Personal interest trumps salary for med students choosing a specialty


Medical students know some specialties pay better than others, but when it comes to choosing a practice, potential salary takes a back seat to personal interest, according to a recent report from Medscape.

The majority of respondents to Medscape’s survey of 2,176 current medical students indicated they saw medicine as a calling, and cited work-life balance as the greatest challenge facing them in school, according to an article accompanying the survey’s release. Half of the respondents indicated they had experienced burnout at some point during their schooling, which would offer an additional explanation for their prioritizing personal well-being over pure financial concerns.

Only 1 percent of students cited potential earnings as a motivating factor in pursuing a specialty, which tied “prestige” for last place among choices. These findings mark a contrast with practicing physicians in low-income specialties, who indicated in a previous survey they would look to a different specialty if they had it to do over again. Other findings of note:

  • Personal interest in a specialty drove the choice for about 70 percent of respondents, followed by 19 percent who cited lifestyle as their primary concern.
  • While students may not consider income a primary motivator, 41 percent of men and 28 percent of women found potential future earnings “extremely or very important,” with another 47 percent of women and 44 percent of men indicating it was moderately so.
  • Students tended to be anxious about their debt load, with 68 percent indicating they had taken on $100,000 or more in loans.
  • More than half of the students who had taken on over $200,000 in loans indicated an increased anxiety about their ability to handle their debt load.
  • Family practice and general medicine represented the most popular choice at 12 percent, followed by cardiology among males and by pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology among females.

As FiercePracticeManagement previously reported, it's important to focus on improvements in physician training and better work environments to counter burnout among young doctors. An important strategy is to teach medical students to practice wellness early on, says Lotte Dyrbye, associate director of the Department of Medicine Program on Physician Well-Being at the Mayo Clinic.

- read the report
- here’s the article