Medical students lose interest in physician careers: survey

medical education

By Siobhan Calafiore

5 Sep 2023

Fewer final-year medical students are interested in a career as a physician than previous years, however the specialty has retained its place as the “most preferred” option overall, according to national survey results.

The Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand surveyed 1999 students in their final year at Australian medical schools from 2018-2022 to inform its latest data report [link here].

Findings showed that interest in future careers in adult medicine, internal medicine or as a physician dipped by 3% to 16% overall, although interest remained high among the international student cohort at 22%.

Top 5 preferred specialties of future practice:

Adult Medicine/Internal Medicine/Physician


General Practice 13.1%





Emergency Medicine



General practice remained the second most preferred specialty at 13% for all students, however when combined with rural generalism – a growing preference for domestic graduates – it became the most preferred at 19%.

The top 10 most preferred disciplines were unchanged from previous years with surgery, anaesthesia, emergency medicine, paediatrics and child health, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynaecology, and intensive care medicine completing the list.

The levels of interest in these specialties remained fairly stable, with a slight increase in interest in intensive care, dermatology and pathology, the authors reported.

When making career decisions, medical students said the most important factors were “alignment with personal values” and “atmosphere/work culture”, while experience of the specialty as a student also had a substantial impact.

The least influential factors were partners’ occupation, parents/relatives, and factors related to finances such as medical school education cost or debt.

Most respondents (75%) said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their medical program in 2022, which was similar to last year. The proportion of respondents “dissatisfied” or “highly dissatisfied” rose slightly to 11%.

Other findings showed that 38% of students preferred working outside of a capital city (40% domestic and 30% international), half had an interest in Indigenous health, and there was a slight drop off in teaching and research interest from 86% and 60% in previous years to 83% and 56%, respectively.

The survey was administered at the end of 2022 with a 52% response rate.

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