The relationship between specialty choice and gender of U.S. medical students, 1990-2003

Acad Med. 2005 Sep;80(9):797-802. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200509000-00003.


Purpose: Women have been postulated to be more responsible than men for the recent trend of lifestyle factors influencing the specialty choices of graduating U.S. medical students. The authors looked at the specialty choices of U.S. medical students between 1990 and 2003 to determine whether and to what degree women were responsible for the trends toward controllable lifestyle specialties.

Method: Specialty preference was based on analysis of results from the American Association of Medical Colleges' Medical School Graduation Questionnaire. Specialty lifestyle (controllable vs. uncontrollable) was classified using a standard definition from prior research. A random effects regression model was used to assess differences between men and women in specialty choice over time and the proportion of variability in specialty preference from 1990 to 2003 explained by women.

Results: Overall, a greater proportion of women planned to pursue uncontrollable specialties compared with men in every year analyzed. Both women and men demonstrated a decreasing interest in uncontrollable lifestyle specialties by almost 20%. However, regression analysis found that women were more slightly more likely to choose an uncontrollable lifestyle specialty compared to men over time (p < .01).

Conclusion: Among U.S. medical graduates, women were not more responsible than were men for the trend away from uncontrollable lifestyle specialties over the time period studied. Men and women expressed similar and significant rates of declining interest in specialties with uncontrollable lifestyles.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Choice*
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical*
  • Female
  • Health Workforce*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Physicians, Women / psychology*
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Workload