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OBJECTIVES: To compare specialty choices of the UK medical graduates of 2005, 2008 and 2009, one year after graduation, with those of graduates from previous years and with the distribution of senior medical practitioners working in England. METHOD: Postal questionnaire surveys. RESULTS: The proportion of graduates giving more than one specialty choice rose in the most recent cohorts. Among men, choices for surgical careers fell from 37% of 2005 graduates to 25% of 2008 and 2009 graduates. The percentages who specified anaesthetics, general practice and obstetrics and gynaecology rose. Among women, general practice and surgery were unchanged in popularity, but increasing percentages specified paediatrics, anaesthetics and obstetrics and gynaecology. Choices for psychiatry and emergency medicine showed no trend. General practice was substantially under-represented, and hospital surgical and medical specialties were over-represented, in choices when compared to the distribution of senior National Health Service doctors. CONCLUSION: More current graduates consider two or more specialties than did their predecessors, which may reflect an increase in uncertainty about obtaining a post in their favoured specialty. The specialty preferences expressed by newly qualified doctors, notably the shortfall in numbers choosing general practice, remain inconsistent with future service needs.

Original publication




Journal article


Med Teach

Publication Date





365 - 375


Attitude of Health Personnel, Career Choice, Female, Humans, Male, Medicine, Schools, Medical, Sex Factors, Students, Medical, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom