Objectives: To report the specialty choices of UK medical graduates of 2002, and to compare their choices with those of qualifiers in previous years and with the profile of career grade doctors in different specialties in England.
Methods: We carried out a postal questionnaire survey in the UK and drew comparisons with official data for numbers of specialists.
Results: The response rate was 65.3% (2778/4257). A total of 22.7% of the medical graduates of 2002 (28.1% of women, 14.5% of men) expressed a preference for a longterm career in general practice, compared with 25.3% of 1999 and 2000 graduates combined. A total of 31.1% of men and 11.9% of women chose surgical specialties; 0.7% of men and 3.4% of women chose obstetrics and gynaecology; 3.4% of men and 7.9% of women chose paediatrics. There was a large mismatch between the percentage choosing each specialty group and the percentage of senior National Health Service doctors working in the same specialty group. In all, 71% of graduates regarded their career choice as definite or probable and 80% definitely or probably intended to pursue a longterm career in medicine in the UK, compared with 75% of qualifiers in 1999 and 2000.
Conclusions: Career choices for general practice remain low: only 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men now choose general practice at this career stage. Very few men choose obstetrics and gynaecology, despite a recent increase in training opportunities. There is no evidence of an increase, compared with recent previous cohorts, in the percentage of junior doctors who do not want a longterm career in British medicine.