Emergency medicine career choice: a profile of factors and influences from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) graduation questionnaires

Acad Emerg Med. 2009 Jun;16(6):544-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2009.00385.x. Epub 2009 Mar 26.


Objectives: This study sought to account for trends in medical student specialty choice by examining the importance of lifestyle factors. Emergency medicine (EM) is among several medical specialties classified as having a "controllable lifestyle." The primary objective of this study was to determine if medical students choosing careers in EM have a different profile of influences, values, and expectations from students choosing other specialties or specialty groups. Of secondary interest was how much lifestyle influenced students choosing EM compared to students choosing controllable lifestyle (CL) specialties.

Methods: Using data from the 2005 and 2006 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) graduation questionnaire (GQ) supplemental surveys, we grouped responses according to desired specialty choice: EM (n = 963), CL (n = 3,681), primary care (PC; n = 3,191), or surgical specialty (SS; n = 1,694). The survey requires students to rate the influence of nine specific factors in determining their specialty choice: lifestyle, competitiveness, high level of educational debt, mentors and role models, options for fellowship training, salary expectations, length of residency training, family expectations, and medical school career planning activities. Using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and nonparametric statistics, we assessed responses among the four subgroups for differences in the importance attributed to these factors.

Results: A total of 13,440 students completed the two supplemental surveys of the GQ. Of these students, 9,529 identified a specialty choice that fell within one of the four comparison groups and were included in the analysis. Compared to other specialty groups, students choosing EM reported lifestyle and length of residency as strong influences, while attributing less influence to mentors and options for fellowship training.

Conclusions: Students choosing a career in EM have distinctly different priorities and influences than students entering PC and SS. The profile of students who choose EM is very similar to those choosing traditional CL specialties. A more thorough understanding of the values and priorities that shape medical student career selection may allow educators to provide better career counseling.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Career Choice*
  • Career Mobility
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medicine* / education
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Internship and Residency
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mentors
  • Specialization*
  • Specialties, Surgical
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult