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BMC medical education




INTRODUCTION: During the preclinical years, students typically do not have extensive exposure to clinical medicine. When they begin their clinical rotations, usually in the third year, the majority of the time is spent on core rotations with limited experience in other fields of medicine. Students then must decide on their careers early in their fourth year. We aimed to analyze how often medical students change their career preferences between the end of their second and their fourth year.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective, cohort study using the American Association of Medical Colleges Year 2 Questionnaire (Y2Q) and Graduating Questionnaire (GQ) from 2016 to 2020.

RESULTS: 20,408 students answered both surveys, but 2,165 had missing values on the career choice question and were excluded. Of the remaining students, 10,233 (56%) changed their career choice between the Y2 and GQ surveys. Fields into which students preferentially switched by the GQ survey included anesthesia, dermatology, ENT, family medicine, OB/GYN, pathology, PM&R, psychiatry, radiology, urology, and vascular surgery. Many characteristics, including future salary, the competitiveness of the field, and the importance of work-life balance, were significantly associated with a higher likelihood of changing career choices. On the other hand, having a mentor and the specialty content were associated with a lower likelihood of change.

CONCLUSION: A majority of students switched their career preferences from the Y2Q to the GQ. Additional research should be focused on curricular design that optimizes student satisfaction with career decisions. This may include early integration of a variety of specialties.


© The Author(s) 2023. Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.