Factors influencing junior doctors' choices of future specialty: trends over time and demographics based on results from UK national surveys

J R Soc Med. 2015 Oct;108(10):396-405. doi: 10.1177/0141076815599674. Epub 2015 Oct 2.


Objective: To study trends in factors influencing junior doctors' choice of future specialty.

Design: Respondents were asked whether each of 15 factors had a great deal of influence on their career choice, a little influence or no influence on it. Percentages are reported of those who specified that a factor had a great deal of influence on their career choice.

Setting: UK.

Participants: A total of 15,765 UK-trained doctors who graduated between 1999 and 2012.

Main outcome measures: Questions about career choices and factors which may have influenced those choices, in particular comparing doctors who qualified in 2008-2012 with those who qualified in 1999-2002.

Results: Enthusiasm for and commitment to the specialty was a greater influence on career choice in the 2008-2012 qualifiers (81%) than those of 1999-2002 (64%), as was consideration of their domestic circumstances (43% compared with 20%). Prospects for promotion were less important to recent cohorts (16%) than older cohorts (21%), as were financial prospects (respectively, 10% and 14%). Domestic circumstances and working hours were considered more important, and financial prospects less important, by women than men. Inclination before medical school was rated as important by 41% of doctors who were over 30 years old, compared with 13% of doctors who were under 21, at the time of starting medical school.

Conclusions: The increasing importance of both domestic circumstances and enthusiasm for their specialty choice in recent cohorts suggest that today's young doctors prize both work-life balance and personal fulfilment at work more highly than did their predecessors. The differences in motivations of older and younger generations of doctors, men and women, and doctors who start medical school relatively late are worthy of note.

Keywords: Physicians; career choice; junior; medical; medical education; workforce.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Career Choice*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Demography
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Medicine* / trends
  • Motivation*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Physicians* / trends
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization* / trends
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Work
  • Young Adult