Objective: To report on how newly qualified doctors' specialty choices, and factors that influenced them, varied by medical school.
Design: Postal questionnaires.
Setting: United Kingdom.
Subjects: All doctors who graduated in the UK in 1999 and 2000.
Main outcome measures: Choices of eventual career expressed 1 year after graduating, and factors influencing their choices.
Results: There were some significant differences between medical schools in the career choices made by their graduates. For example, the percentage of respondents who expressed the choice of general practice was significantly low among graduates of Oxford and Cambridge and high among graduates of Birmingham and Leicester. There was also significant variation between medical schools in choices for hospital medical and surgical specialties. There were significant differences, too, between medical schools in the extent to which career choices had been strongly influenced by graduates' inclinations before starting medical school and by their experience of their chosen specialty, particular teachers and departments at medical school. As well as the differences, however, there were also many similarities between the schools in graduates' career choices.
Discussion: Medical schools currently provide students with a broad training suited to any subsequent choice of specialty. We suggest that the similarities between schools in the career choices made by graduates are generally more striking than the differences. We raise the question of whether there should be any specialisation by individual schools to train students for careers in particular branches of medical practice.