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Br Dent J. 2002 Oct 26;193(8):471-3.

A comparative investigation of dental and medical student's motivation towards career choice.

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Turner Dental School, University of Manchester, Higher Cambridge Street, Manchester M15 6FH.



A number of recent studies have investigated the motivations underlying the career choice of dental and medical students, suggesting that they may be very different. However, as yet, no studies have been conducted which provide a direct comparison of dental and medical students studying in the same place. Accordingly, the aim of this investigation was to conduct a survey which directly compared the motivation of a selection of dental and medical students at Manchester University.


A questionnaire was developed for this study on the basis of previous surveys investigating the motivations of dental and medical students towards career choice. Six dimensions were covered in the questionnaire including: status and security; the nature of the occupation; career opportunities; patient care and working with people; use of personal skills; and interest in science. In addition, students were asked about the role of work experience in either dentistry or medicine. The questionnaire was distributed to 80 medical students and 80 dental students chosen from a random selection of lecture slots.


The results were analysed using the Mann-Whitney U test. Statistically significant differences were revealed in all six areas of career choice motivation. For instance, dental students were significantly more likely to be motivated by factors relating to status and security and the nature of their occupation (eg regular working hours, self employment and independence). By contrast, medical students were significantly more likely to be motivated by factors relating to career opportunities, patient care and working with people, use of personal skills, and interest in science. Work experience was a strong motivating factor in the case of both dental and medical students (though especially for dental students).


In comparison with dental students, medical students manifested a more professional attitude in which altruism and intellectual challenge constituted central motivating factors. By contrast, dental students demonstrated more of a commitment to personal and financial gain. The paper queries how useful such attitudes are to a re-oriented dental profession whose aspiration is to provide more accountable and community oriented services.

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