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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

What is different about medical students interested in non-clinical careers?

Kyong-Jee Kim1, Jae-Hyun Park2*, Young-Ho Lee3 and Kyusik Choi4

Author Affiliations

1 Office of Medical Education, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Irwon-dong Kangnam-gu, Seoul 135-710, Korea

2 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Samsung Biomedical Research Institute, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 300 Cheoncheon-dong, Jangan-gu, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do 440-746, Korea

3 Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 300 Cheoncheon-dong, Jangan-gu, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do 440-746, Korea

4 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 300 Cheoncheon-dong, Jangan-gu, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do 440-746, Korea

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BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:81  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-81

Published: 4 June 2013

Abstract

Background

The proportion of medical school graduates who pursue careers other than full-time clinical practice has increased in some countries as the physician’s role has evolved and diversified with the changing landscape of clinical practice and the advancement of biomedicine. Still, past studies of medical students’ career choices have focused on clinical specialties and little is known about their choice of non-clinical careers. The present study examined backgrounds, motivation and perceptions of medical students who intended non-clinical careers.

Methods

A questionnaire was administered to students at six Korean medical schools distributed across all provinces in the nation. The questionnaire comprised 40 items on respondents’ backgrounds, their motivation for and interest in the study of medicine, their perceptions of medical professions, and their career intentions. Data was analyzed using various descriptive and inferential statistics.

Results

In total, 1,388 students returned the questionnaire (60% response rate), 12.3% of whom intended non-clinical careers (i.e., basic sciences, non-clinical medical fields, and non-medical fields). Those who planned non-clinical careers were comparable with their peers in their motivation for studying medicine and in their views of medical professions, but they were less interested in the study of medicine (P < 0.01). The two groups also differed significantly on their perceptions of what was uninteresting about the study of medicine (P < 0.01). The two groups were comparable in gender and entry-level ratios but their distributions across ages and years of study differed significantly (P < 0.01). A majority of respondents agreed with the statements that “it is necessary for medical school graduates to pursue non-clinical careers” and that “medical schools need to offer programs that provide information on such careers.” Still, our finding indicates that medical school curricula do not address such needs sufficiently.

Conclusions

Our study found some differences in backgrounds and perceptions of the study of medicine in medical students interested in non-clinical careers from their peers. Future studies are suggested to enhance our understanding of medical students” choice of non-clinical careers.