Millennials in Psychiatry: Exploring Career Choice Factors in Generation Y Psychiatry Interns



There is a national shortage of psychiatrists. To grow the workforce, educators must understand the factors that influence the choice of psychiatry as a specialty for medical students in the Generation Y cohort.


Psychiatry residents born between 1981 and 2000 were recruited from six psychiatry training programs across the USA and were interviewed in the fall of their first year. The interviews were coded and analyzed qualitatively for themes. Career Construction Theory (CCT) was applied to relate the themes within the four domains of Career Adaptability (a focus of CCT): concern, control, curiosity, and confidence.


The majority of themes mapped onto the four domains. A fifth domain, “contribution,” was created to capture additional themes. Themes associated with choosing psychiatry as a career included Practice Concerns and Economic/Lifestyle Concerns (concern), Changes in Stigma and Changes in Legitimacy (control), Exploring Humanity and Exposures to Psychiatry (curiosity), Abilities Called Upon by the Field, Recognized Qualities in the Participant, and Recognized Qualities in the Faculty/Residents (confidence), and Hoping to Make a Difference and Engaging in Research/Technology (contribution).


With the knowledge generated from this study, educators now have a guide for the kinds of learning experiences that may attract Generation Y students to the field, and can identify those with the background, values, or personality traits most likely to find a career in psychiatry to be attractive.

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Funding for this study was provided to JJR by the Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rachel A. Russo.

Ethics declarations

The Emory University IRB (primary site) and the IRBs from all the participating institutions (listed under Affiliations) designated this study to be exempt from review.


JJR receives research funding from Takeda, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and National Institutes of Mental Health.

GBD worked for the Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry outside of the submitted work.

Dr. Richard Balon is an editor for the journal Academic Psychiatry. Manuscripts that are authored by a member of the Editorial Board undergo the same editorial review process applied to all manuscripts, including blinded peer review.

All other authors have no disclosures.

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Russo, R.A., Dallaghan, G.B., Balon, R. et al. Millennials in Psychiatry: Exploring Career Choice Factors in Generation Y Psychiatry Interns. Acad Psychiatry 44, 727–733 (2020).

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  • Recruitment
  • Career
  • Psychiatry
  • Professional identity