Which Medical Specialties is there a Shortage?

July 1, 2015

betsy2_galleryOne of the biggest decisions you have to make when you are in medical school is what specialty to pursue. It is important to take several factors into consideration when choosing what type of doctor you want to be. For example, your personality may be suited for certain specialties more than others. If you are someone who enjoys being part of a fast-paced environment and caring for patients with critical conditions, working as a trauma doctor may be a good fit.

In addition to personality and interests, you may also want to consider what specialties are in demand. Entering a specialty in which there is a demand may make obtaining a residency easier. It may also mean more employment opportunities when you complete your training. Depending on the specialty and where you practice, you may also be able to obtain loan forgiveness. Below are a few specialties that are in short supply.

Family Practice

Family practice doctors, also called primary care doctors, are in demand all over the United States. Family practice physicians care for patients of all ages. A primary care doctor often coordinates the patient’s medical care. They may treat people with all types of conditions from minor problems, such as the flu to serious conditions, such as heart disease. According to research by the Annals of Family Medicine, it is predicted that there will be a shortage of over 50,000 family medicine doctors by the year 2025.


Although primary care is often mentioned, it is not the only specialty where there is a shortage. Experts predict there will also be a shortage of oncologists, which will develop in the coming years. Medical oncologists care for people who have cancer. Some oncologists specialize in treating a certain type of cancer while others treat a variety of cancers. The shortage is expected to be primary for general oncologists.


Ophthalmologists care for people who have a variety of conditions that affect the eyes. For example, they may diagnose and treat people with conditions, such as glaucoma and detached retinas. Statistics from the Federal Heath Resources and Service Administration indicate that fewer doctors are choosing ophthalmology as their specialty, and a demand is growing.

General Surgery

As many doctors choose to narrow their focus down, a shortage of general surgeons is developing throughout the United States. Researchers predict that the number of general surgeon in practice will fall from about 40,000 to about 30,000 by 2020. General surgeons perform all type of operations usually involving the abdominal organs. Some general surgeons also treat people with diseases of the skin and thyroid gland.

Why is There a Shortage in Certain Medical Specialties?  

Although it is difficult to state the exact cause of a shortage of physicians, it could be a combination of different factors. In general, the aging population has created more of a demand for medical care. Changing healthcare laws have also affected the need for medical services.

Medical technology and advances in care have created new opportunities for doctors. New specialties have emerged, which means physicians are not going into as many as the traditional specialties.