Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine career preferences of medical students at the time of entering medical school compared with interns who were graduating; and to determine what factors influence the choice of a special discipline as a career.
Methods: A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based survey study involving freshmen and interns at Tehran University of Medical Sciences was conducted in 2006 - 2007. Respondents anonymously completed a specialties questionnaire developed by Feifel et al. The questionnaire was translated into Persian (Farsi) and several items were modified based on the circumstances.
Results: The response rate was 91 (73%) among freshmen and 137 (77%) among interns. Forty-six freshman students (50%) and 71 interns (51.8%) indicated that they had not developed a strong decision about any particular field of medicine and needed more time. The preferred specialties among freshmen were surgery and internal medicine; whereas graduating students were more interested in "other specialties". There was no significant difference between pediatrics, gynecology, psychiatry, and general practice among the two groups. There was a significant difference in rating when it came to "anticipated income", "prestige" and "helping patients" of which interns were less interested compared to freshmen in these three areas.
Conclusion: Approximately one-half of the medical students were unclear about their future goals. The experience of medical school may play a role in diminishing students' interest in surgery and internal medicine as prospective careers.