Specialty preferences: trends and perceptions among Saudi undergraduate medical students

Med Teach. 2012;34 Suppl 1:S51-60. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.656753.


Background: The exploration of specialty choices by medical students is a hot debate as it affects several important determinants of health care delivery. This study was carried out to determine variation in specialty preferences during medical school training and the perceptions that affect students' specialty choice.

Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire-based study was performed on 590 students with a 93.22% response rate and covered queries on demography, specialty choices, and perceptions influencing specialty choices. Class-wise analysis of specialty choices was carried out.

Results: The most preferred specialty expressed by male students was surgery, followed by internal medicine and orthopedics, while most preferred by female students were surgery, followed by pediatrics and ophthalmology. Male students' emphasized factors like less competitive field, shortage of specialists, and diversity of patients while the prestige of specialty and teaching opportunities had a greater impact on female students.

Conclusions: Surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, and ophthalmology were the most preferred specialty choices. Gender preference was observed to affect choices of few specialties such as orthopedics and obstetrics/gynecology. Perceptions which have an impact on specialty selection of male and female students may reflect a different tempo of growing up in men and women.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Career Choice*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization / trends*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Young Adult