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Open Access Research article

Determinants of career aspirations of medical students in southern China

LingBing She1, BingLi Wu1, LiYan Xu2, JianYi Wu1, PiXian Zhang1 and EnMin Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, PR China

2 Department of Pathology, the Key Immunopathology Laboratory of Guangdong Province, Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, PR China

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BMC Medical Education 2008, 8:59  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-8-59

Published: 11 December 2008



With recent changes in both the Chinese medical system and compensation of medical doctors, the career aspirations of Chinese medical students have become more diverse. Shantou University Medical College has conducted evaluations and instituted programs to enhance student preparedness to enter a variety of medical careers.


A survey was conducted with 85 students to evaluate medical career aspirations and their association with family background, personal skills, English language proficiency, and interest in biomedical research, which were considered as possible factors affecting their career interest.


Chinese students aspire to traditional as well as nontraditional medical careers. A significant minority of students are now interested in nontraditional careers such as medical teaching or research. However, poor proficiency in the English language and lack of computer skills may limit their academic and career opportunities.


Career aspirations have changed among medical undergraduates. Although many wish to pursue a traditional clinical doctor career, many are interested in research and teaching careers. Factors such as family background, personal characteristics, school mentoring, and extracurricular support may play a role.