Influences on specialty choice for students entering person-oriented and technique-oriented specialties

Med Teach. 2009 Dec;31(12):1086-8. doi: 10.3109/01421590903183787.


Background: Given changing trends in specialty choices among medical students coupled with continued challenges associated with medical specialty decision-making, it is important for medical educators to understand how students make decisions about their medical career. Medical educators should be aware of how medical school-based experiences and interactions such as faculty, courses, and services impact students' specialty choices and decisions.

Aim: The study determined if differences in influences on specialty decision-making exist for students entering person-oriented specialties versus technique-oriented specialties.

Methods: Three hundred and fifty-six fourth-year medical students completed a questionnaire about how the faculty, curriculum, student services, mentoring and professional development programs, lifestyle considerations, family/friends, and other factors influenced their choice of specialty.

Results: Chi-square analyses indicated that students pursuing person-oriented specialties compared to technique-oriented specialties were moderately more likely to be influenced by their personal physician, by school faculty, and by medical school activities; slightly more likely to be influenced by medical school offices and services; and slightly less likely to be influenced by income expectations.

Conclusions: Students interested in person-oriented specialties versus technique-oriented specialties indicate differences in what influences their specialty choice. This study may be helpful to medical educators and advisors who work with students on specialty decision-making.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Decision Making
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Midwestern United States
  • Specialization / trends*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires