Career Motivations: Differences and Similarities between Public and Private Dental Schools Hanadi Ahmad Lamfon

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Career Motivations: Differences and Similarities between Public and Private Dental Schools
Hanadi Ahmad Lamfon

Assistant Professor Maxillofacial and Oral Rehabilitation Department, Faculty of Dentistry, Umm Al-Qura University.

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Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the motivators choosing dentistry as a career among dental students at Umm - Alqura University and compare the results with previous study conducted at Ibn – Sinah University.

Methods: This continuations study for a previous similar study at Ibn – Sinah University. Self administrated questionnaire was used for data collection.

Results: A higher statistical significant percentage (69.3%) of choose dentistry as first career was recorded among Ibn – Sinah students when compared with the response at Umm – Alqura University students (61.5%). A slight difference in the motivator factors between public and private dental students was found. The private's dental school students were more motivated by financial factors (6.51±3.26), while the public one motivated by people factors more (7.52±3.57).

Conclusion: All students in both public and private dental schools are agreed to the fact that they choose dentistry as a career because they enjoy helping people and moreover the flexibility of study program and money gaining.


Dentistry is unique among health care professions in that the majority of dentists are independent health care providers. (1) Many issues may be considered when choosing a career, work environment, financial rewards and availability of prestigious alternatives. (2, 3) There have been several studies concerning the motives for joining the dental profession. (1- 5) The motivating factors for selecting any career are complex and in dentistry is no exception. It is essential to understand the motivating factors, priorities, perceptions of the profession and sociodemographic backgrounds of students who choose to study dentistry. (4) Motivator's variations occur among the same student population or in different student populations; moreover, the relative importance of these factors may differ between males and females. (3, 4)

In recent decades however, there has been a massive growth in the number of private dental schools in Kingdom Saudi Arabia (KSA). According to Ministry of Education statistics, there are 26 dental schools; seven private and nineteen dental schools are public. The students admitted to the University participate in a one-year preparatory course after which, based on their grade point average (GPA), they are admitted to a medical, dental or other allied college. The degree of Dental Bachelor and Bachelor of Oral Surgery is a Six year course, including one year of rotating internship. Private dental schools are required to run a tuition fee from students which are considered the main source of income for these schools. (6)

Studies indicated that in spite of the variation in student populations at all universities, the motives for studying dentistry remain essentially the same.

Similarities in attitudes to join dentistry in both private and public dental school students tend to outweigh differences. Similarities are shown with respect to service, independence and financial security. Differences are reflected in the contradictions between service and status, service and regular working hours, service and financial security. There was also no significant difference in the reasons which motivated these students to pursue a dental career. (5, 7, 8)

Students’ motives for studying dentistry have been a subject of interest for years because of the potential for understanding the psychological makeup and subsequent job satisfaction for the dentist. Studying the motivators at different situations and their differences may facilitate a healthy interaction between a teacher and a student.

Thus the aim of this study is to identify different motivators among dental students choosing dentistry as a career at Umm – Alqura University and compare the results with previous study conducted at Ibn – Sinah University.

This study is a continuation for a similar study previously conducted in the academic year 2012 - 2013, as a survey for the students at Ibn- Sinah private dental college. (1)
Data Collection

Data was collected from 2nd to 6th years students of Faculty of Dentistry at University of Umm- Alqura in Makkah, KSA were collected via self-administered questionnaires. (1) The questionnaires and research methodology for the study were reviewed and approved by the Faculty Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Questionnaire Design

The survey instrument was two pages, self-administered questionnaire. Demographic variables on the questionnaire included race, gender, educational level, family income and parents’ education. Previous research has identified these variables as correlates of educational ambition and attainment

The questionnaire consisted of 31 items classified in five groups of reasons. It was written in English then translated into Arabic to ensure all aspects were understood by the students. The questions were designed to identify those factors which might affect the decision of a student to join dentistry. These included parental background; personal reasons; professional reasons; vocational reasons; and economic factors. (1)

Validity and Reliability of the Questionnaire

Prior to distribution of the questionnaire to dental students, the questionnaire was pilot-tested on a convenience sample of dental students at the Faculty of Dentistry. The pilot test did not reveal any significant problems in question wording or questionnaire design.

The reliability of the questionnaire was tested after three weeks of the study by redistributing it to thirty students. The reliability of the two sets of responses was compared statistically using weighted Kappa. The Kappa statistics ranged from 0.89 to 0.96.

Survey Method

First, the students answered with yes or no regarding the question of whether dentistry was the student first choice. Each item on the questionnaire contained a statement which required the respondent to indicate their level of agreement on a 10 point-scale ranging from 0 = strongly disagree to 10 = strongly agree. Higher scores therefore indicated greater agreement with the statement concerned. Questionnaires were distributed among the samples and subsequently all the samples were recollected and analyzed. (1)

Statistical Methods

The data was transfer into a computer spreadsheet and was fed to the Analytical Software. The frequency and percentage tables were made using the SPSS software version 20.0 (Chicago Inc.). Parametric tests were used to investigate if statistically significant differences were evident between the scores for different groups. The t- test was used for analysis between two groups and ANOVA test was used to analyze more than two groups. Factor analysis for the motives was carried out. A level of p≤0.05 was considered significant.


Of the 252 male and female undergraduate dental students recruited from grade two to six at the Umm – Alqura University in Makkah, [140 (55.6%) females and 112(44.6%) males], only 197 (78.2%) responded which included 120 (60.9%) females and 77 (39.1%) males.

Regarding the father's occupations, the most commonly stated were professors or doctors (n = 61), engineers (n = 52), teachers (n = 38), private occupations (n=24). As regards, family income of more than 50,000 SRA, was 13.7% ; 31.8% between 20,000 and 50,000 SRA; 29.4% under 20,000 SRA and 25.1% were not recorded.

Table (1) shows the percentages of students in response to the question as to whether dentistry was their first choice for career, 61.5% of the students replied positively with the rate of males to females students being 55.4 % and 67.6% respectively. Medicine was the first choice for 20 % of the students who replied negatively to the question, 23.2% and 16.8% as the ratio between males and females respectively. Pharmacy was the third choice by 15.8% of the students where higher percentage (18.4%) was evident among males compared with (13.2%) among female. (2.5%) of the students recorded other jobs. Significant higher percentage (69.3%) was recorded among Ibn – Sinah student when compared with the response at Umm – Alqura university students (61.5%) to choose dentistry as the first career. (Table 2)

Table 1: Percentages and p values of students' choice to pursue dentistry as a career and the primary field of interest according to the faculty and gender

Primary field of interest

Umm – Al Qura



p value









16.8 %










*Significant at p ≤ 0.05

Table 2: Percentages and p values of students selecting dentistry as the primary field of interest according to the faculty and gender

Primary field of interest

Umm – Al Qura

Ibn- Sina













p value


*Significant at p ≤ 0.05

The different motives for becoming a dentist and their mean score values are shown in table 3, for male and female students separately. Question 15, (I like the autonomy that dentists have) was the strongest motive with the highest mean value (9.01) represent 69% of the respondents. Question 29 (I enjoy helping people) had the second highest score and motive with mean value of 8.06 represent 64% of the respondents. Other three motives represented in (questions 3, 23 and 28) showed nearly the same mean of response (8.02) but with different percentages of response (55% for question My GPA encouraged me to choose dentistry as a career, 63% for dentistry is a prestigious profession and 67% for the question there is not much ‘on-call’ work. Within the 31 questions and motives, ten items showed a significant difference between the males and females p<0.05.

The most five of these questions showed the highest mean among males and females were illustrated in (table 4). Prestigious profession, money, autonomy and independence respectively were the most five motivators accounted by males. The highest five motivators' items among females can be categorized under helping people and flexibility.

Table (5) illustrated the top five motivators pursuing a career in dentistry among Umm – Alqura University students and compared with that at Ibn – Sinah University. I like the autonomy that dentists have, was the top reason at Umm – Alqura University which was significantly higher than at Ibn – Sinah University. Dentistry pays better than other job options, was one of the five top motives among Ibn – Sinah University which showed higher significant mean than that recorded by Umm – Alqura University students.
Table 3: Means and standard deviations (SD) of the participants according to gender and university







0.29 (0.91)

0.38 (0.75)

0.34 (0.65)


0.36 (0.22)

0.12 (0.32)

0.24 (0.46)


7.92 (3.57)

8.11 (3.98)

8.02 (3.87)


3.57 (2.43)

3.34 (2.11)

3.46 (1.89)


6.42 (3.55)

4.11 (2.46)

5.27 (3.14)*


6.17 (4.25)

3.89 (1.91)

5.03 (3.27)*


6.32 (3.23)

3.21 (1.65)

4.77 (3.51)*


5.36 (2.17)

7.43 (4.22)

6.40 (4.07)


5.78 (2.65)

8.82 (3.43)

7.30 (4.22)*


1.26 (0.76)

0.78 (0.13)

1.02 (0.88)*


4.75 (2.32)

4.58 (2.43)

4.67 (3.01)


8.25 (4.64)

6.21 (3.69)

7.23 (4.55)*


6.59 (3.46)

8.14 (4.67)

7.37 (4.57)


1.32 (0.74)

2.16 (1.92)

1.47 (1.02)


8.31 (4.51)

7.91 (4.24)

9.01 (4.86)


4.32 (2.17)

3.46 (1.21)

3.98 (1.69)


5.35 (3.21)

5.72 (3.11)

5.54 (3.34)


6.58 (3.99)

7.36 (4.15)

6.97 (3.69)


6.40 (3.31)

6.92 (3.77)

6.66 (4.01)


4.13 (2.19)

4.99 (2.82)

4.56 (3.51)


7.25 (4.52)

7.93 (3.57)

7.59 (4.64)


8.24 (4.17)

5.84 (2.65)

6.86 (3.92)*


8.73 (3.99)

7.30 (3.50)

8.02 (4.61)


7.52 (4.45)

7.91 (4.58)

7.72 (4.63)


5.13 (2.59)

6.26 (3.83)

5.70 (2.91)


0.98 (0.49)

1.04 (0.51)

1.01 (0.62)


8.67 (4.73)

6.14 (3.37)

7.41 (3.76)*


6.98 (3.45)

9.08 (4.55)

8.03 (4.32)*


6.89 (3.12)

9.22 (5.44)

8.06 (4.67)*


0.92 (0.48)

0.99 (0.48)

0.96 (0.85)


0.00 (0.00)

0.00 (0.00)


*Significant at p ≤ 0.05

Table 4: Means for the top five reasons for pursuing a career in dentistry, for males and females


Mean scores


  1. Dentistry is a prestigious profession


  1. Dentistry pays better than other jobs open to me


  1. I like the autonomy that dentists have


  1. I can start to practice dentistry independently after graduating


  1. I like to make a lot of money



  1. I enjoying helping people


  1. There is not much ‘on-call’ work


  1. Dentistry has more regular hours than other caring professions


  1. I like working with people


  1. My GPA encouraged me to choose dentistry as a career



Mean scores

Umm – Alqura

  1. I like the autonomy that dentists have


  1. I enjoy helping people


  1. There is not much ‘on-call’ work


  1. Dentistry is a prestigious profession


  1. My GPA encouraged me to choose dentistry as a career


Ibn – Sinah

  1. I enjoy helping people


  1. Dentistry is a prestigious profession


  1. I like to make a lot of money


  1. There is not much ‘on-call’ work


  1. Dentistry pays better than other job options open to me


Table 5: Means for the top five reasons for pursuing a career in dentistry, for Umm - Alqura and Ibn - Sinah

# Significant higher among Umm – Alqura University at p level ≤ 0.05

& Significant higher among Ibn – Sinah university





Dentistry ensures financial independence


Dentistry pays better than other jobs


I like to make a lot of money


A career in dentistry offers job security


It is easy to find employment


I want to be self-employed


I like the autonomy that dentists have


I want to treat/help people to improve their appearance


I enjoy helping people


I like working with people


Dentistry gives me the opportunity to work with my hands


Choosing dentistry will give me time to spend with my family


There is not much ‘on-call’ work


A dentist has a flexible schedule


Dentistry has more regular hours than other caring professions


Dentists usually do not deal with life or death cases on a routine basis


Percentage of variance explained




Percentage of cumulative variance explained




Table 6, contained factors related to perception of dentistry as a career and motivation for choosing it as a career Factor 1, MONEY, is composed of motives that make up the financial and security aspects of dentistry as a career. Factor 2, PEOPLE, is related to caring and helping other people. Factor 3, FLEXIBILITY, is related to the flexibility in scheduling in dentistry. Three simple additive scales were constructed that summed up the items for each factor. For comparison purposes and because the different scales consist of varying numbers of factors, the scales were adjusted by dividing by the number of contributing factors so that the highest possible score was still 10 and the lowest score was zero.

Table 6: Means for factor loadings on primary motive factors

Table 7: Means, standard deviations (SD) and p values for the major motivation factors at Umm – Alqura University according to the gender






6.08 (3.82)

6.92 (3.71)

5.99 (2.87)


4.32 (2.74)

8.12 (4.59)

7.35 (4.10)


5.20 (2.51)

7.52 (3.57)

6.67 (3.98)

t (p value)

3.84 (0.000)*

2.41 (0.02)*

2.97 (0.003)*

*Significant at p ≤ 0.05

Table (7) shows the means and (SD) of the three major motivational factors at Umm – AlQura University, were higher for PEOPLE factors (7.52) than for FLEXIBILITY (6.67) and MONEY (5.20). Results of the independent sample t-test showed significantly higher mean scores between males and females: MONEY (p = 0.000), PEOPLE (p = 0.02) and FLEXIBILITY (p = 0.003). MONEY factors were rated higher by males than females whilst PEOPLE and FLEXABILITY factors were higher in females than males. By comparing the three major motivator factors at the two universities, Umm – AlQura university showed a higher significant mean of the major motivation factors. PEOPLE factors were the highest impact motivators at Umm – AlQura University, with significance difference with the other two factors (p = 0.03), while no significant difference was found between the three major motivation factors at Ibn Sinah University (p = 0.182). (Table 8)

Table 8: Comparing the means of the major motivation factors according to University type





One way ANOVA

(p value)

Ibn - Sinah

6.51 (3.26)

6.81 (3.51)

6.35 (3.34)

1.71 (0.182)

Umm – Al Qura

5.20 (2.51)

7.52 (3.57)

6.67 (3.98)

3.41 (0.03)*

t (p value)

2.49 (0.01)*

2.44 (0.01)*

1.07 (0.28)

*Significant difference at p level≤ 0.05

Little is known about how dental students in private dental schools differ from those studying in public collage in terms of motivations and career aspirations. The rationale of the present study was to obtain and compare the information about the reasons for choosing a career in dentistry in private and public dental schools. For this reason, the present study was conducted at Umm - Alqura University as a public dental school and comparing the results with the results of a pervious study at Ibn – Sinah dental school as a private school. (1)

The present study showed that (61%) of the students entered dental school with a career in dentistry being their first choice with high percentages among female students (67.6%). These results were similar to the results at Ibn – Sinah (1) and Jordan dental schools (4).

The present study showed higher number of female students (55.6%) than male students (44.6%) as in KSA it has been noticed that there is increase in number of female student dentists. This is explained by the highly significant score recorded by female students. The reason behind this choice is there is not much ‘on-call’ work, less strenuous work and flexibility of the work. (1, 4,9)

Several studies (8-11) reported many factors strongly influenced career choice among students who indicated that dentistry was their first choice: prestige, good employment opportunity abroad, and regular work hours. Due to the increased role that women traditionally assume with child-raising, their immediate career plans may reflect these responsibilities. Male dentists are more likely to be the principal earners in their family compared with females. These results are coincidental with the results of this study, where male students account prestigious, self-employment and financial motives were the top motives to choice dentistry as a career.

Regarding the female students, people helping and flexibility motives were highly recorded than the male students which convenient with the results of the same study at Ibn – Sinah University. (1)

Regarding the main five motives recorded at this study compared with that conducted at Ibn – Sinah, autonomy, helping people and flexibility were the top recorded motivators, while at the private dental school in addition to that factors the money factors appear as major motivator. This can explain by the nature of admission in both public and private dental schools. In public dental schools admission mainly depends upon the GPA of the student however significant proportion of students in private schools are admitted based on a combination of test scores and their ability to pay high tuition fees this explain why gaining money was one of the major motives recorded among Ibn – Sinah dental students. (1,7)

Regarding the factor analysis, dental students’ motives for pursuing dentistry as a career are organized around three principle factors: PEOPLE, MONEY and FLEXIBILIT as in the previous study (1). This study showed high impact of PEOPLE factors followed by FLEXIBILIT and MONEY factors compared with the previous study where the three major loaded factors had the same impacts. MONEY factors were significantly high as recorded by Ibn – Sinah dental students. In contrast PEOPLE factors were the most significant motivators among Umm - Alqura dental students. This reflects the influence of monetary factors on the minds of majority of the private dental students and social factors among public dental students. There was also no significant difference in the other reasons which motivated students to pursue a dental career. This is possibly because of the high level of competition that exists to join dental schools, selecting for similar students that enter both public and private schools. (12, 13)


This study provided an insight into the motives for choosing dentistry as a career in two different categories of dental students, it not to relate to an image of dentistry as a vehicle for the achievement of personal goals only but have clearly looked at differences in students that join private and public dental schools in terms of background, motivations and career aspirations.


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  2. Scarbecz M and Ross JA.: Gender differences in first-year dental students’ motivation to attend dental school. J Dent Educ 2002;66 (8):952-61.

  3. Crossley ML and Mubarik A.: A comparative investigation of dental and medical students’ motivation towards career choice. Br Dent J 2002;193 (8):471-3.

  4. Al-Bitar ZA, Sonbol HN and Al-Omari IK.: Reasons for choosing dentistry as a career by Arab dental students. Eur J of Dent Educ 2008:12:247-51.

  5. Karibe H.; Suzuki A, Sekimoto T, et al.: Cross-cultural comparison of the attitudes of dental students in three countries. J Dent Edu 2007; 71: 1457- 66.

  6. Ministry of Education. Available at: (Accessed: 10 September , 2015)

  7. Chapper A, Campani A, Paiva V, et al. Comparison of student satisfaction in public versus private dental schools in Brazil Journal of Dental Education; 2007; 71: 1363- 69.

  8. Marino RJ, Morgan MV, Winning T, et al. Sociodemographic backgrounds and career decisions of Australian and New Zealand dental students. J Dent Educ 2006; 70: 169-78.

  9. Tanalp J, Ilguy D, Dikbas I and Oktay I. Demographic profile and future expectations of students enrolled in a Turkish private dental school. J Dent Educ 2012; 76: 800-9.

  10. Diwan V, Minj C, Chhari N and Costa A. Indian medical students in public and private sector medical schools: are motivations and career aspirations different? Studies from Madhya, Pradesh, India. BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:127-32.

  11. Bernabe´ E, Icaza JL and Delgado-Angulo EK. Reasons for choosing dentistry as a career: a study involving male and female first-year students in Peru. Eur J Dent Educ 2006: 10: 236–241.

  12. Halawany HS. Career motivations, perceptions of the future of dentistry and preferred dental specialties among Saudi dental students. Open Dent J 2014, 8, 129-135.

  13. Aggarwal A, Mehta S, Gupta D, et al. Dental students' motivations and perceptions of dental professional career in India. J Dent Educ 2012; 76: 1532-9.

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