability to be a physician. The more critical question is, will you find satisfaction and success in this worthy yet high-pressured field?

To answer this, you need to learn a bit more about the key personality traits and characteristics that successful, satisfied doctors have—and then decide if your personality fits the bill!

Conscientiousness: the main personality trait of successful doctors

There are a few key personality traits that set you on the path to success in the medical field. Most important is your ability to discipline yourself: to plan ahead, work hard and ignore distractions so that you can pursue your long-term goals.

Psychologists call this trait Conscientiousness. Often referred to as the Alpha trait, Conscientiousness is the most important overall personality trait when it comes to succeeding in a career, especially a difficult professional career such as medicine.

Doctors must be particularly high in Conscientiousness in order to handle many years of schooling, long work hours, and difficult mental challenges. 

To get a sense of whether you have the necessary level of Conscientiousness, ask yourself:

  • Do I always do what I set out to do?
  • Do I keep myself organized?
  • Do I work hard to achieve my goals?

If you’re not sure whether you have the necessary Conscientiousness to thrive in a career as a doctor, taking this free test can help.

Resilience: the ability to cope with stress and adversity

The job of a doctor is not merely academic. It requires that you handle challenging situations, often with lives on the line. To do this successfully, doctors must be able to handle high levels of stress as they deal with traumatic experiences, emotional people and life-or-death situations. 

Physicians often work long hours without much rest or relaxation, and they must be able to handle themselves with grace even under pressure.

This aspect of personality is called Resilience, and it is key for high stress jobs like medicine.

Being Resilient means that you can handle stress easily, recover from troubling events quickly, and function well even in emotional situations. Resilience is especially important in branches of medicine where doctors treat very sick or critical patients, like emergency medicine or oncology—but it is important that all doctors have this trait. 

To see if you have the Resilience you need for a career in medicine, ask yourself:

  • Do I often feel anxious or stressed?
  • Am I able to easily forget about my problems?
  • Do I perform well under pressure?

While Resilience is not one of the Big Five personality traits and you cannot measure it directly on a personality test, a resilient personality is characterized by very low levels of Neuroticism. People who are low in Neuroticism can withstand more stress, sadness and anxiety than the average person without becoming depressed or burned out.

Extraversion, Agreeableness and your medical specialty

The medical profession is not one career but many, and the different specialties demand different personality traits. 

For instance, how much interaction do you like to have with others during the day? This personality trait is called Extraversion and it can help you decide whether you might prefer to become a surgeon or anesthesiologist (roles more suited for Introverts) or a front-line pediatrician (a role more suited for Extraverts).

Agreeableness—your level of warmth, cooperation and interpersonal skills—can be especially beneficial for certain medical specialties. For example, doctors who work in geriatrics or general practice need to be able to interact with and reassure patients and their families in stressful situations. Lab-based immunologists do not.

Agreeableness is also important if you want to practice medicine in a group setting, like a hospital ward or family practice.

Where do your interests lie?

Finally, you’ll want to be sure that your interests match up well with the field of medicine. Many people are interested in becoming doctors because it is a distinguished profession, or because they are interested in helping people. However, it is essential to have a strong interest in the sciences both to make it through medical school and to sustain your interest in the medical profession.

Psychologists classify this as an Investigative or Thinking personality type: a person who enjoys science, theory, and experimentation. Thinkers enjoy spending a lot of time thinking about things, and like to know how the world works. 

To find out if you might have an Investigative or Thinking personality type, ask yourself:

  • Do I enjoy doing scientific experiments?
  • Do I like discovering how things work?
  • Do I enjoy studying the laws of nature?

Every medical journey starts with a career assessment

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when you are planning a career as a doctor. Aside from the academic challenges of the medical profession, you should know whether you have the personal qualities that will make you a happy and successful physician.

If you are not sure whether you have the right personality to become a doctor, you can take a career aptitude test to get an objective analysis of your personal qualities. A good career assessment will measure all the aspects that are key to your career success: the Big Five personality traits including Conscientiousness, Agreeableness and Extraversion, as well as profiling your work interest areas so that you can determine whether a medical career is right for you.

Many types of career assessments are available on the market today. If you are in school, your guidance counselor will likely be able to offer you some type of career assessment to get you started. However, many of the most popular career tests measure only one or two of the key aspects of career success and satisfaction.

We have developed the Career Personality Profiler test to be the most comprehensive career assessment available. With this free career aptitude quiz, you can get an objective assessment of all of the crucial factors that you will want to consider when deciding on a career in medicine, including five key areas of personality and six distinct work interest areas. Take the career test now and find out in just a few minutes whether you have what it takes to become a successful and satisfied doctor—or whether a different type of medical career might be a better fit for you. Happy career planning and good luck! 

Truity was founded in 2012 to bring you helpful information and assessments to help you understand yourself and use your strengths. We are based in San Francisco, CA.