While past research has explored dental students' motivation to study, there is limited understanding in the reasons behind career choice for hygienists/therapists and dental nurses. The aim of this study was to investigate simultaneously the views of students of dentistry, hygiene/therapy and dental nursing in King's College London and explore similarities or differences in career choice.
All first-year students were invited to the questionnaire survey, exploring motivation to study using a 23-item instrument. Data were analysed using SPSS v18; statistical analysis included one-way analyses of variance and factor analysis.
The overall response rate to the study was 75% (n = 209). Ten out of 23 factors were considered important by more than 80% of respondents, with ‘job security’ (93.8%), ‘desire to work with people’ (88%) and ‘degree leading to recognised job’ (87.5%) being top three. Analysis suggested that 52% of the total variation in motivating influences was explained by four factors: ‘features of the job’ (26%), ‘education/skills’ (11%), ‘public service’ (8%) and ‘careers-advising’ (7%); at group level ‘features of the job’ were significantly more important for the direct entrants to dentistry (P = 0.001).
The findings suggest that across groups students were motivated to study by common influences reflecting altruistic, but also pragmatic and realistic motives, while ‘features of the job’ were more important for the direct entrants to dentistry.