Background and objectives: Medical students have had a declining interest in family medicine as a career. Some studies have shown a small inverse relationship between debt levels and primary care, but it is unclear how students perceive remuneration in different specialties and how these perceptions might influence career choice.
Methods: Medical students at one school were surveyed to understand their perceptions of physician remuneration and to gain insight into how these perceptions might affect career selection.
Results: Response rate was 72% (560/781 students). Students' estimates of physician income were accurate throughout training, with the overall estimate for family medicine being lower than the actual income by only $10,656. The vast majority of students agreed with the statement that family physicians get paid too little (85%-89% of each class). The importance of payment as a factor in career decision making increased with higher debt and with advancing training.
Conclusions: Students are able to accurately predict income by specialty from an early stage of training and have a negative perception of income in family medicine. The perception that family physicians make too little money could be an important driver--or at least a modifier--in the lack of interest in family medicine.