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J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2012 Jul;70(7):1751-61. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2012.02.008.

Choosing academia versus private practice: factors affecting oral maxillofacial surgery residents' career choices.

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  • 1Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Program, Health Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1078, USA.



This study explored how residents who intend to enter private practice versus academic careers differ in their background and educational characteristics, engagement in different professional activities, professional values, and satisfaction.


Survey data were collected from 257 residents in oral and maxillofacial surgery programs in the United States. The responses of the respondents who planned a career in private practice (65%) and who considered academia (35%) were compared with χ(2) and independent-sample t tests.


Residents who considered academia were more likely to be women (29% vs 8%; P < .001), from non-European American backgrounds (37% vs 20%; P = .006), were less likely to be married (43% vs 71%; P < .001), and were less likely to have children (17% vs 40%; P < .001) than residents who planned to become private practitioners. A larger percentage of residents with interest in private practice reported having debts of $301,000 to $400,000 compared with the percentage of residents interested in academia. No differences were found in the way they financed their education or in their financial considerations. However, the 2 groups differed in the importance they placed on different characteristics of their professional lives and in their job-related satisfaction. Residents interested in academia responded less positively to the statement that they are extremely satisfied with their career compared with residents interested in private practice. Future clinicians placed a higher value on having manageable hours and more time performing outpatient procedures than future educators.


These findings showed, first, that the characteristics at the beginning of residency programs that are likely to indicate an increased interest in academic careers are being a woman, from a non-European American background, and having an interest in research. Second, once residents are admitted, different types of surgeries and different types of professional activities tend to appeal to residents who want to practice in private practice settings versus work in academia. Third, residents interested in academia have a relatively lower level of satisfaction compared with residents interested in practicing outside of academia.

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