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 What Are The Hot Specialties Today?

We receive calls and emails daily from residents, medical students, college students and even their parents wanting to know which medical specialties are in the greatest demand. Quite naturally, people want to be assured that there will be a demand for whatever specialty they (or their children) decide on. After considerable time, effort and money spent on a medical education, no one wants to face the prospect of unemployment or underemployment.

Merritt Hawkins, the nation's largest physician search firm (and one of the sponsors of this site) tracks physician recruiting trends through several surveys, including its annual Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives (see "Surveys/Compensation" section of this site).

In this survey, Merritt Hawkins tracks the recruitment assignments it conducted over the previous 12 months to determine what types of physicians its clients are recruiting and what kinds of incentives clients are offering to physician candidates. Merritt Hawkins conducts over 2,500 permanent physician search assignments annually nationwide, and its Review is widely referenced throughout the healthcare staffing industry as reflective of current physician recruiting trends.

In the 12 months from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011, the top 20 types of physician search assignments Merritt Hawkins conducted were:

Family Practice
General Internal Medicine
Orthopedic Surgery
Emergency Medicine
General Surgery

While these were the searches most frequently requested by Merritt Hawkins' clients, the firm also searches in dozens of other specialties, from allergy to vascular surgery. As a general rule, there is a demand for virtually every type of medical specialist today. Demand is considered to be particularly high in primary care, where shortages have been experienced and projected for a number of years. However, shortages also have been projected for many types of specialists, including general surgeons, psychiatrists, oncologists, geriatricians, orthopedic surgeons and others.

One indicator of this trend is provided by Merritt Hawkins' Survey of Final-Year Medical Residents. In the firm's most recent survey, closed to three quarters of residents surveyed (primary care and specialists) had been contacted by recruiters 50 or more times during their training. Close to half of residents (47%) had been contacted by recruiters 100 or more times (see the "Surveys/Compensation" section of this site for the full report).

The old slogan in the physician staffing industry (i.e., "There is no such thing as an unemployed physician") is as true today as when it was coined in the early 1980s. Trends come and go, and at times, certain types of physicians have more opportunities and greater latitude in their choices than others. In general, however, a physician who is well trained and has a positive attitude will always find a welcome somewhere.