Should I Become a Doctor?

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on December 03, 2013

If you’ve gotten this far, you probably already have a sense of whether you have the academic ability to become a physician. But the more important question is, will you be satisfied and successful with a career as a doctor?

This may seem like an impossible question to answer. But you don’t need a crystal ball to decide whether a career as a doctor will make you happy. All you need is 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!

There are a few key personality traits that determine your satisfaction and success in the career of medicine. 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 and it 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?

Doctors should also be well 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?

You’ll also want to be aware of other aspects of your personality so that you can choose the best specialty within the medical profession. For instance, how much interaction do you like to have with others during the day? This personality trait is called Extraversion and can help you decide whether you might prefer to become a surgeon (more suited for Introverts) or a pediatrician (more suited for Extraverts).

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 personality type: a person who enjoys science, theory, and experimentation. Investigative people 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 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?

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when you are trying to decide whether you should become 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 assessment 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: personality traits including Conscientiousness, Resilience, and Extraversion, as well as profiling your 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 Surveyor to be the most comprehensive career assessment available. With the Career Surveyor, 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 5 key areas of personality and 6 distinct interest areas. You can check out the Career Surveyor assessment now and find out in just a few minutes whether you have what it takes to become a successful—and satisfied—doctor.


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.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

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