The Top Priorities of Young Physicians When Choosing Their First Jobs

Posted on June 22, 2023 by Bob Leschke, MD

Updated June 28, 2023

When they reach the final year of their residencies, young physicians typically have learned and experienced enough in medicine to know what they’re looking for in their first jobs. To hear directly from these physicians, who are the future of medicine, the national physician recruiting and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins surveyed a sample of final-year medical residents in 2021 to learn what they want from their initial employers, as well as where and how they want to practice.


The results, which underline compensation, lifestyle and work-life balance, can serve as a starting point to what organizations need to do to attract and retain young talent.

Here are six areas of concern and the percentage of survey respondents who considered them a major priority. (Totals may not add up to 100 percent as respondents have chosen more than one option, or because all response categories aren’t provided in the overview below.)


The top three preferences really focus on work-life balance. But burdened with debt, the residents value compensation almost as highly.   



Preferred practice location

  • Cities with at least 250,000 residents: 47%
  • Of that number, 30% want to work in a city with more than 1 million people 

Not a single respondent chose towns of fewer than 10,000 people, a stark indication that young physicians may be concerned with a myriad of reasons that come along with practicing in rural communities. The AAMC reports young physicians are reluctant to take-up rural practice for a variety of reasons, some including fewer opportunities for working spouses, schools may have fewer resources or they may earn less than in urban areas. To help counter this, medical schools have been creating rural training tracks to help attract and prepare students more likely to take up rural practice.

This is further solidified with the majority of respondents wanting to practice in a hospital setting–ideally, these locations have the benefits of stronger processes and resources in place–as well as potentially being in more developed areas with other amenities for themselves and their partners.


These items align almost perfectly with the criteria used when evaluating job opportunities. Earning a solid income and debt repayment couples with having a good financial package; geographic location goes with the ability to find a practice and further with proximity to family. All in all–location, compensation and work-life balance are top priorities.


57% said they had received no formal training on these topics in medical school–meaning healthcare leadership needs to do their part with upfront and honest conversations around negotiations, contracts and compensation. 

Second thoughts

  • 21% of the residents said they would not choose medicine as a career if they had the chance for a do-over. 

The Merritt Hawkins study didn’t ask questions focused on personal well-being and well-being programs. However, VITAL WorkLife is an expert guide for physician well-being, and can help you address recruitment and retention of young physicians through a top-tier well-being program. Download our article to learn how to best support this demographic of physicians. 

New call-to-action

Interested in learning more?

Contact Us


Tags in this post

All Entries

Get New Insights Delivered to Your Inbox