GPs’ job satisfaction dips in later life while surgeons’ rises, researchers find

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  31 Aug 2016

GPs become less positive about their job prospects the further they progress in their careers, while surgeons become more positive, researchers from the University of Oxford have found.[1]

The researchers surveyed 37 332 doctors in nine cohorts of medical graduates from 1974, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2008. Questionnaires were sent to the doctors at different times after graduation, ranging from 3 to 24 years.

The researchers combined all responses from the latest survey of each graduation year cohort—1974 and 1983 cohorts in 1998; 1996 cohort in 2003; 1988 cohort in 2004; 1993 cohort in 2010; 1999 and 2000 cohorts in 2012; 2002 and 2008 cohorts in 2013—comprising nine surveys with responses from 20 940 doctors.

They found that among doctors surveyed from three to five years after graduation, GPs held more positive views than doctors in other specialty groups about their career prospects. For example, 86% of GPs were positive about their future career prospects compared with 53% of surgeons, the researchers said.

However, comparing doctors surveyed from 12 to 24 years after graduation, GPs were less likely than doctors working in other specialties to be positive about their career prospects. The researchers found that, at this stage of their careers, 60% of GPs and 77% of surgeons were positive about their prospects.

The researchers said that one potential reason for the difference could be that doctors in some hospital specialties were “concerned that they may not progress to senior posts within the specialty.”

The researchers said, “Compared with the GPs at a similar stage, the specialists were still competing for career progression in terms of increasing seniority.

“As time progresses and the individuals in the hospital specialties are successful this in itself may increase their confidence about their future prospects.”


  1. Lambert TW, Smith F, Goldacre MJ. Perceived future career prospects in general practice: quantitative results from questionnaire surveys of UK doctors. Br J Gen Pract  . doi: [Link] .

Abi Rimmer BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: