Objective: To identify factors that influence specialty choice among Wisconsin medical students and provide insight into approaches to encourage more students to pursue careers in primary care.
Methods: The importance of several factors in medical student career choice was surveyed using a Web survey convenience sample of all Wisconsin medical students. Students intending to pursue a career in primary care and in other specialties were compared.
Results: Respondents, regardless of specialty choice or gender, identified a similar group of factors as highly influential, and similar group of factors as non-influential in their decision-making. However, significantly more primary care students than other specialty students considered interest in underserved populations, relationships with patients, scope of practice, and role models important in their career choice. Significantly more primary care students than other specialty students responded that salary and competitiveness were "not at all" important. A greater number of other specialty students than primary care students stated that interest in scope of practice, role models, and training years were "not at all" important. Debt-related factors were reported as "not at all" important by nearly one-third of respondents.
Conclusions: Although primary care and other specialty students report making their career plans based on the impact of similar factors, significant differences between primary care and other specialty students were reported in key areas. These results validate many previously reported factors, and indicate that salary and years of training may have been overemphasized in understanding student career choice. The results of this survey may be useful for Wisconsin medical schools in order to sustain, support, and foster student interest in primary care.