Factors Associated with Physicians’ Choice of Working Sector

A National Longitudinal Survey in Finland



To analyse factors affecting physicians’ choice to work in either the public or the private sector.


We undertook a longitudinal data analysis in the years 1988, 1993, 1998 and 2003 (n = 12 909) using a multilevel modelling technique. Factors related to economic factors, physician identity, appreciation as well as demographic factors were hypothesised to influence sector choice.


Physicians seem to make their career choices prior to graduation, at least to some extent. Wage levels, the physician’s personal characteristics and whether or not the physician knew his or her place of work before graduation were the key factors affecting the decision-making process in the years 1988, 1993, 1998 and 2003. Physicians for whom wages were important were less likely to choose the public sector. Also, physicians who regarded themselves as entrepreneurial preferred to work in the private sector. If a physician had worked in the public sector during his or her medical training before graduation, the probability of applying for a vacancy in the public sector was higher.


It is not only economic factors, such as salary, that are involved in the physician’s decision to choose the working sector.

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Table II
Table III


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The authors are grateful to two discussants and other participants in the Nordic Health Economists’ Study Group (Reykjavik, 2004) for valuable comments. Terhi Kankaanranta is grateful to The National Postgraduate School of Social and Health Policy Management and Economics for financial support.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest that would have biased this work.

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Correspondence to Terhi Kankaanranta.



See tables AI and AII.

Table AI

Descriptive statistics of variables used in final models

Table AII

Description of independent variables used in the preliminary models

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Kankaanranta, T., Vainiomäki, J., Autio, V. et al. Factors Associated with Physicians’ Choice of Working Sector. Appl Health Econ Health Policy 5, 125–136 (2006). https://doi.org/10.2165/00148365-200605020-00006

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  • Private Sector
  • Public Sector
  • Hospital District
  • Senior Physician
  • Junior Physician