The public prestige of medical specialties: overviews and undercurrents

Soc Sci Med. 1991;32(3):321-6. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(91)90110-x.


This investigation offers a comprehensive analysis of the relative social prestige of various medical specialties. The specialties were evaluated in terms of ascribed esteem by a lay sample of 400 respondents. Several attributes were then tested in order to measure their contribution to overall prestige. The results affirm that a stable prestige hierarchy exists among medical specialties, with certain ones, such as surgery and cardiology, consistently ranked at the top, and others, such as dermatology and psychiatry, consistently resting at the bottom. A specialty's relative standing in perceived income and assigned social value are the best predictors of its hierarchical position, with income being the single best predictor. Moreover, the prediction of a specialty's prestige appears to improve significantly when both variables--income and value--are considered inclusively.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology
  • General Surgery
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Medicine*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Public Opinion*
  • Social Class
  • Social Desirability*
  • Specialization*