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GMS J Med Educ. 2016 Feb 15;33(1):Doc8. doi: 10.3205/zma001007. eCollection 2016.

Importance and benefits of the doctoral thesis for medical graduates.

Author information

University of Freiburg, Medical Faculty, Office of Student Affairs, Centre for Evaluation of Teaching in Medicine Baden-Württemberg, Freiburg, Germany.
University of Freiburg, Medical Faculty, Department for Medical Biometry and Medical Informatics, Freiburg, Germany.
University of Freiburg, Medical Faculty, Department for Medical Psychology and Sociology, Freiburg, Germany.
University Basel, Medical Faculty, Office of Student Affairs, Basel, Switzerland.


in English, German


The majority of medical graduates in Germany complete a doctorate, even though a doctoral degree is not necessary for the practice of medicine. So far, little is known about doctoral candidates' view on the individual benefit a doctoral thesis has for them. Consequently, this is the subject of the present investigation.


Data from surveys with graduates of the five medical faculties of Baden-Württemberg from the graduation years 2007/2008 (N=514) and 2010/2011 (N=598) were analysed.


One and a half years after graduating 53% of those interviewed had completed their doctorate. When asked about their motivation for writing a doctoral thesis, participants answered most frequently "a doctorate is usual" (85%) and "improvement of job opportunities" (75%), 36% said that an academic career has been their primary motive. Less than 10% responded that they used their doctoral thesis as a means to apply for a job. The proportion of graduates working in health care is equally large among those who have completed a thesis and those who have not. Graduates who pursued a thesis due to scientific interest are also currently more interested in an academic career and recognise more opportunities for research. An implicit benefit of a medical thesis emerged with regard to the self-assessment of scientific competences as those who completed a doctorate rated their scientific competencies higher than those who have not.


Although for the majority of physicians research interest is not the primary motivation for completing a doctorate, they might nevertheless achieve some academic competencies. For graduates pursuing an academic career the benefit of completing a medical thesis is more obvious.


Doctorate, medical; Evaluation; Graduate survey; Methods, academic; Motivation

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