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More elementary, middle school students want to be doctors because it 'pays well'

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Nov. 30, 2023 - 17:22

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High income has become the top reason elementary and middle school students choose becoming a medical doctor as their desired career path, a study by a state-run research institute showed Thursday.

The scholars at the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training analyzed government surveys on students across the country and compared the responses of students who said they hoped to become a doctor in the 2018 and 2022 reports. The data was from the joint annual survey conducted by the KRIVET and the Ministry of Education.

In 2018, the top reason for wanting to become a doctor was "it's a job I like" across all age groups, accounting for 22.3 percent of elementary school respondents, 25.7 percent of middle school respondents, and 39.9 percent of high school respondents. The percentage of students who gave the same reason in the 2022 survey declined in all groups, while the proportion of students who said money was the most important factor increased.

In 2018, 14.7 percent of elementary school respondents answered that they aspired to be a doctor because "it pays well," ranking the reason third behind "it's a job I like" and "I think I would do well." But in 2022, the profession's income became the No. 1 reason, accounting for 30.1 percent of respondents.

Likewise, money was the third-most chosen reason for wanting to become a doctor among middle school students in 2018 with 19.4 percent, but rose to the No. 1 spot in 2022, accounting for 29.3 percent.

For high school students, the top reason for wanting to be a doctor in 2022 changed to "I think I can do well" at 22.8 percent, with responses of "it's a job I like" and "it pays well" tied at 19.6 percent, the latter of which rose from 13.8 percent compared to 2018.

"Students' tendency to seek challenge and development through their desired careers has been diminishing recently, while they increasingly look for financial freedom and stability," said Jeong Ji-eun, a researcher for the KRIVET and an author of the study.