Americans Still Advise Their Kids to "Be a Doctor"

Armen Hareyan's picture

Career in Medicine

"Be a doctor" is the most common career advice that Americans give young adults according to a new Gallup poll. The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) calls the results "good news."

"These poll results offer great encouragement for a profession facing a diversity gap and a workforce deficit," said AAMC President Jordan J. Cohen, M.D. "With an aging Baby Boom generation, the increasing retirement of currently practicing physicians and growing disparities in health care, particularly for minority populations, America needs more doctors."

Conducted April 18-21, the poll found that 20 percent of Americans recommend that young women become physicians, while 17 percent suggest medicine as a career for young men. This represents the first time in 20 years that medicine has edged out computers at the leading recommended career choice for young people.

Women tend to recommend medical careers more often, with about one quarter of women encouraging both young men and young women to be doctors. In comparison, less than 15 percent of men provide the same guidance to both genders.


Medicine has always been a well-recommended choice for young men. Since the Gallup poll first asked about career advice in 1949, medicine was identified as the best career option for young men and it held on to the top spot in polls through the early 1970s. By contrast, when the poll began including young women in 1950, only 2 percent of Americans said they recommended that young women become doctors. But that percentage began to rise steadily over the years as did the number of women pursing medical careers.

In fact, for the last two years, women applicants to U.S. medical schools have outnumbered men, according to annual AAMC data. In 2004-2005, women made up just over 50 percent of the applicant pool with 18,015 applications.

Following medicine, the top careers recommended in the 2005 poll to young men were computers, trades or industrial, business, self-employment or sales, and technology or electronics. Nursing, teaching, computers, and business, self-employment or sales were the top choices for young women.

Medicine is not only the favorite profession of adults providing career advice; it was also the top pick among U.S. teens, age 13-17, according to a separate Gallup poll, conducted January 17-February 6. Teacher and doctor tied as teens' first career choice, followed by lawyer, sports field, and science/biology.


The Association of American Medical Colleges is a nonprofit association representing all 125 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 68 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and 94 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 109,000 faculty members, 67,000 medical students, and 104,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at