OBJECTIVES: To examine clinical doctoral students' demographic and training characteristics, career intentions, career preparedness and what influences them as they plan their future careers. DESIGN AND SETTING: Online cross-sectional census surveys at two research-intensive medical schools in England in 2015-2016. PARTICIPANTS: All medically qualified PhD students (N=523) enrolled at the University of Oxford and University College London were invited to participate. We report on data from 320 participants (54% male and 44% female), who were representative by gender of the invited population. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Career intentions. RESULTS: Respondents were mainly in specialty training, including close to training completion (25%, n=80), and 18% (n=57) had completed training. Half (50%, n=159) intended to pursue a clinical academic career (CAC) and 62% (n=198) were at least moderately likely to seek a clinical lectureship (CL). However, 51% (n=163) had little or no knowledge about CL posts. Those wanting a CAC tended to have the most predoctoral medical research experience (χ(2) (2, N=305)=22.19, p=0.0005). Key reasons cited for not pursuing a CAC were the small number of senior academic appointments available, the difficulty of obtaining research grants and work-life balance. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that urging predoctoral clinicians to gain varied research experience while ensuring availability of opportunities, and introducing more flexible recruitment criteria for CL appointments, would foster CACs. As CL posts are often only open to those still in training, the many postdoctoral clinicians who have completed training, or nearly done so, do not currently gain the opportunity the post offers to develop as independent researchers. Better opportunities should be accompanied by enhanced career support for clinical doctoral students (eg, to increase knowledge of CLs). Finally, ways to increase the number of senior clinical academic appointments should be explored since their lack seems to significantly influence career decisions.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





academic medicine, career development, clinical academic, clinical lectureship, physician scientist