For several professions, the initial career choices are followed by the need to choose a specialty within that profession. For example, physicians-in-training need to decide whether to specialize in pediatrics, orthopedics, psychiatry, or some other field. However, much of the career development literature has focused primarily on the initial career choice of a profession with relatively little attention to specialty choice. To provide an overview to the concept of career specialty choice, the tools available for the assessment of specialty choice in business and medicine are reviewed in this article. References for the instruments reviewed here can be found in the Frederick Leong and Elke Geisler-Brenstein article published in 1991.
Specialty Choice In Business
Students who have chosen a career in business can specialize in a variety of functional areas (e.g., finance, marketing). Edgar Schein identified a series of career anchors and developed an instrument to measure these career anchors for individuals who are pursuing business careers. In conducting a qualitative-longitudinal study of MBA students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Schein identified several constellations of values and needs that tend to direct and anchor the individuals with regard to functional specialties within their business careers. In conducting this research, Schein developed an instrument called the Career Orientations Inventory in order to identify individuals’ career anchors. Career anchors are viewed as a combination of values, needs, and interests. These career anchors include Technical/ Functional Competence, Managerial Competence, Autonomy and Independence, Security/Stability, Service/Dedication, Pure Challenge, Lifestyle Integration, and Entrepreneurship.
The next instrument is not really a separate instrument as much as it is a special scoring of the Strong Interest Inventory to provide information on business specialties. These assessments are called the Strong Topical Reports, and there are three of them: the Leadership Management Style Report, the Organizational Specialty Report, and the Leisure Report. The instrument of most interest with respect to making a specialty choice is the Organizational Specialty Report, which was developed by Pierre Mayer. This report identifies whether individuals would be interested in working in a series of business areas of specialization within an organization. These specialty areas include administrative services, communications, finance and control, general management, human resources, legal, informational systems management, manufacturing management, research and development, marketing, and sales.
Another recent development in the assessment of business specialty interests is David Campbell’s new instrument called the Campbell Work Orientations Scales (CWO). The CWO consists of three separate surveys. Of the three surveys within the CWO scales, the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey is the most relevant to specialty choice. The Interest and Skill Survey provides information on 29 interest scales, which are organized into nine clusters: agriculture, mechanics, military/athletics, science/mathematics, art/music/travel, social/medical services, leadership/ politics, management/finance, and advertising/ marketing. Of the nine clusters, the first three are of most relevance to business career specialties: (1) public speaking, law/politics, leadership; (2) management, office practices, financial services; and (3) sales, advertising/ marketing, and fashion.
Specialty Choice In The Medical Profession
Three primary instruments have been used to assist physicians-in-training in selecting a medical specialty. Each of the instruments explores somewhat different personality aspects. The Medical Specialty Preference Scales (MSPS) developed by Harrison Gough assesses occupational interests in terms of different school subjects, occupational titles, and types of people based on items of the Strong Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII). George Zimney’s Medical Specialty Preference Inventory measures students’ preferences for specific medical activities and settings. Finally, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator indicates a student’s psychological type along four fundamental dimensions of personality.
For the development of the MSPS, the Strong Vocational Interest Blank (an earlier version of the SCII) was administered to 956 freshman medical students at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco. Their scores were examined for discriminant validity after the students had started practicing medicine. Ten criterion groups were established: anesthesiology, eyes, ears, nose, and throat (EENT), obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, family medicine and general practice, pathology, radiology, internal medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics. The MSPS is scored by the vendor, Consulting Psychologists Press. Together with a computer-scored printout, the student also receives a four-page interpretive guide with general instructions on how to plot the raw scores on a profile for males or females as well as with information regarding how to interpret the profile.
The Medical Specialty Preference Inventory (MSPI) was developed with the dual purpose of providing medical students with information about their personal specialty preferences as well as providing students with information regarding various aspects of the medical specialties themselves. The instrument assesses preferences for six specialties: internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery, and family practice. Unlike the MSPS, the MSPI was developed based on the ratings of practitioners. A national sample of over 1,000 board-certified physicians in each of the six specialties rated each of 199 items directly related to the practice of medicine to indicate how characteristic they were of the general clinical practice in their specialty. The MSPI comes in the form of a 10-page booklet with 199 questionnaire items relating to the different aspects of medicine. Students rate each item in terms of how desirable it is for them in the practice of medicine.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is widely used in career counseling. A large database of type preferences of medical students has provided type information for a large number of medical specialties and may prove useful to students in the process of medical specialty choice. Type tables compiled for large samples of medical students show that all types are represented in the medical field. An examination of type distributions in individual specialties, however, shows that certain types are more likely to be attracted to one specialty than to others. For example, introverted, intuitive thinkers were more likely to be found in pathology (INTJ and INTP), while extroverted, sensing-thinking types with a preference for orderly functioning (ESTJ) were more likely to be found in general practice.
- Career as a calling
- Customized careers
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Occupational choice
- Occupational professionalization
Leong, F. T. L. and Geisler-Brenstein, E. 1991. “Assessment of Career Specialty Interests in Business And Medicine.” Career Planning and Adult Development Journal 7:37-44.