The revised structure of hospital specialist training being introduced in the United Kingdom means that a doctor wanting a career in a hospital specialty will need to be confident that his or her early career choice, made within 3 years of qualification, is realistic. Using data from a longitudinal study of the 1983 cohort of UK medical graduates, the early career choices made by over 2000 doctors were compared with their employment 11 years after qualification. At year 11 65% of the doctors were working within the first choice they had expressed towards the end of their pre-registration year, and 79% were employed in their year 3 first choice. There was, however, important variation within this general picture: lower predictive value was associated with choices made by women; choices for hospital mainstreams rather than for general practice; and choices that were less than definite. The recent drop in popularity of general practice as a career choice of new graduates in the UK, and the steady increase in the proportion of women graduates, mean that the predictive value of the career choices of recent graduates may prove to be lower than that of the 1983 cohort.