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BACKGROUND: Workforce studies show a declining proportion of UK junior doctors proceeding directly to specialist training, with many taking career breaks. Doctors may be choosing to delay this important career decision. AIM: To assess doctors' views on the timing of choosing a clinical specialty. METHODS: Surveys of two cohorts of UK-trained doctors 3 years after qualification, in 2011 and 2015. RESULTS: Presented with the statement 'I had to choose my career specialty too soon after qualification', 61% agreed (27% strongly) and 22% disagreed (3% strongly disagreed). Doctors least certain about their choice of specialty were most likely to agree (81%), compared with those who were more confident (72%) or were definite regarding their choice of long-term specialty (54%). Doctors not in higher specialist training were more likely to agree with this statement than those who were (72% vs 59%). Graduate medical school entrants (ie, those who had completed prior degrees) were less likely to agree than non-graduates (56% vs 62%). Qualitative analysis of free text comments identified three themes as reasons why doctors felt rushed into choosing their future career: insufficient exposure to a wide range of specialties; a desire for a greater breadth of experience of medicine in general; and inadequate career advice. CONCLUSIONS: Most UK-trained doctors feel rushed into choosing their long-term career specialty. Doctors find this difficult because they lack sufficient medical experience and adequate career advice to make sound choices. Workforce trainers and planners should enable greater flexibility in training pathways and should further improve existing career guidance.

Original publication




Journal article


Postgrad Med J

Publication Date





621 - 626


career choice, medical education & training, medical workforce, physicians, junior, Attitude of Health Personnel, Career Choice, Education, Medical, Graduate, Humans, Physicians, Qualitative Research, Specialization, Time Factors, United Kingdom