Objective: To survey the attitudes of Australian medical students to determine their views about the relative attractiveness of psychiatry as a career compared with other specialties, and against findings from a North American study.
Method: We surveyed 655 first-year medical students attending six Australian Universities.
Results: Responses indicated that Australian medical students view psychiatry as distinctly less 'attractive' than other career options, as reported in the North American sample. In comparison with other disciplines, psychiatry was regarded as more interesting and intellectually challenging, but also as lacking a scientific foundation, not being enjoyable and failing to draw on training experiences.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that psychiatry has an image problem that is widespread, reflecting community perceptions and the specialist interests of medical students on recruitment. If psychiatry is to improve its 'attractiveness' as a career option, identified image problems need to be corrected and medical student selection processes re-considered.