Global concerns persist regarding the shortage and misdistribution of health workers in rural and remote areas. Medical education is an important input channel of human resources for health. This study aimed to identify the association between medical graduates’ job choices for rural practice and their initial intentions when they began to look for a job in China. Data were extracted from a cross-sectional survey among medical students in ten western provinces in China in 2013. Only medical students who were in the last year of study (i.e., medical graduates) and had found a job were included in this study. Of the 482 participants, 61.04% (293) presented an initial intention of rural practice when they began to look for a job, and 68.88% (332) made a final job choice for rural practice. However, of the 332 graduates with a final job choice of rural practice, only 213 (64.55%) had an initial intention. A univariate association was identified in which medical graduates who were more likely to make final job choices for rural practice were those having initial intentions (OR: 1.59; 95% CI: 1.08–2.36); however, after adjusting for controlled variables, it became insignificant and was reduced to a 1.31-fold increase (95% CI: 0.82–2.07). The initial intentions of medical graduates are not assurance of ultimate job outcomes, and it cannot be deduced that all medical graduates who made a final job choice for rural practice had authentic desires for rural practice. Twenty years of age or below, low-income families, majoring in non-clinical medicine, and studying in a junior medical college or below were associated with medical graduates’ final job choices for rural practice. More studies are required on how to translate medical student’s intention of rural medical practice into reality and how to retain these graduates via a job choice in rural practice in the future.
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