Can incorporating factors that influence career choices into the undergraduate curriculum ensure that the University is producing graduates that are better matched to their chosen vocation?


Author(s) Caryl Richards, Marianne Broderick ( Student Contribution)


Specialty selection by trainee doctors leaves some specialties oversubscribed while others have difficulty recruiting. Although vocational training forms part of the medical school teaching, it does not address all the factors that influence specialty selection. 72 Careers Evening attendees (59 medical students, 13 doctors; 67% female) were asked to rate the factors that influence(d) their career choices. The highest rated factors were intellectual challenge, suits personality and job opportunities. However, 58% of students were still undecided in their specialty choice. This, together with free-text comments, implies an untapped potential to optimise students’ future career choices by increasing their exposure to more career specialties in the undergraduate curriculum with an emphasis on these highly ranked influential factors. We believe the results of our survey could apply to any undergraduate course with a vocational emphasis. We will discuss how broadening and improving teaching could produce graduates better matched to their chosen vocation.


Third year medical students, Caryl Richards and Marianne Broderick, organised an alternative to the traditional careers evening after identifying a gap in Swansea University Medical School’s careers advice. The purpose of the event was to increase medical student and trainee exposure to as many specialties as possible, and to explore the reality of life in these specialties and ways in which to strengthen applications. 25 representatives were given a 2-minute pitch to sell their specialty followed by a question and answer session. The first of its type held at the Medical School, the event was considered so innovative and unique that BMA Cymru Wales approached the organisers to write a blog for their website (

Feedback from students and doctors who attended was very positive. Several doctors expressed a wish that similar events had been made available to them as this may have influenced them to pursue alternative specialties. Additionally, ethical approval was granted for a questionnaire which gave further insight into the career-advice needs of both students and doctors who had already made their specialty choice. Information was collected about the participants’ stage of training, current or future specialty preference, and factors which influenced these career preferences. 72 attendees (59 medical students, 13 doctors; 67% female) were surveyed. The highest rated factors influencing specialty choice were intellectual challenge, suits personality and job opportunities. Surprisingly, within a largely female survey cohort, factors such as role models and gender did not rank highly. Analysis demonstrated that multiple opportunities to incorporate careers advice/training into the curriculum content are missed. Furthermore, a surprisingly high number of students (58%) are undecided in their specialty choice. 41% of which were 3rd year students who are 6 months away from submitting their applications to the Foundation Programme; another missed opportunity to enable optimisation of their training for future specialty progression. This implies that there is scope at undergraduate level for more exposure to specialties emphasising the top ranked influential factors in career choice. Free-text comments further confirmed this: “greater choice in undergraduate curriculum for 2-3 week assistantships”; “more scope for taster placements of chosen speciality”; “small groups or one-to-one with a doctor in specialty to get further information”; “would like to have more opportunities to choose and therefore spend time with the chosen speciality”; “more career focussed talks and advice”. The results of the questionnaire could apply generally to any undergraduate course with a vocational emphasis thereby broadening and improving both the teaching offered to the student and a graduate better matched to their chosen vocation. The session speakers wish to deliver their Powerpoint presentation as an opportunity to begin debate with a multi-disciplinary audience about how Swansea University courses should have greater vocational exposure introduced sooner into their curricula to raise awareness of a greater variety of existing career options. Regardless of the course, all teachers should aim to inspire their learners. Embedding careers advice within their teaching and/or modules is both a novel and logical step to help achieve this.

Key Words

Careers exposure, student-vocation matching, careers advice, vocational curriculum

Key Messages

• Embed career exposure/advice into vocational course teaching • Tailor careers advice to include highest rated factors that influence future career choice (e.g. For specialty choice in Graduate Entry Medicine; intellectual challenge, suits personality, job opportunities) • Need for careers evening that addresses reality of life in chosen careers and advice as to what students can do at an early stage to strengthen their application


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