- Background: Israeli medical school classes include a number of student subgroups. Therefore, interventions aimed at recruiting medical students to the various specialties should to be tailored to each subgroup. Methods: Questionnaires, distributed to 6 consecutive 5th-year classes of the Hebrew University - Hadassah School of Medicine, elicited information on criteria for choosing a career specialty, criteria for choosing a residency program and the importance of finding a specialty interesting and challenging when choosing a residency. Results: Completed questionnaires were returned by 540 of 769 (70%) students. The decision processes for choosing a medical specialty and choosing a residency program were different. Family and colleagues had minimal influence on choosing a specialty, while family and their residential locality had much influence on choosing a residency, especially among women. Older age, marriage, and spousal influence were positively associated with choice of a specialty. Two-thirds of the students had completed military service, 20% were attending medical school prior to military service, 5% had completed national service and 9% had entered medical school without serving. Despite the pre-military subgroup being younger and having another 7 years of medical school, internship and military service before residency, they had begun thinking about which specialty to choose, just like the post-military students. When choosing a residency program, post-military women were more influenced by their families and family residential locality than their pre-military counterparts; differences ascribed to the older and often married post-military women having or wanting to begin families. This difference was reinforced by fewer post- than pre-military women willing to wait 2-3 years for a residency in the specialty that interested them most and were willing to begin residency immediately after internship in a specialty that interested them less. Conclusions: Medical school classes are composed of various subgroups, each with its own characteristics. It is important to differentiate between choosing a specialty and a residency program. Choosing a specialty is a uniquely personal decision with some spousal influence among married students. It is of central importance even among pre-military students not slated to begin residency for many years. In contrast, choosing a residency program is influenced by family, where one grew up and other family-related considerations.