Relationship between sociodemographic factors and specialty destination of UK trainee doctors: A national cohort study

Ben Kumwenda* (Corresponding Author), Jennifer Cleland, Gordon Prescott, Kim Walker, Peter Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives Many countries are driving forward policies to widen the socioeconomic profile of medical students and to train more medical students for certain specialties. However, little is known about how socioeconomic origin relates to specialty choice. Nor is there a good understanding of the relationship between academic performance and specialty choice. To address these gaps, our aim was to identify the relationship between socioeconomic background, academic performance and accepted offers into specialty training. Design Longitudinal, cohort study using data from the UK Medical Education Database ( Participants 6065 (60% females) UK doctors who accepted offers to a specialty training (residency) post after completing the 2-year generic foundation programme (UK Foundation Programme) between 2012 and 2014. Main outcome measures Χ 2 tests were used to examine the relationships between sociodemographic characteristics, academic ability and the dependent variable, specialty choice. Multiple data imputation was used to address the issue of missing data. Multinomial regression was employed to test the independent variables in predicting the likelihood of choosing a given specialty. Results Participants pursuing careers in more competitive specialties had significantly higher academic scores than colleagues pursuing less competitive ones. After controlling for the presence of multiple factors, trainees who came from families where no parent was educated to a degree level had statistically significant lower odds of choosing careers in medical specialties relative to general practice (OR=0.78, 95% CI, 0.67 to 0.92). Students who entered medical school as school leavers, compared with mature students, had odds 1.2 times higher (95% CI, 1.04 to 1.56) of choosing surgical specialties than general practice. Conclusions The data indicate a direct association between trainees' sociodemographic characteristics, academic ability and career choices. The findings can be used by medical school, training boards and workforce planners to inform recruitment and retention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere026961
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Early online date27 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • career choice
  • multinomial regression
  • widening access


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