Career intentions of medical students in the UK: a national, cross-sectional study (AIMS study)

BMJ Open. 2023 Sep 12;13(9):e075598. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-075598.


Objective: To determine current UK medical students' career intentions after graduation and on completing the Foundation Programme (FP), and to ascertain the motivations behind these intentions.

Design: Cross-sectional, mixed-methods survey of UK medical students, using a non-random sampling method.

Setting: All 44 UK medical schools recognised by the General Medical Council.

Participants: All UK medical students were eligible to participate. The study sample consisted of 10 486 participants, approximately 25.50% of the medical student population.

Outcome measures: Career intentions of medical students postgraduation and post-FP, motivations behind these career intentions, characterising the medical student population and correlating demographic factors and propensity to leave the National Health Service (NHS).

Results: The majority of participating students (8806/10 486, 83.98%) planned to complete both years of the FP after graduation, with under half of these students (4294/8806, 48.76%) intending to pursue specialty training thereafter. A subanalysis of career intentions after the FP by year of study revealed a significant decrease in students' intentions to enter specialty training as they advanced through medical school. Approximately a third of surveyed students (3392/10 486, 32.35%) intended to emigrate to practise medicine, with 42.57% (n=1444) of those students not planning to return. In total, 2.89% of students intended to leave medicine altogether (n=303). Remuneration, work-life balance and working conditions were identified as important factors in decision-making regarding emigration and leaving the profession. Subgroup analyses based on gender, type of schooling, fee type and educational background were performed. Only 17.26% of surveyed students were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall prospect of working in the NHS.

Conclusions: The Ascertaining the career Intentions of UK Medical Students study highlights UK students' views and career intentions, revealing a concerning proportion of those surveyed considering alternative careers or emigration. Addressing factors such as remuneration, work-life balance and working conditions may increase retention of doctors and improve workforce planning efforts.

Keywords: health economics; health education; health policy; medical education & training; organisation of health services; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • State Medicine
  • Students, Medical*
  • United Kingdom