Career choices for geriatric medicine: national surveys of graduates of 1974-2009 from all UK medical schools

Age Ageing. 2014 Jul;43(4):535-41. doi: 10.1093/ageing/aft211. Epub 2014 Jan 14.


Background: numbers of elderly people are increasing worldwide. This increases the importance of the specialty of geriatric medicine. Recruitment to the specialty may not be keeping pace with need.

Objectives: to report trends in junior doctors' career choices for geriatric medicine, factors that influence career choice, and associations between early career choices and later specialty destinations.

Methods: questionnaire surveys of all medical qualifiers from all UK medical schools in selected year-of-qualification cohorts (1974-2009). Survey response rates 1, 3 and 5 years after graduation were, respectively, 65.9% (33,972/51,535), 65.5% (29,400/44,879) and 66.1% (22,600/34,197).

Results: geriatric medicine was the career choice of 0.9% of medical graduates (0.4% of men, 1.3% of women) 1 year after qualification; and of 1.5% (1.2% of men, 1.9% of women) after 5 years. There was a modest increase in recent cohorts. Important influences on career choice included enthusiasm for and commitment to the specialty, experience of working in geriatric medicine and self-appraisal of own skills. Early career choices were not highly predictive of later destinations. Of practising geriatricians in our surveys, 9% (20/212) had told us that they wanted to be geriatricians in their first year after graduation, as had 36% when in their third year and 74% in their fifth year.

Conclusions: a higher percentage of women than men choose geriatric medicine; in recent years its popularity has increased slightly. Early career choice is not highly predictive of an eventual career in the specialty. Flexibility is needed about when doctors can enter training in geriatric medicine.

Keywords: geriatrics; health policy; medical education; older people.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Career Choice*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Geriatrics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Geriatrics / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Schools, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom