Surveying Fourth-Year Medical Students Regarding the Choice of Diagnostic Radiology as a Specialty

J Am Coll Radiol. 2016 Feb;13(2):188-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Oct 21.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to survey fourth-year medical students, both those choosing and those not choosing diagnostic radiology as their specialty, regarding factors influencing their choice of specialty and their perceptions of radiology.

Methods: A voluntary anonymous online survey hyperlink was sent to 141 US medical schools for distribution to fourth-year students. Topics included demographics, radiology education, specialty choice and influencing factors, and opinions of radiology.

Results: A representative sampling (7%) of 2015 fourth-year medical students (n = 1,219; 51% men, 49% women) participated: 7% were applying in radiology and 93% were not. For respondents applying in radiology, the most important factor was intellectual challenge. For respondents applying in nonradiology specialties, degree of patient contact was the most important factor in the decision not to choose radiology; job market was not listed as a top-three factor. Women were less likely than men to apply in radiology (P < .001), with radiology selected by 11.8% of men (56 of 476) and only 2.8% of women (13 of 459). Respondents self-identifying as Asian had a significantly higher (P = .015) likelihood of selecting radiology (19 of 156 [12.2%]) than all other races combined (44 of 723 [6.1%]). Respondents at medical schools with required dedicated medical imaging rotations were more likely to choose radiology as a specialty, but most schools still do not require the clerkship (82%).

Conclusions: The reasons fourth-year medical students choose, or do not choose, diagnostic radiology as a specialty are multifactorial, but noncontrollable factors, such as the job market, proved less compelling than controllable factors, such as taking a radiology rotation.

Keywords: Medical students; radiology; specialty choice.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Career Choice*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiology / education*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States