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BMA cohort doctor study

The BMA cohort study is a 10-year longitudinal study of the career paths of 430 doctors, who graduated in medicine in 2006.

We published the tenth and final survey round in 2016. Key findings included:

  • Around two in five doctors indicated their current experience as a doctor was worse than they expected when they graduated
  • Increasing numbers of doctors have taken a career break
  • Work-life balance, shortages of doctors, and high levels of paperwork are biggest causes of stress



10-year longitudinal analysis

The Cohort study is now complete, and we commissioned a longitudinal analysis of the entire 10-year data from researchers at Sheffield and York Universities.  This academic study focuses on the career trajectories of the medical graduates over the 10-year period of the cohort study, and looks at the drivers behind different career trajectories, and the relationship between career intentions and actual careers.


Key findings

The most notable findings in the longitudinal study concern gender differences. Women doctors in the cohort are more likely than men to:

  • Change their ultimate career goal (eg to become a consultant or GP) and area of medicine (eg hospital or general practice) they want to work in
  • Stay working in the UK
  • Prefer (and move into) general practice
  • Take more (over a quarter of women against one in ten men) and longer career breaks. This effect is magnified where they have children.

No male respondents with the ultimate career goal of becoming a SAS doctor and no female respondents with the ultimate career goal of becoming an academic.


As time progresses, intention to work outside the NHS increases: almost a third of those who did not consider working in the independent sector at the beginning of their training, intended to do so six years later. An early intention to work overseas strongly predicts the actual career choices of working overseas, especially for male doctors.

There are also some important findings around the attractiveness of general practice. Only around a quarter of those who started out wanting to work in general practice still wanted to do so 10 years later, though there is little change in behaviour with low numbers choosing to leave general practice once they had committed to that area of medicine. 

The cohort study reflects a particular decade in the history of the NHS, so the findings may not apply to the same degree in the current cohort of junior doctors.  However, there are important findings here around flexibility of both training and qualified posts, and work-life balance – particularly for women - that remain current with increasing recruitment and retention and workload issues.

Download the full report


Where are they now?

Three doctors who took part in the study recall what brought them into medicine, and the experiences that have helped to define them.

Read the feature


Previous reports

All the previous cohort study reports are available in the BMA Library archive.

View a list of previous reports