Intended for healthcare professionals


Most surgeons fulfil their first career aspirations

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 13 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3118
  1. Helen Jaques, news reporter
  1. 1BMJ Careers
  1. hjaques{at}

Around two thirds of surgeons end up working in the surgical specialty they were aiming at during their first year as a qualified doctor, a survey has found.1

More than 11 000 aspiring UK surgeons were prospectively surveyed about their career intentions one, three, and five years after graduating from medical school. They were also asked about their career destinations 10 years after qualification. Response rates varied by year but were at least 74%.

Almost two thirds (61%) of surgeons who qualified in the 1970s and 1980s were working in the surgical specialty they had specified in their first year after graduation. A similar proportion (60%) of doctors who qualified in 1993 or after were likewise working in the surgical specialty they had marked out as their first choice in their first year of clinical practice.

Doctors who picked ophthalmology and oral and maxillofacial surgery as their career preference at year one were most likely to end up working in their chosen specialties 10 years later. Most of the surgeons who weren’t working in the specialty they chose in year one had switched from general surgery to a more specialised area of surgery.

The authors of a report into the findings pointed out that changes to the structure of medical training over the past 10 years meant that doctors now had to specify their career choices earlier. “This may be less of an issue for surgery than for other specialties as, even in the past, the great majority of practising surgeons knew that they wanted to be surgeons in their first post-qualification year,” they said.