Career preferences of doctors who qualified in the United Kingdom in 1993 compared with those of doctors qualifying in 1974, 1977, 1980, and 1983.
Lambert TW., Goldacre MJ., Edwards C., Parkhouse J.
OBJECTIVE: To report the career preferences of doctors who qualified in the United Kingdom in 1993 and to compare their choices with those of earlier cohorts of qualifiers. DESIGN: Postal questionnaires with structured questions, including questions about choice of future long term career, were sent to doctors a year after qualification. SETTING: United Kingdom. SUBJECTS: All medical qualifiers of 1993, comparing their replies with those from earlier studies of the qualifiers of 1974, 1977, 1980, and 1983. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Choice of future long term career and certainty of choice expressed at the end of the first year after qualification. RESULTS: Questionnaires were sent to 3657 doctors. 2621 (71.7%) replied. Of the 2621 respondents, 70.5% (1849) stated that their first preference was for a career in hospital practice, 25.8% (677) specified general practice, 1.0% (25) specified public health medicine or community health, 1.4% (36) specified careers outside medicine, and 1.3% (34) did not state a choice. By contrast, 44.7% (1416/3168) of the doctors in the 1983 cohort had specified that their first preference was general practice. Among the 1993 qualifiers, general practice was the first career choice of 17.5% of men (227/1297) and 34.0% of women (450/1324). Only 7.4% of men (96/1297) stated that they definitely wanted to enter general practice. Only 7.8% (103/1324) of women qualifiers in 1993 expressed a career preference for surgical specialties. Within hospital practice, comparing 1993 with 1983, choices for the medical specialties and for accident and emergency medicine rose and those for pathology fell. Women were less definite than men about their choice of future long term career. CONCLUSIONS: If the 1993 cohort is typical of the current generation of young doctors, there has been a substantial shift away from general practice as a career choice expressed at the end of the preregistration year. General practice was much more popular among women than men. Few women opted for surgery. The sex imbalance in the percentage of doctors who choose different mainstreams of medical practice seems set to continue.