Background: The 3rd year of medical school is the most influential year in a student's specialty decision making process. We aim to identify the key features of 3rd year clerkships that influenced specialty decision making and compare the clerkship and procedural experiences between students choosing surgical-based residencies (SBR) and non-surgical-based residencies (NSBR).

Methods: A single institution electronic survey was conducted of medical students who have completed all third-year clerkships.

Results: Sixty medical students responded (response rate 41%): 23 were interested in an SBR. Differences in clerkship experiences were noted between the SBR and NSBR groups regarding type of cases (p = 0.0347), work hours (p = 0.0205), opportunities for procedures (p = 0.0004). No significant difference was noted in volume of procedures perform during clerkships. The SBR group felt procedural skill development was more important before residency (p = 0.0048).

Conclusions: There is notable differences between SBR and NSBR students in terms of what parts of the 3rd year clerkships influence their career decision. The amount of procedures performed during clerkships did not correlate with students that choose a SBR or NSBR.