The effect of clinical experiences in medical school on specialty choice decisions

J Med Educ. 1982 Sep;57(9):666-74. doi: 10.1097/00001888-198209000-00002.


Medical students' specialty choice decisions are usually made by the middle or end of the clinical year. In the study here, the authors investigated the extent to which various factors during clinical clerkships affected specialty choice. Debts, other financial considerations, and length of residency had little overall effect on students' choices. The order of clerkships was of particular significance for the undecided students. Members of the clinical teaching faculty exercised a strong role-modeling effect throughout medical school. During clerkships, however, the greatest influence on specialty choice came first from the interplay of faculty members and experiences and second from faculty members by themselves; experiences alone affected few students. The influence of faculty members and clerkship experiences was greatest among students who chose psychiatry. Additionally, most students who selected psychiatry had originally intended to enter other specialties. The large majority of those who chose family practice, internal medicine, and surgery had made their decision prior to emerging clerkships and, therefore, clinical experiences and the faculty tended to affect them the least.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Internship and Residency
  • Medicine
  • Specialization*